Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
There is a small marble turtle I got in Madagascar in 2004 who sits on a shelf in my office. Unfortunately (for that marble turtle) when I decorated my office 2 years ago, I underestimated the importance of marble objects and God’s shortest people. I placed him about two and a half feet off the ground. Not 2 months after I arrived here at Hope Lutheran Church one of our younger members came up to me with that turtle in their hands—separate hands.
“Funniest thing happened, Pastor Shawn,” the child said. “I was just walking by and the turtle’s head popped right off.”
Now isn’t that an amazing thing? That turtle survived a summer in Madagascar. That turtle was stuffed into an overly small suitcase, and managed to keep its head on a two-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. In the years that followed, that turtle was packed and moved SEVEN times! But when that turtle arrived at Hope Lutheran Church, the thundering steps of a 35-pound child made that turtle’s head pop right off. That is, little child, the funniest thing.
Now, I don’t know what really happened, and I can assure you I am not worried about it.
A little Elmer’s Glue and that turtle has been restored. But this story does speak to our condition as human beings. We can hardly walk on by without damaging things. The apostle Paul summed it up nicely in his letter to the Romans. He wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate… I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:14-20)
Ever felt like that? Ever not understood your own actions? Ever identified the wrong decision, and found yourself doing it anyways? Ever longed to do the right thing, but found yourself incapable of doing it? Ever innocently looked at a turtle, and the next thing you know his head is popping off? Ever started a conversation wondering how Jeannine was doing, and ended the conversation gossiping about her? Ever planned to donate to that Malarial campaign, spend some time at the food pantry, or call that brother you haven’t spoken to in years, and found later that you didn’t come through on any of them? Ever wanted to do something good, and watched yourself do something evil?
Of course you have. And I’m not saying that because I know you. I am saying that because I know me. I am saying that because I know us. We are bound by sin. We are stuck in it. And the damage is a bit more than Elmer’s Glue can mend.
But it’s not too much for our God. Because God knows us too. He knows what happened to that turtle. He knows we gossip about our friends. He knows when we spend too much time watching TV, and not enough time helping others. He knows every evil thought, every evil word, every evil action. And he loves us anyways. And more than that, he forgives us. He restores us. He makes us whole.
So let us live careful not to break one another’s turtles, but bold enough to trust that when we do God already has forgiven us. Amen.
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