Tolkien and Contemporary Worship

You probably never thought of these two things at the same time before. I don’t think I did, until I read just now this great little commentary in the words of Saruman of Many Colors. (White robes were no longer good enough for him.) I am amazed at how fitting they are in the context of contemporary worship. You see, worship is about power. In the true worship of the Christian Church, it’s God’s power to save, manifested in the forgiveness of sins and administered through the Means of Grace — Word and Sacrament — by those appointed to do so, according to His will. However, it’s possible to substitute something else for that power of God. Hear Saruman:

“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!” he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Numenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”

The point is that God has provided certain means to accomplish His gracious will, when and where it pleases the Holy Spirit. I use the term “Contemporary Worship” to describe the worship movement that seeks not “any real change in our designs, only in our means.” If you or your pastor is considering changes to the Divine Service in the interest of evangelism, or in search of effectiveness among a certain demographic, then there is a good chance that you are playing the part of Saruman of Many Colors. Yes, there is such a thing as Christian freedom, but even the Wise can easily lose their way in matters greater than themselves.

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