Sunday, November 20, 2016: Old Turtle


“The human heart has hidden treasures…” Charlotte Bronte

Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church


Thanksgiving Sunday Annotated




As we come together on this day of memory, gratitude and hope may we be mindful that we have been given a land with large, flourishing cities we did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things we did not provide, wells we did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves (we) did not plant – then when we eat and are satisfied, when we seek shelter and are protected, when we gather from our towns and cities, may we remember this with gratitude and feel our hearts fill with thanksgiving. Welcome to worship.

Adapted from Deuteronomy 6:10a-11 (NIV)

INTROIT: Children’s Choir


We light this chalice as an affirmation that there is:

Enough love in our hearts to overcome hate,

Enough forgiveness in our hearts to build bridges of connection,

Enough wonder in our hearts that we feel the abundance of blessings

Enough gratitude in our hearts to offer a humbled thanksgiving.

(Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: Come Ye Thankful People Come (#68)


Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.


From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.



TIME FOR ALL AGES: (based on a story by Douglas Wood)

Narrator (Anne Principe, DRE):

Once, in a beautiful, faraway land, that was, somehow, not so very far, was a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze was a language, where every lake was a mirror and every tree a ladder to the stars, into this far and lovely land there fell…a Truth. It streaked down from the stars, trailing a tail as long as the sky. But as it fell, it broke in two. One of the pieces blazed off through the night sky, and the other fell to earth in the beautiful land. In the morning, Crow found the fallen piece. It seemed to be a sort of stone, shiny and very pleasing to the eye. She picked it up.

Crow: “Caw! Caw! This is a lovely truth – Caw! I will keep it. This truth does not quite feel right. A part of it is missing. I will look for a whole one.”

Narrator: She flew off and dropped it to the ground. Other creatures who liked shiny things soon noticed the truth as well – Fox, Coyote, Raccoon, Anteater, Elephant, and others – each checked it out, touched it, looked at it for a while. But they, too, found that this truth had rough edges and was difficult to carry, and its sparkle soon lost its appeal.

Butterfly and Bear also discovered this truth, drawn to it by its sweetness. But they each found out that it left a bitter taste after all. “There is something missing in this truth,” they thought. And they left it alone. After a while, none of the creatures even noticed the broken truth anymore and it lay on the ground, forgotten.





Narrator: The broken truth lay forgotten on the ground. Then a human being found it. She was walking slowly, listening to the breezes, gazing at beauties above and below and all around her, when she found the broken truth. On it, there was writing, and the writing said: “You Are Loved.”

The human held it carefully, thinking that this was the loveliest thing that she had ever seen. She tucked the broken truth into a safe place and kept it. And the truth sparkled just for her, and it whispered its message to her alone. And the human had never felt so proud and so happy.

The human took this wonderful truth to her people – those others who lived with her, who spoke as she spoke and dressed as she dressed, and whose faces looked like her own. And together they cherished their newfound truth and they believed in it. They hugged it to themselves and it became their most important possession.

After a while, the human and her people did not hear the language of the breezes and stones anymore, but heard only their truth. They did not see the mirrored beauty in the lakes, nor the ladders to the stars, but saw only their sparkling truth. And for them, it was enough. And they called it, The Truth.

This Truth made the people feel good and proud and strong.

But soon they also began to feel fear and even anger toward those who were not like themselves and who did not share their truth. The other beings and people of the lovely land seemed less and less important to these people. And the language of the breezes was hardly ever heard anymore.

Time passed, and other humans said, “We must have this Great Truth for ourselves, for with it comes happiness and power!”

Many battles were fought, and the broken truth was won and lost, won and lost, over and over again. But such was its power and beauty that no one ever doubted it, and when they were without it, they felt a great emptiness where their truth had been.

The stones and the trees suffered. The breezes and water suffered, and the animals, and the earth and most of all, the people suffered.

And the suffering continued. Finally, the animals went to Old Turtle, who was as ancient and wise as the mountains and seas themselves. Crow and Fox went. Coyote went. Raccoon, Butterfly, Bear and many others. All went to see Old Turtle.

Crow: “Caw! Caw! This Truth that the people quarrel over, we have all held it ourselves. It is broken and does not work. Please tell this to the people.”

Old Turtle: “I am sorry, but the people will not listen. They are not yet ready.”

