Small Marble Turtle

Contributing Writer
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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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.