March 16, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
In three days, the Blu-Ray of The Hobbit comes out (or the DVD, if you’re still using that technology… so 20th century…) and we can watch the first third of the great Tolkien novel for a couple of years until the second and third parts come out. I’ve been a huge fan of Tolkien since first reading The Hobbit in fifth grade, and I’ve been delighted by the film adaptations of Lord of the Rings and now Bilbo’s story. If you have already seen The Hobbit in the theater (which there’s a strong chance you did, since it was one of 15 movies to break $1 Billion at the box office), then you may remember this scene—and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch this clip, finish this blog post, and go buy it and watch it. Ok, here’s the film clip of the scene I’ll be talking about. Watch it. I’ll wait for you…
…OK, great scene, right? I remember watching this in the theater and thinking, “there’s a sermon in that scene.” The reason is that we all have a deep longing to see Good overcome Evil. Each of us has pain, suffering, broken relationships, a guilty past, secret sins and burdens, addictions, fear and sorrow—all the scars that Evil inflicts upon us. And so we are drawn to stories like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Robin Hood, even Jack and the Beanstalk because in these stories we hear echoes of the same theme of the Great Story—the story of God in Christ. That theme is the victory of Good over Evil; and not just victory, but a victory against all odds!
Think about it. Gandalf says, “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay—simple acts of kindness and love.”
What Gandalf has discovered is something to which we all can probably attest. Our own power, strength, wealth, or general awesomeness is often lacking. We encounter problems at times that we don’t have an answer for or a way to overcome. We are underdogs, and who doesn’t love an underdog? What about Frodo, a hobbit, marching straight into Mordor, the stronghold of the powerful wizard Sauron and all his armies of orcs? What about the one-year-old Harry Potter coming up against the killing curse of the great dark wizard Voldemort, and surviving? How about Luke Skywalker, from the desert planet of Tatooine, learning Jedi skills and overthrowing the evil Empire? Or a bandit with a bow and arrows who robs from the rich to help the poor? What about the beanstalk climbing Jack, who slays a giant? Or the shepherd boy who killed Goliath with a stone from his slingshot, and went on to become a king? Consider the unlikely Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who loves his comfortable life where nothing out of the ordinary troubles him—things like adventures, “nasty, uncomfortable things…make you late for dinner!” This hobbit is called away on an adventure to help a band of dwarves recover their treasure from a dragon! Talk about an underdog.
But the Great Story of God in Jesus Christ tells us that power is not the thing that defeats evil. In fact, our all-powerful God emptied himself, became a human being, was born as Mary’s baby, grew up, lived, walked, ate, breathed, talked, cried, smiled, got hurt, drank, laughed, taught, healed, led, preached, and finally died. That’s what it means to be a mortal human. We die. And so did God, as Jesus of Nazareth.
It looked like the underdog, Jesus, who went up against the Roman Empire and the religious establishment of his own people the Jews was unable to overcome the odds. He was killed. God emptied himself of divine power, put himself in our hands, and allowed us to kill him. Evil triumphed.
Or so it seemed. For three days, it seemed like evil and death had won. But then on that Sunday morning, Jesus’ followers found an empty tomb with the stone door rolled away. Jesus was raised from the dead!
Power does not always defeat evil. Too often acts of power (we usually call them revenge) actually perpetuate evil and cycles of violence. Instead, the only way to defeat evil is through those “everyday deeds of ordinary folk, simple acts of kindness and love.” When we learn to live as Christ lived and taught, we learn to forgive those who harm us, we learn to love our neighbors and our enemies, and we learn to treat the world with kindness. When these things happen, evil is banished.
Dear Heavenly Father, give me courage to live a life of simple acts of kindness and love. Help me live humbly, trusting not in my own power, but in the power of your grace and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.