Narrator: And the suffering continued.

Rev Anita: As we gather in this community, we are aware that suffering, war, and environmental destruction are a part of our world. We arrive here knowing that truth, even the truth we claim for ourselves, is never all there is. Yet we gather, with the hope that what we might find here, through our relationships with one another, through our commitment to personal and spiritual growth, and through the lessons and witness of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, that what we find here will be a truth more complete than we have known before. And, though it will always only be partial, we seek the many truths which encourage wholeness and healing among human relations and our relationship to our planet.



Narrator: The suffering continued until one day, a Young One went to find Old Turtle. He had traveled very far – he had crossed the Mountains of Imagining, and the River of Wondering Why, and had found his way through the Forest of Finding Out.

Finally he came to a great hill in the very center of the world. From there, the Young One thought that he had never seen so far, or seen so much beauty. But when he saw Old Turtle, he could hardly speak. He simply looked with eyes full of wonder.

Old Turtle: “Why have you come so far to find me, Young One?”

Narrator: The Old Turtle’s voice rumbled like far away thunder, yet was as soft as the breeze through a caterpillar’s whiskers.

Young One: “I wanted to ask a question. Where I live, the earth is sore, and people are suffering. Battles are fought, over and over again. People say that it has always been this way and will never change. Can it change, Old Turtle? Can we make it change?”

Old Turtle: “The world that you describe is not the world that has always been, Young One.”

Narrator: Then Old Turtle told of how the people had found the broken truth, and the suffering it had caused.

Old Turtle: “It is because it is so very close to being a great, whole truth that it has such beauty, and that the people love it so. It is the lost portion of the broken truth that the people need, if the world is to be made whole again.”

Young One: “But where is the missing piece? Can we put the truth back together again?”

Old Turtle: “First remember that there are truths all around us, and within us. They twinkle in the night sky and bloom upon the earth. They fall upon us every day, silent as the snow and gentle as the rain. The people, clutching their one truth, forget that it is just one part of all the small and lovely truths of life. They no longer see these truths, no longer hear them. But, perhaps, Young One, you can.”

Young One: “I’ll try.”



The Young One wants to know where the missing piece of truth is. We know where it is. We know where it is…where parts of it are. The many parts of the missing truth are within each of us. We each hold a cherished piece of truth, important, precious indeed.

We ask each of you now, to think deeply. Think of your cherished truth, the truth that undergirds your life that guides your days and infuses you with strength and courage. What is it, this thing that is the most important thing that you believe? When you have thought of it, write it on the card that is in your order of service, or draw a picture representing it.

Now turn to someone sitting near you. Each of you in turn share with your partner your own cherished truth and why it is important to you.

After sharing: Please, take your truth and make a gift of it to your partner. Receive your partner’s truth with an open heart and an open mind.

Now, each of you has one more truth than the one with which you came in. A truth someone else cherishes, just as you cherish yours.


Narrator: And the Young One thought once more of his long journey. He looked upon all the beauty that surrounded him, from the far hills to the flowers beneath his feet. He saw the movement of clouds and the soaring of birds and the dancing of light upon the green and living earth. He heard the whisper of a breeze. And gradually, a feeling came over him, as though all the world was made of truths. As if the world had been made just for him, and he had been made for it. And he thought that, perhaps, he understood.

He looked once again at Old Turtle, his eyes filled with more wonder than before. Old Turtle spoke again.

Old Turtle: “Remember this also, Young One. The Broken Truth, and life itself, will be mended only when one person meets another – someone from a different place or with a different face or different ways – and sees and hears himself or herself. Only then will the people know that every person, every being, is important, and that the world was made for each of us.”

Narrator: For a long time then the two friends were quiet, high on their hill in the very center of the world. And in his heart, the Young One thought he could see other people in other beautiful lands, people with their own ways, their own truths – people different from his own, but still, somehow, the People. Finally the Young One asked one more question.

Young One: “Old Turtle, how will the people learn these things?”

Old Turtle: “By seeking out those small and simple truths all around them. By listening once more to the languages of the breezes, by learning lessons from stones and animals and trees and stars. Even from turtles and young ones. Now, Young One, it is time for you to go, to return to your people and tell them what you have seen and learned, and to help them to mend their Broken Truth. Take this with you. I have saved it for a very long time, for someone just like you.”

