Monday, June 16, 2008

Hope When All is Gone

The New Testament reading yesterday was from Paul's letter to the Romans, (Romans 5). It reminded me immediately of the Lord of the Rings (LotR), by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4.
I don't know about you, but LotR to me is all about hope and WWI. As I read it, or see the movies, all I can think about are the men in the Trenches. I envision what the men in Tolkien's unit must have been like to be the inspirations for the LotR characters. Like, Boromir who is abrasive, and secretive, and weak, and proud (in the bad sense) and in the end, honorable, asking for forgiveness.

Seeing the books translated to film brought the characters even more to life for me. In fact, I had no interest in the books as a kid (so few women characters) until I saw the movies and realized that these were stories I could really get into. Then I read them in a continuous loop for two years picking up new things with each reading.

The Lord of the Rings is all about hope. And I think it can be capitalized: Hope, as in Christian Hope. Hope is what gets everybody through the trials and tribulations of the Lord of the Rings books. When things look grim, someone admonishes the Hobbits, or the Humans or the Dwarves, "Do not to give in to despair." It's something to keep in mind in Mordor, as well as Verdun, as well as in Philadelphia. "...As a light to use in dark places - when all other hope is gone".

I think in order to get through trench warfare, and the general horror of World War I, Tolkien and his friends must have had to figure out some way to cope. Would this passage from Romans have been a comfort?

The LotR books drove home for me the plight, both emotional and physical of veterans. The Hobbits' return to the Shire play out the saying "there's no going home." Nothing is the same for them after their adventures, and their return home. I think of our veterans - from the Great War through to our current Iraq and Afghan wars - and how they fare. Do they have hope? Did they have it before going to war? What will their return be like for them?

This is where Rev. Jim's exhortation, from yesterday's sermon, to be welcoming - to greet strangers with openness and warmth comes in. The stranger you meet could be God at your doorstep. We need to be ready, and welcoming. So that after the suffering, hope might emerge. With God's help.

The text from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 5:

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we[c] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

1 comment:

Sally Big Woods said...

A good quotation about Hope: