27 July 2005

Denethor - Steward of Gondor

Have you seen the Lord of the Rings movies? Or at least the last one - The Return of the King? I've seen all three. All of them several times. I've read all three books. I read them first as a teen. Then again and again and again as an adult. I love the books ... the books are better than the movies. But the movies are captivating. I was completely prepared to be disappointed with the movies. I've been disappointed with books that have been turned into movies all of my life. So in January of 2002 (I did NOT go to opening night) when I finally saw the first movie, I was HOOKED in a manner that I was completely unprepared for. The only other time I sat through a movie like that was when Gandhi came to the big screen in 1983 ... but I'm dating myself.

So, I got hooked into this series and re-read the books, AGAIN. But, they are, after all good books. Tolkein spent most of his adult life writing them and the histories of the elves, and the dwarves and the hobbits and all of their languages. So ... the books are good. The movies are good.

But here's the thing in the last movie that particularly caught my attention. It was the series of scenes with Denethor the Steward of Gondor. He's been asked by the remains of the Fellowship for assistance in their battle against the evil forces of Mordor. But all he can do is grieve the loss of his son, Boromir. He got so caught up in his own grief and, more importantly, the etiquette of his court that he could do nothing more than rage over the finer points of protocol. His end came rather harshly as he very nearly killed his comatose second son on a funeral pyre, sets himself ablaze, and hurls himself from a cliff. During all of these scenes, however, intense battles with evil are raging outside his very windows. Good people are dying and he is worried about who will serve the wine at dinner.

At the time that I saw this movie, I was involved in a conflict with the leadership of my former church. I saw in a very clear way that that pastor had many characteristics in common with Denethor. I've since come to see that many pastors and church leaders have characteristics in common with Denethor. They are so worried about who will serve the wine or grape juice at communion that they fail to see the people dying physically, emotionally and spiritually at the doorstep of their buildings. It's very sad. Because we've forgotten what our mandate is to the people around us and are more worried about the buildings we serve than the people living around them.

I always wish I could write "they" here because I don't want associate myself with **that** kind of Christian (in fact, I've found a church where we're doing things a little differently). But the sad fact is that we are all one body in Christ. So I have to associate myself with them. My only hope is that in so doing, some of who I am and how I am being will rub off and circulate outwards ...

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