The Stolen Turtle
Originally scheduled for September 7
When I was a boy I was prohibited from owning
the more normal sort of pet, such as a dog or cat.
Anything with fur set off my sister’s allergies, which were
quite severe. My father
therefore reasoned that I would be well off with a turtle, and got
me one. It was about the
size of a half-dollar, and came with its own terrarium,
appropriately sized. All
was well until one day I noticed that the turtle was missing – AWOL,
if you please. It took
little investigation to discover what had happened;
one of the other children in the neighborhood had recently
acquired such a turtle, his parents knew not where.
They soon had the truth out of the child.
Quite properly, the parents wanted to return
the turtle. There was
one slight difficulty:
in the process of being hijacked, the turtle had died.
The parents decided that it would be appropriate therefore to
supply a replacement.
Unfortunately, the replacement reptile was about three times the
diameter of the original.
It could not possibly live in the terrarium. They had
captured it at a local stream, and so we returned it to its habitat.
This caused little grief, because the turtle in question was
one of the ugliest of God’s creatures I had ever seen.
The first turtle was cute; this one was mostly notable for
its monotone mud color.
Have you ever approached your own sin that way?
We are to ask forgiveness of our Lord for our sins; it is the
only acceptable way. But
sometimes we find ourselves trying to substitute our own atonement
for his. By making
amends in our own way – bringing in the ugly turtle – we think we
have cleared the matter.
We have not. Only the
forgiveness of Christ will do.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t make
amends to those we have sinned against.
We should do that, in order that we may be reconciled to our
brothers and sisters in Christ.
In so doing we build up the unity of the church; we
strengthen our fellow Christians by our example; we often will be
able to replace anger with love.
But let us not mistake this process for the forgiveness given
by God. It is not a
question of either/or but both.
We need to make amends for our sins as we can, and we need to
seek God’s forgiveness for them.
That forgiveness is not based on our efforts but upon the
sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.
At no time is it more important to remember
this than at Communion.
By taking Communion you acknowledge the body and blood of Christ as
necessary both for your salvation and your forgiveness.
Do not, therefore, attempt to substitute your own actions for
what Christ alone can do.
Have the humility to accept and proclaim that Jesus paid it
all – all the debt of sin you have.
We are to examine ourselves before taking Communion; it seems
that distinguishing our efforts from his atonement might just be a
good place to start.