The word ‘fellowship’ is a wonderful word in the New Testament full of breadth and depth. In the 21st Century, the same word, is in popular church usage often rather anaemic. “Join us after the service for fellowship,” rings the cry from the leader at the end of the service, and no matter what is meant, what is generally understood and subsequently experienced, is an invitation to a lukewarm cup of tea and an awkward conversation. Unless of course you’re visiting. Then it’s just the cup of tea. The awkward conversation is replaced with an even more uncomfortable silence, as you’re left standing on your own trying to date the brick work of the hall. Hmm. Christian fellowship?
Arguably two of the most popular works of fiction written in the 20th Century were ‘The Hobbit’ and its sequel ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkein. Australians voted The Lord of the Rings “My Favourite Book” in a 2004 survey conducted by the ABC.
In the first volume we find Hobbit Frodo Baggins, in possession of a powerful magic ring known simply as the One. Wizard Gandalf visits Frodo one night to warn him that the Dark Lord Sauron has risen again and is seeking the ring. Gandalf counsels Frodo to travel to Rivendell where the fate of the ring can be decided. At Rivendell, the Council of Elrond decides that the Ring must be destroyed, but that can only be done by sending it to the Fire of Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo takes this task upon himself. Elrond, with the advice of Gandalf, chooses companions for the journey and so they embark on an epic quest. What are this party of nine called? The Fellowship of the Ring. The. Fellowship. Of. The. Ring. As they embark on their quest, we see them eat together, fight together, share together, sacrifice for each other, united around a common goal. Fellowship indeed. It’s both instructive and challenging that a fictional novel can teach us more about fellowship than many people’s experience of the Christian community.
If we are to be the church at St John’s that God has called us to be, then we need to recover this wonderful word ‘fellowship’ and all that it means and then we need to live it out in community. If we do this, united around our ‘fellowship’ with the Lord Jesus, transformation is inevitable.
As together, we seek to ‘live life well’
James (Lead Minister)