Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Return of The King

This morning I was blessed to lead chapel at Lutheran South which has become my usual Tuesday morning ritual.  Throughout my chapels this year I've been reading to the school body from the devotional book "Walking With Bilbo" by Sarah Arthur.  It makes for a pleasant opportunity to share some of the basic themes and story lines from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit as well as The Lord of the Rings while also helping people to see the deep Christian themes residing behind the story.

This morning we read through Chapter 18 which is entitled "Living Legends".  With it was the theme of the King returning.  On the surface we are reminded of the return of Thorin as King under the Mountain when he arrives in Lake Town in The Hobbit.  Then the even bigger and more heralded return of the king (which Part 3 of The Lord of the Rings is titled after) with Aragorn's coronation as King of Gondor.

In each case, with Thorin and with Aragorn, there were ancient stories and tales of the king's return.  In their local realms these foretold returns became part of legend and great story.  When each person finally arrived on scene, there were many skeptics who wished to question these now "Living Legends".  Could it be true?  Could these ancient tales and myths now become history?  The Master of Lake Town wished to bring doubt upon Thorin's return and the Steward Denethor in Gondor wished to bring the same doubt upon Aragorn's return.

J.R.R. Tolkien, as author Sarah Arthur points out, also used this device of Living Legend to help his friend C.S. Lewis along on his journey to Christianity.  Lewis struggled with the belief that The Bible and Christianity alongside it were really nothing than a great myth. a wonderful story.  It was Tolkien who challenged Lewis to consider that perhaps Christianity wasn't just the great myth, but rather the True Myth.  Perhaps these two realms of Myth and History could here and there become one.

Author Sarah Arthur wrote in the "Living Legends" chapter "the stuff of legends became history in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that's why Christianity is so compelling."  This brings to mind the many, many prophecies recorded throughout the inspired Old Testament which were essentially legends of a Messiah to come. A King who would return to this earth.  In the incarnation of Jesus, the Son of God, these legends then found their truth and became history and the True Myth.  Tolkien put it this way: "Legend and History have met and fused." (Tolkien Reader, 89)

The question put before us now today, in the year of our Lord 2014, is close to the same one that the 1st century Jews faced at the birth of Jesus.  As Arthur points out, its twofold: "(1) Will we believe the old songs and stories and legends about the return of our King? and (2) will we recognize the moment when legend becomes historical fact?" (147).   We can read about the struggles that the 1st-century Jews had with these questions throughout the Gospels and beyond in the New Testament.  What about us today?  We await the 2nd Coming of our King and the question is before us today: will we believe what has been written about His return?  Will we live our lives as those who anticipate His return?  We do know one thing at least, when our King, Jesus, makes his 2nd Return we will all recognize in that moment that Legend has indeed become reality and fact once more, as the Scriptures tell us: "Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7)"

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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