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“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo” (May 19, 2024)

Brendan McLean writes on hope, Romans and "Lord of the Rings."

Outlook Standard Lesson for May 19, 2024
Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Romans 5:1-11

Last fall, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet one of my heroes, the actor Sean Astin. Astin is known for his roles in various movies and TV shows (“Rudy,” “The Goonies,” and “Stranger Things” to name a few), but I will forever recognize him as Samwise Gamgee from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I rehearsed at least several times beforehand what I would say when I finally met the real-life Sam Gamgee because I predicted that I would be holding back tears of joy and be rendered speechless. Fortunately, when I met him, I was able to squeak out how much I loved Astin and how his portrayal of Sam taught me a version of manhood that is brave, vulnerable and hopeful. Even more fortunately, Astin thanked me for my kind words and let me know how much it meant to him to know his work had made that kind of impact to someone.

It’s true. Samwise Gamgee made a huge impact on me as a child watching the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy when they came out in the theaters. Sam is the heart of the story; he is the living embodiment of hope in the face of insurmountable odds. As he accompanies his employer and closest friend on a near-impossible mission, they travel almost exclusively on foot and have to endure many trials, monsters, and enemies along the way. Yet, Sam never loses hope.

In “The Two Towers,” the second film in the trilogy, Sam and Frodo are among the ruins of a city decimated by the forces of evil, trying desperately to survive. As Frodo sits demoralized and losing hope, Sam delivers a poetic speech, wondering how the world could go back to the way it was before all these bad things have happened. He concludes that, in all the stories he’s heard of people overcoming evil, they were holding onto something: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

Sam speaks beautifully to the power of hope and the endurance hope gives us to keep moving forward, even when it seems impossible to do so. Those who hope have faith that the good will win out in the end. The echo of Sam’s call to hope can be heard in Paul’s writing about being justified by faith in our passage today from Romans. Here, he writes that we have been given grace by Jesus Christ, who also gives us the peace of God (Romans 5:1-2). Our faith and hope in God is not simply a conceptual acknowledgment that God exists, but is also a confident trust in what God has done for us, in the infinite power, knowledge, and love God has, and what God is continuing to do for us. This peace we have through Christ is a peace that reminds us we are God’s children, and God is walking alongside us.

When we believe in God, we are justified; we are made whole. When we believe in God, our Creator works in our hearts to transform us and produce hope within us (Romans 5:4). What’s more, this hope from God that is at work within us is not some ridiculous daydream. It is a promise, a reality. Even if the world is not fully reconciled, the Holy Spirit is still actively moving in the world. We can feel the Spirit’s moving through the love in our hearts, God’s love. Our hope is real.

Samwise Gamgee was a hero for me growing up because he taught me a great deal about what it means to hope for a bright future that has not yet come to pass, even when the world around you makes less and less sense and is full of fear and hate. Like Sam, Paul tells us that this is the faith that gives us an unshakeable foundation rooted in God’s love, building endurance and hope that can overcome any challenge or obstacle, no matter how large. The faith that God is indeed at work in this world.

Questions for discussion

  1. How have you witnessed hope in the world lately?
  2. What gives you hope in your own life?
  3. How do you express gratitude for God’s gifts of faith?

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