In seminary I was impressed with the way Jesus used unusual means to make powerful points—for instance, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
I tried taking my cue from Jesus in my first church after seminary. I figured communication would be enhanced by working with live animals.
Like a turtle. A turtle makes progress only if it dares stick out its neck. That’s a pretty good posture for Jesus’ disciples, too, I thought.
So, my first week there, I asked the kids to find me a turtle. That week, some girls found a turtle and brought it to church, and an elderly couple, while taking a drive in the country, had to slam on the brakes as a turtle ambled across the road.
Eureka! I had two turtles!
The next Sunday I stood before the congregation, trying to exude proper Princeton decorum. In my black Geneva gown accented by red piping, I called the small fries forward and began my talk.
As I held up one turtle, I tapped on its shell. He ducked into it, obviously not going anywhere. “That’s like a person acting as if Jesus weren’t walking beside him,” I observed.
The turtle, meanwhile, got a bad case of nerves and in front of the whole congregation, urinated all over my new robe.
The congregation howled. I acted as though I were not drenched and quickly returned the turtle to his box, commenting that strange faces do funny things to shy turtles.
Picking up the second turtle, I started again. I tapped on the shell, this time holding it well away from my robe. The turtle ducked inside and… held its composure. Relieved, I asked, “What happens to a turtle that refuses to stick out its neck?”
A tyke shot up his hand, exclaiming, “It goes tinkle-tinkle!”
That brought the house down again. I thought my ministry had been destroyed in its second week. But the nervous turtle made people see that their new preacher was all too human. And they accepted me, stains and all—though they did tend to shy away from my new robe.
Jack R. Van Ens
1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories: For Preachers, Teachers, and Writers.