Leaving the Shire

 In Featured, Pastor Jason's Blog

by Pastor Jason Kramme

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?” – Frodo Baggins

Frodo Baggins is quoting his uncle Bilbo as he and his hobbit friends head off on their epic journey to destroy the Ring of Power in the book Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkein. Bilbo used to say this to Frodo to keep him from wandering out of the safe confines of the Shire and into the unpredictable and dangerous world beyond. If hobbits were known for anything, they were known for predictably resisting the unpredictable—and great food.

The trouble was that what the world needed from Frodo at that particular moment was to leave that predictable controlling story so that they could play their part in the grander story playing out in middle earth.

The events of this past year may, in some ways, feel as epic as the events that took place in middle earth in this fantasy novel. The pandemic, social, and political unrest have all been challenges of epic proportions. Yet, aside from some necessary structural changes, in what ways are we changing internally on an individual or collective basis? Certainly, we have left the Shire, but are we truly changing? Or, are we just using the same resources and strategies for life with greater fervor never mind our current context?

When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating that the world has changed due to the presence of God among us. A brief reading of the Gospels reveals to us that the disciples, like Frodo and like us, set out to follow Jesus in a way that takes them far from home. Along the way they change behavior: sabbath, who they eat with, and their relationship with the Temple are just a few of those changes. But, what trips them up over and over again is that while they change the things they do, they often resist addressing the people they were when they were first called so that they might become the people Jesus needs in this new movement.

Some still want power over other people. Some still want purity. Some still want revenge. Some are fearful. Jesus addresses this problem when he mentions in Mark chapter seven that it is what is already in a man that defiles or causes sin. Real life change, in Jesus’ view, is deeper. To put the Greatest Commandment another way, it is about changing your heart, your mind, and your strength to be in-line with Jesus.’

That process of change starts like Frodo’s. It starts with leaving some things behind. As we head into this new year, I want to ask you to think about three questions that will lead to the type of heart change this new world requires:

What wounds in your heart will you leave behind this year?

What habits of mind will you leave behind this year?

What negative strengths will you leave behind this year?

Friends, we have been invited on a journey of faith and we must pack only what draws us into the Child of God self that God created us to be, so pack only what you need and leave the rest behind.


Jason Kramme serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

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