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What Will You Do With The One Ring?

June 30, 2011

If you have seen the 1978 animated version of the Lord Of The Rings, you’ll maybe remember the scene when Gandalf recounts the history of “Bilbo’s funny magic ring” to Frodo, as they sat in front of the fireplace at Bag End, revealing it to be the One Ring made by Sauron himself. He then asks Frodo, “What will you do with the One Ring?” We know what the ultimate decision was.

His decision meant leaving home, family and friends behind, perhaps to die. His decision left him radically and forever changed.

I was recently reading a blog post titled: Existence, Choice And God by Father Stephen Freeman, on his Glory To God For All Things blog site. He speaks of the role of choice in the life of believers, especially as it related to converts to the Orthodox Church. He contrasts rational choices and existential choices. The Rational Choice is based on looking at the facts, weighing them out, then choosing based on our preferences and the facts. A good example of this is the “Church Shopper”. Going from church to church, looking for the one that you like the best. The Existential Choice is one that comes with deep internal struggle and hesitation. It too looks at facts and weighs them, but there is something deeper that goes beyond those facts and preferences.

In my journey to the Orthodox Church, (which is still in process) the outset of it would have seemed to have been the product of a rational choice. I had to take a hard look at the facts about Orthodoxy, weigh them out and make a decision. I even found a parish that I “preferred” above other ones I found in the area. But did I really just find a “way of worshipping God” that I liked and “Got something out of”? Had I simply had my many questions sufficiently answered to the point where I could make a rational choice about how I wanted to worship God and in what community I felt comfortable in? If it were not for the intense internal struggle I had night and day for several months, I’d say yes.

I will admit that I had much to investigate about the Orthodox Church: Apostolic Succession, the Canon of Scripture, Sacraments, Church authority, Hierarchy of the clergy and episcopate, the place of Mary and Saints in the life of worship and prayer, icons, etc. I will also admit that I had to make sense out of those thing, having no familiarity with any of them and having been taught those things are outright wrong and even evil. But, as I have stated in older posts, I came to a realize that I could try to rationalize everything (which in reality is impossible in Orthodoxy) or I could surrender myself to the call of God to His Church. Once I surrendered, it seemed as though the meaning of it was revealed to me. That meaning, of course, is Christ Himself.

A few months ago I met a young priest and his family. He was a convert from the Assyrian Church of the East. He told me that the language of prayer, worship, and even large parts of the Scripture, is the language of poetry. It’s not the language of science, investigation, or any such thing. It is the language of awe and wonder that comes from the depth of our spirit, to His Spirit (I think of Psalm 42:7 KJV). As I listened to him, I realized that this is what I had sensed so many months ago, as I let go of trying to “get” everything about the Church.

Paradoxically, I also sense the reality of this call to the Church in the fact that it DIDN’T make sense. I was perfectly content as a Protestant, I liked my Church, I had faith in God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), believed His Word, and did my part to live it out. Did I really NEED to become a part of this (seemingly) far more rigid Church tradition? This move has also created tension in the home. A friend of ours asked if I didn’t see this tension as a sign that I was making a bad choice. I answered, “No.” Scripture tells us that following Jesus brings hardships; from the outside, and the inside. Ultimately I do not see it as making a choice, but as following Christ in the fullness of His Church.

When it comes down to it, I found that I simply had to obey. Not that I checked my brain in at the door, but I realize this is not a choice, but a calling. I am following that calling in the Orthodox Church.

Even though I cringe to use these following examples in the same post as speaking about myself (for I am unworthy of their company), I would like to reference a couple of biblical examples of obedience that was beyond rationality. Abraham followed God out of his homeland, to a place he had never seen. While there he received the seemingly impossible promise of a son through whom “all the nations shall be blessed.” Paul the Apostle followed the Christ he saw in a vision, preached him to the whole world at great peril to himself, having forsaken a comfortable life as a pharisee and Roman citizen. Samuel obeyed God and anointed the head of a little boy who tended sheep for his father, while his older and stronger brothers fought in battle.

So stood Frodo, on the edge of fate, debating about what choices he had in the matter of the Ring. Soon he realized that there was but one thing to do. To set out on the perilous journey, leaving behind all he knew, and to do that which “fate” had meant for him to do: destroy the Ring in Mount Doom.

And so I have come to see that I have not simply made a choice out of many possibilities. If I have made a choice, it is the choice to obey the calling of God. My journey is not so adventurous as Frodo Baggins, nor do I possess the holiness of Abraham, Paul or David. But this journey is one born out of a calling that I must obey, and not just a choice that seems to suit me best.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kat permalink
    July 2, 2011 3:04 pm

    “God made so many different kinds of people; why would God allow only one way to worship?”
    Martin Buber

  2. July 2, 2011 11:36 pm

    If you are referring to Orthodoxy as having “only one way to worship”, then it would be worth while to look at Church History. Within the Church (especially the first 1000 years) there were and are a variety of diverse liturgies that are of equal apostolic validity. The West had various Liturgies, as well as the East. Many vary in their “style”, but the content, focal point and spirituality are the same.
    The liturgy is centered on the Eucharist, because it is rightly understood as partaking of Christ Himself. That partaking is done in community and includes worship and the teaching of the Word. It is more than just a particular format. It is about standing in and partaking of the Resurrection of Christ.
    The question could be asked, “Doesn’t Protestant, non-liturgical worship do the same thing?” For a lot of reasons, that a discussion thread are not able to give adequate space for, I have to answer no. The intent and desire is there (there is no question of the desire to worship God in Spirit and truth), but as much of Protestantism has rejected most of what the Historic Church is, how can it be the same? This does not mean it is altogether bad. It is not bad. As an illustration (not meant as a bash against anyone), it’s the difference between the nutritional content of overly-diluted orange juice from concentrate, and undiluted, fresh-squeezed orange juice.
    I guess all I should have said was that there is far more variety within liturgical, apostolic worship than people suppose. Maybe the other stuff was unnecessary, and not very helpful. If so, I apologize.
    On another note. In context, the author of that quote was not a Christian. He was a Jewish philosopher. His comment is best understood to mean that there is no “one way to understand God.” in other words, all religions are the same.
    Thank you for the comment, and for challenging my position. It’s the principle of “iron sharpening iron”.

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