Great literature teaches us to pay careful attention to our place in the story. History teaches us this as well. One of my favorite stories about returning to a story is an episode that happened in Geneva during the Reformation. They say that the great Reformer John Calvin when he returned to Geneva after being chased out, returned to the pulpit and began preaching by saying, “As I was saying.” He knew his place in the story.
Often, sadly, we as Christian don’t. The Bible and the Great Books, the very stuff that Omnibus is made of, can help us to appreciate our place in the story.
I have mentioned how good Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies are. Good, but not perfect! Today, I am returning “as I was saying” to criticize the movies—especially the ending of the Return of the King movie.
Like any great story, we find our own story in Tolkien’s story. Often, however, we believe ourselves to be in a part of the story in which Tolkien would not have placed us. We think that we are facing down the forces of darkness, climbing Mt. Doom, and trying to destroy the Ring. That is not where we are, however. If there is an analogy to our place in the Lord of the Rings, we are not at the “destroy the Ring point”. Christ has already won the victory over evil. The Ring of Power is destroyed. We are in the part of the story that did not make it into the movie—the part that Tolkien said was the whole point of the entire epic—called “The Scouring of the Shire.”
In the book, after the Ring is destroyed, the Hobbits return to the Shire only to find that the forces of evil have taken over. These forces are weakened because the Ring has been destroyed. The Hobbits reach out to Gandalf and ask for help. He lets them know that he is not coming to help. The whole point of their last adventure was that they are now ready to fight for their local community and for their friends and families. We think that we are on the precipice, but we are actually mopping up. God tests us and tries us to grow us up so that we are ready to stand for our faith and with the faithful members of our family, church, and community. The good news is: we can’t lose—at least not in any complete or definite way. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. There is nothing that can stop the light of Christ from shining into the darkness. The dead are going to rise and every knee is going to bow to Christ Jesus. God calls us to face down giants like David’s Mighty Men did but only after our David (Jesus) has slain the great giant Goliath (Death, Hell, and the power and guilt of sin). Christ says it this way, “In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
It often does not feel like we are just mopping up, but classical Christian schools try to prepare students to be in the right part of the battle. Taking what we have learned about Christ’s victory over sin and death and working with courage and assurance in our communities and callings.
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