Thursday, October 23, 2008

can you hear the gardener?

Part of our class on Spiritual Theology includes periodic mini-retreats. Lauren Miller will have us examine a particular spiritual discipline or practice and then have us participate in it together. This week's class we were discussing how metaphors are a way in which meaning is communicated oftentimes in a better way than if the thing was blatantly said. We were given twenty minutes to each write metaphors of our own and then share them with the class. We were told to write with the following question in mind, "What would you want to say to your classmates about themselves and the time that you've shared together?"

A metaphor written as part of a class discussion and reflection in Spiritual Theology with Lauren Miller, Autumn 2008:

My dear ones,

I can hear the muffled footsteps of the Gardener, treading the worn path to our small grove. Listen. Can you hear him? Some of us can. This is not one of his regular visits to our shelter. He has come to rework the garden again. Before he comes…let me remind you... Let us remember when we each came and how we’ve grown together.

I was but a young sapling, you see.

Brought from strange lands in the east, planted carefully in a shaded spot by the stream. Many of you were there. And some of you had yet to come and be planted. We were each being brought…some in wheelbarrows, some as seeds…but each planted with care and purpose in the space which would best suit us to grow as the Gardner desired.

The stream was cool and deep, and many thoughts and ideas it brought to our minds, calling us to live deeper and grow stronger…to learn from the past. The elms and oaks around us taught us how to drink. How to taste. How to dig our roots deeper into the soil to find the nutrients. It was a hard task to learn…but we managed soon enough and the father and mother trees were very patient. They taught us to open our leaves and feed on the warmth of the Son. By light and water we were made…we feasted together on the goodness of the Gardner’s provision.

In time we grew stronger…some of us have been in the garden for a couple years now. Growing and drinking and eating. The gardner has been ever-loving in his care. He comes to tend us…to ensure our health…to gather the fruit of our labour. Sometimes we hear him coming to prune, and the oak tree reminds us that this is part of growing up. As hard as we try to hide them, the Gardner always finds the dead branches. He removes them in love and takes them away from us.

It has been good, hasn’t it? The wisdom of the older trees, the companionship of our peers, the joy and seeing younger saplings be planted beside us? It is so good. And yet…it does not last forever. It was never meant to. You see, the Gardner knows how to grow us best…and though some of us have grown together for many years now…the time will come when he will come and take us away.

He is, after all, the Gardner.

Some of us will be taken away together. For myself, I seem to have gotten all tangled up with a young willow wand and it seems the two of us will have to be transplanted together. Some of you have branches spread across to other trees in other gardens…I think he will transplant you to the same place as well…when the time comes.

Ah… he has arrived. It is springtime. Well my friends, it is time to go. Thank you for the memories…for helping me learn to drink and eat…for growing along with me for these past four years. I love you all. Farewell…my friends… until we meet again in the greater garden where all trees reside. The Great Garden, which extends beyond all rivers and all meadows, the end of all things.

The Scarlet Monk

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Hope

In the mounting climax of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins are caught in a physical and emotional maelstrom as they realize that their quest has been completed at the expense of their own lives. The reactions of our heroes provide a startling contrast. Frodo has resolved himself to death; he announces a final appreciation of Sam’s friendship and loyalty. Sam, however, feels only joy at witnessing Frodo’s restoration. He quickly asserts:
“Yes, I am with you, Master,’ said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. “And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.”
“Maybe not Sam,” said Frodo; “but its like things are in the world. Hopes fail.” (Tolkien, Return, 231).

Yet Sam’s hope has not failed. Rolland Hein reminds readers that there is in Tolkien’s legendarium an “overarching Power whose purposes will not fail” (Hein, Mythmakers, 208). This transcendent guidance is especially noted in the early exposition of The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf assures Frodo that he is meant by this Higher Power to possess the Ring. Sam has seized some understanding of this truth and has taken it a step further than Frodo—he believes in a grand conclusion to his existence based on divine orchestration.
Sam portrays aspects of the Christian’s future hope in eventual glory. Paul reflects on a powerful eschatological assurance in his Epistle to the Romans. The Christian’s hope is on the bases of his or her justification by faith through the resurrection of Christ. Hope is the Christian’s anticipation of ultimate salvation; a state which will not be fully realized until the redemption of our bodies (Romans 5:2-5). Our hope of glory is rooted in the promise of our future resurrection and eternal life.
The context for this hope is found in the midst of suffering (Romans 8:18-39). Like Sam, we are to endure our present struggles. Paul is not suggesting an escapist’s ignorance of real life. Instead, we wrestle through life with a deep assurance that our stories will end with what we have been promised through Christ’s resurrection. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28; NASB).” Christians find this hope in the promise of the Gospel. It is rooted subjectively in the historical resurrection of Christ and objectively in the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Douglas J. Moo concludes that Paul sees hope as an essential element for what it means to be a Christian. We are believers who exist in the tension of the “already, but not yet” of our glorification. “We are a people who are always looking forward to what is yet to come.” (Moo, Romans, 139)
Paul’s instructions, like Sam’s honorable example, bring with their inspiration a piercing challenge: Do we endure hardships with joy, hoping in what we see not? With faith, we can pray for the day when we will still have hope in the midst of sorrows. Our eyes will stray, like Sam’s, to where the “sky far off was clear, as the cold blast, rising to a gale, drove back the darkness and the ruin of the clouds.” (Tolkien, 232) In a way, we are better equipped than Sam to look through our present sufferings towards an ultimate closure to our life’s journey.

The Scarlet Monk

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Will post soon!

I'm going to be working on my Contemporary Application assignment this weekend. I'm hoping on writing on the concept of Hope as it appears in Romans 8. I hope to relate it primarily to the Lord of the Rings and the character of Frodo and Samwise. I'm looking foward to hearing your thoughts once it is completed!

Until then,

The Scarlet Monk