by Rev. Joan Kessler
This story of the wisdom of an old turtle is a beautiful illustration to commemorate, not only World Turtle Day but perhaps Pentecost as well. It reminds us of how we are all different and unique and made precisely that way. To be in relationship with one another and build community is our greatest honor and privilege of life.
Old Turtle breaks her silence among those who would argue about who and what God is. Every element of creation has its own voice and describes God in its own image. Old Turtle shares her opinion and experience that God is all of these, everyone is right and not to the exclusion of another. God simply IS. She foretells of the arrival of the human race. They will come in many colors with many faces and different ways of thinking and speaking. The people were to be the reminders of who and what God is. But not long after their arrival, they forgot their relationship to the earth and put profits and consumption and self-fulfillment ahead of care and concern. The elements of the earth remind humans why they were created and demonstrate the healing nature of the natural world when everyone and everything works together as an interconnected system. The people are a message and a semblance of God and all creation reflects the Spirit’s benign and caring nature.
Unity in diversity… this is our Pentecost message today. In our reading from Acts, we heard Adam, Verena and Louise speak in other languages and we watched Christina sign the story of those early followers of Jesus and how they received the gift of the Spirit so very long ago. The experience, we don’t know what exactly happened, but it was like a breeze that blew through their fear and grief and moved them to voice their joy and praise for all that they were thankful for. It gave them courage to leave the safety and security of an upper room and go out into the world and share Jesus’ love with others… the image that is so important here is that this small group of followers of the Way were together, all together, everyone. But to be together in one place does not mean they were homogenous or the same. The gift of Pentecost was that they were different and yet remained together, showing how the Spirit is big enough to hold differences. In our stories today, diversity and unity converge for a sort of unified diversity. All voices were heard, and their unique perspectives honored. But it is the wisdom of a Turtle who reminds us that unity is only truly possible when members of a body are diverse. Otherwise, all you have is uniformity and not unity. Uniformity means everyone looks the same and acts the same and thinks the same.
The Spirit of God we celebrate today is not uniform… not one bit! But is a variety of languages and signs and faces… God is not just one rock or shape of a riverbed or one variety of turtle. We celebrate this diversity today and we must protect it… sometimes when arguing gets a little bit too loud and out of hand, we listen for an old turtle to call a STOP and to remind us that diversity is a gift of the Spirit, a sign of God’s presence among us.
The challenge of Pentecost is “will we speak?” Will we speak our differences? Will we utter our distinct gift? Will we create spaces to share our culture and ethnicity as a way of being instead of climbing into a melting pot? If we don’t speak our peace and offer our gift from the Spirit, we will not be the community that was envisioned some 2000 years ago. The love of the Spirit is indiscriminate… it is lavishly poured out on all… where two or three are gathered or multitudes, to be together is to reflect the image community we celebrate today… and for this I give thanks.