“I’m not sure what to think about Gollum. He is so evil and disgusting, but I still feel sorry for him. I kind of wish something good would happen to change him back into the man he used to be.” My twelve-year-old son’s observations about Tolkien’s pathetic, twisted character match my own take on humanity.
How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame ? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
Psalm 4:2, 6
Obsessed with the beautiful bauble dangling before us, we gave up life in Eden to pursue our deluded heart’s desire. We turned from the light of God’s face to gaze into the mirror of our own distorted reflections. Like the characters in Tolkien’s story, we turned from the glory of the Garden to the grey, lifeless towers of our own making. From Eden to Babel we chased after our own glory, and in the process we lost it.
We turned from the light of God’s face to gaze into the mirror of our own distorted reflections.
Decay. Corruption. Falling short.
Distrust. Isolation. Fragmentation.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
But God did not quit on us. He did not turn His back and leave us in our dark, lonely cesspools, chewing on bones and mumbling over our “precious.” He wrapped His glory in a soft, warm body and dwelt among us. He shone the light of His face through the eyes of a Man who looked beyond our faded facades and loved the remnant of His image within.
If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
John 14:7-9, 16-17
For a brief time, God’s glory was once again visible in the face of Christ. When the disciples looked at Him, they saw the Father. His glory began to dawn within them. Glimpses of unity. Glimmers of love. But Jesus’ bodily presence was only a temporary, external solution. He prepared His disciples for His departure by promising them His Spirit, who would come and live within them instead of among them.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
And so it happened, just ten days after His ascension. Gathered disciples, sitting enclosed within man-made walls. Wind and fire, moving freely the way they had when they parted the sea and led God’s people through the wilderness. God’s glory flame returned, blowing through their midst and settling on each of them the way it had once settled on the tabernacle and the temple.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…
In one of God’s grand reversals, the ugly effects of Babel were overturned in a instant. Language barriers dropped. Alienating behaviors overcome. The church broke out of its walls and began to speak the love of God to everyone outside. The Spirit of God took His mobile sanctuaries to the world, connecting with each person in the language of his or her heart and gathering them into one glorious kingdom, one beautiful Bride.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This is the story that we are living today. We are that Church, the living, breathing sanctuary of God’s Spirit. His glory has returned to us and is living within us, transforming our isolated, Gollum-like selves into a loving, nurturing, unified community. Sometimes our ugly wins out over our beautiful, but His Spirit will not quit on us until He has so filled us with His love that we overflow with it. Empty and distorted as we were, we are being filled with the Spirit of God until our lowly bodies reflect His glorious image. Our glory is back!
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”