Year B, Trinity Sunday, Isaiah 6:1-8; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021

Image Description: a mountain with forests in the foreground, with the text from Isaiah 6:8 overlaid: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!”

Following Jesus is hard work. Yes, we have been set free and born again of the Spirit, but no one said life would be roses and sunshine henceforth and forevermore. In fact, if we are to follow Jesus, suffering is inevitable. God transforms our suffering to bring us closer to the Kingdom, but it is still suffering—rotten, terrible, painful, suffering—just like Jesus experienced on the cross (well, hopefully not to that extreme).

God transformed Jesus’ suffering from death to life to show us that our lives follow the same pattern of death and resurrection. I’m not just talking about physical resurrection or even eternal life in Heaven, but the kind of resurrection we experience all the time right now: those moments when we’ve lost all hope, but… plot twist! Things work out. We experience these moments of resurrection throughout our lives, and I believe they are meant to give us hope that all our suffering is redeemed. That belief didn’t make my ankle hurt any less the moment it broke in three places, but as I suffered through surgery, recovery, and physical therapy, I trusted God would somehow transform my suffering; and God did. My experience with that pain and limited mobility deepened my resolve to make my community and the world more accessible and inclusive.

Isaiah has no illusions about what God asks of him. God asks Isaiah to tell painful truths to the Israelites, truths they won’t want to hear. But Isaiah is a faithful servant and doesn’t hesitate to answer God’s call, despite the difficulties ahead. The last sentence in this chapter summarizes what Isaiah knows about suffering and doing God’s work: “Israel’s stump will be a holy seed” Isaiah 6:13, NLV.

And which book is the undisputed champion of inspiring kids to do hard things?

Watty Piper’s classic The Little Engine That Could has a fresh new look thanks to one of my favourite author/illustrators, Dan Santat, but the text remains the same. The funny little clown still does his best to convince The Shiny New Engine, The Passenger Engine, The Freight Engine, and The Rusty Old Engine to help pull the toys over the mountain, but none will put aside their own comfort for the broken down train. The toys don’t give up though, and ask one more engine, The Little Blue Engine.

My favourite part of this book is that The Little Blue Engine has never gone over the mountain before, but agrees to help the toys. She takes a chance and chugga-chugga-chuggs over the mountain, answering the call despite uncertainty and inexperience. Can we do the same? Are we willing, like Isaiah, to say yes to God, despite our own uncertainty and inexperience? Can we submit to difficulty, even suffering, trusting that we will be transformed?

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What’s the hardest thing you ever had to do?
  • Do you always want to say yes when your family asks you to do something?
  • Who encourages you when things get difficult? Who do you encourage?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why did the Little Blue Engine say she would help?
  • God sometimes asks us to do difficult things. How can we say yes to God?
  • How does God help us get over the mountains in life?

Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. Grosset & Dunlap, 2020.

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