Narrator: The Young One looked at what Old Turtle had given him. It was a kind of stone, a mysterious, beautiful stone. It was lovely to the touch, and it made him feel good just to hold it. He took the other stone, the one from before out of his pocket and laid it next to the one Old Turtle had given him. They fit together perfectly. And when together, as one whole stone, Young One could read the whole truth. It said, “You are loved, And so are they.”

Young One: “Thank you, Old Turtle.”

HYMN: Building Bridges (#1023)


Narrator: And so the Young One started home. Once more he traveled through the Forest of Finding Out, crossed the River of Wondering Why, and the Mountains of Imaging. Crow led the way, and when again the Young One grew tired, all his animal friends helped. He sometimes touched the stone that Old Turtle had given him to renew his strength. And it took a long time, yet almost no time at all. And he was home. But it was a very long journey, and those who take great journeys of the heart are often changed.

A BRIEF REFLECTION: Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

Have you ever been at the table and your Mom or you Dad or Grandma put a plate of food in front of you, and you didn’t like and wouldn’t eat? Or you didn’t finish it, and they said to you, “What’s wrong with you? Eat up! Don’t you know that there are starving children in China? (Or was it India in your house, or Appalachia?).

Maybe you complained that you didn’t have a stylish coat, and were told to be glad that at least you had one because there were plenty of people who didn’t have any coat.

Maybe you got bad news from the doctor, and someone said, well at least it’s not some other terrible disease. You are a lot better off than those folks who have that worse diagnosis.

All those words were meant to comfort you, to reassure you that compared to others, you are okay, even lucky, or special.

And I have to wonder, why do we need to be in some way better than others, to feel gratitude, or to know we are okay? Why do we take comfort in being special – special at the cost of designating others as less special, or not special at all. We do it…but that is not the way of our faith.

Our faith, affirms that “You are loved, and so are they.” There is no hierarchy of belovedness in the universe. You are accepted. That you are accepted, that you are good enough, good enough to live, good enough to belong to this earth and its community of the living, comes with the territory of being born. You don’t have to earn it.

Whew! That’s a relief. Because if you had to earn it, your right to be born, or your right to be loved, we all know we might fail. And that’s scary.

And I know, sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there is enough love to go around…hard not to believe if our parents love our brother or sister, they might not love us, hard not to believe that when someone has a good thing happen, somehow it diminishes what we have.

If I find ten dollars on the street, and am very excited about it, and then you find twenty dollars on the street, don’t I suddenly feel as though my ten dollars isn’t nearly as exciting, isn’t such good fortune anymore? And yet, nothing about that ten dollars has changed except that I have compared it to your twenty, and decided that if you have more, it somehow means that I have less. Big mistake. Big spiritual mistake. A mistake that makes for meanness, anxiety, and fear. Yuck! Get me out of here!

You are loved. You belong. You are worthy of life. Believe it. Practice trusting it. When you know that it does not depend on a limited amount of life and love, and worth, you can stop comparing, stop feeling better because there are those who have less, who are less fortunate, less smart, less insightful, less talented, less whatever it is that helps you find affirmation and meaning. And if we can believe that there is enough of what is essential, essential to our well-being, we will not need to be threatened by other people’s having some too.

We all are here in this world together. And for that we can be grateful. Even generous. You are loved. And so are they. Their belovedness belongs to them irrevocably, for always, and no one can take it away from them. No one can take it away from them, and no one can take it away from you. Blessings, my beloved friends, abound. Enough for everybody. Believe it.

Narrator: Time passed, and upon the beautiful land the trees climbed like ladders to the stars, the waters shone like mirrors, and the people saw their beauty. A breeze stirred, and they heard its music. Tiny truths fell by day and night, gentle as the rain and snow, and the people found the truths and kept them in their hearts.

And slowly, as the people met people different from themselves, they began to see themselves.

And far away, on a hill at the very center of the world, Old Turtle smiled.

HYMN: How Could Anyone? (#1053)


Like the truth in the story of the Old Turtle, what we initially discover are often only partial truths, but through listening and sharing wisdom, we discover a more binding, universal truth that deepens our experience and builds a world of peace and justice.

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation)

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts

until we are together again.



May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.