How the Movie The Return of the King Calls Us to Worship

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not only because it is one of few movies adapted from an even better book that didn’t slaughter the story (Nerd alert! I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy a dozen times). And I’m not alone in my assessment. It was a critical and box-office success and won eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

But I loved The Return of the King because it told such a big engrossing story. Like all good epics Peter Jackson’s movie connected the small everyday lives of its characters: Frodo, Sam, Strider, Legolas, Pippin, Faramir, and gang with a struggle much bigger than themselves. Save Middle Earth from slavery and death. The film deftly shows each individual character’s role in that cosmic battle.

Like The Return of the King, Worship is Epic

Epic stories well-told, such as The Return of the King, become classics because they strike a chord deep in our souls. Instinctively we want to be part of the chorus singing about the significance of life, if even singing from the back row. Or to return to a movie metaphor: simply to be even an extra in the army of Gondor might be enough to give our lives meaning.

This is because God created us to be a part of something grand, epic, so to speak. That is what that strange activity called worship is supposed to do: connect our small, everyday lives to something–or more so, Someone–bigger.

What Blocks Worship?

Donald Miller, of Blue Like Jazz fame, calls this living a better story. Worship is the door through which we enter a better story, God’s story. Unfortunately the story conflict often blocking the way is not a malicious ring, or Sauron but daily drudgery. Doing dishes, watching the news, rushing here or there. Forgetfulness.

Maybe we ignore God’s casting call to play even a small role in God’s Grand Story because we think we are miscast, or unable, or we believe there is no such thing as a Grand Story. Yet, as I wrote in my last blog, there are no expendable crew members for God. You are not miscast as a worshiper. It’s the role you and I were made for. Most people, when asked what they would do with large lottery winnings, say pay off debt and then do something big, like help the homeless. Worship. And, as to belief, even non-theistic scientists search for the meaning of life, the answer, the Big Bang. Again worship, just not of God.

We were created to worship God. This is why moutainscapes, brilliant music, the flick of a bird’s wing, or the birth of a baby freeze us mid-breath and leave us seeking more. They tantalize our earth-bound imaginations. Encountering these mysterious moments free our imaginations while at the same time worship of God anchors them to something real, not just fanciful.

Worship is More than Filling our God Tanks on Sunday

Sadly even many who believe in God have forsaken this gorgeous gift from God, unless it be the rare gape at nature.

For many the trappings of religion are what deaden the desire to worship God. Church does not often feel epic. Worship has become a show, or duty, or a time and place to get what we need from God. Worship today is filled with purposes and propositions and practical applications. All the while keeping the true mystery of communicating with God miles from us.

In Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places” Eugene H. Peterson debunks this popular view of worship. He writes, “Fear-of the Lord [his biblical term for a lifestyle of worship] is not studying about God but living in reverence before God. . . is not a technique for acquiring spiritual know-how but a willed not knowing [italics mine]. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being there. Fear-of-the-Lord nurtured in worship and prayer, silence and quiet, love and sacrifice, turns everything we do into a life of ‘breathing God’.”

Much church worship is anything but breathing God. Worship is simply “being there.” Where? In the Presence of God.

Add Worship Back into Your Life’s Menu

But just like when some meals are bland and wolfed down only to fill our empty stomaches, we do not stop seeking that one gourmet meal set in an ambiance of laughter and delight, so too we need not give up the wonder of worship simply because we have turned it into fast food.

Next time you see a movie or read a story or view a sunset that makes you yearn for something bigger, give in to the urge and turn your eyes to God. It’s God calling, trying to connect you to something epic, Someone bigger than yourself. Go ahead, worship.

Eugene C. Scott believes the command to love God with all we are is an invitation to worship. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “How the Movie The Return of the King Calls Us to Worship

  1. Georgie-ann

    “a chord deep in our souls”,… that’s what “reality” is really all about,… something really real and tangibly full of meaning and true essence,… nothing false or illusory,…

    The man-made “world” we now live in has so expanded and morphed itself into a giant overwhelming, consuming and deafening (fake/imitation/artificial) cosmos, that we’ve essentially been pulled out of direct contact with the real one for all intents and purposes,… and what IS presented to us of the real one, is so dissected and “scientifically” analyzed and redefined, that if once it could have been perceived as real and whole and inviting to us, now it is a dead thing,…

    How insidiously clever this plan to “kill” the real spontaneously dynamic universe with complicated and dry descriptive terminology that has to be forcibly learned/memorized to pass tests, while simultaneously producing an ever expanding electronic mushroom cloud of an imitation reality that invades and impresses itself on hearts and minds from birth, right in one’s own home,… via the tube, and related spin-offs,…

    I was just thinking how hard it is for people to really see and connect all the dots,… we self-righteously complain about “entertainment” media — (perverted super-hero comic books, perverted “adult” programming permitted during the dinner hour, etc.) — and cultural issues — (unwed mothers, teenage pregnancies, abortions, drugs) — and act like we expect purity from Walt Disney et al,… but we don’t acknowledge our own poor judgement in allowing the “more innocent” introductory forms of this habitual entertainment to get such a strong hold on our children,… the “innocent” stuff, if taken completely “for granted”, can become an ingrained habit, much like an introductory drug getting the population ready for the “harder” (more perverted) stuff,… if we deny that there is a nasty plan at work here to capture the souls of our children (and even of our own selves) — and not just via commercials for sugary cereals — we are blinded to something that should be much more obvious by now,…

    when a little child becomes accustomed to having anything be a regular part of his/her life, they naturally expect this connection to continue,… how does a child suddenly become more resourceful at entertaining itself in a healthy way, when it has outgrown cartoons, but now is ready (and expecting) to keep watching “whatever” for the rest of its life?,… for a few generations now, these poor kids have become “sitting ducks” for whatever the media moguls are getting ready to force down their gullible throats through the already established pipelines,… “boredom” must be circumvented by ever more enticing, novel, tantalizing and eventually blatantly seductive fare,… by then a high percentage are quite well-hooked, and this is victory for the media moguls,… we can try to demand our rights and values, (and we should), but we’ve also been playing too much into the hands of a conscience-less enemy,…

    and we’re all too ready to settle for the fake universe/reality, if it appears to be “innocent”,… (which it very rarely is),… I pray that we’ll finally start to see what a disservice we do to ourselves by “going along with the world” as much as we do,… the world can end up being nothing more than a false lover that will take you for everything you’ve got,… it’s not going anywhere,… it has nowhere to go,… but we are the ones with the potential to make decisions and move farther out of its orbit,…

    Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”

    1 Corinthians 2:6 “Yet when we are among the full-grown (spiritually mature Christians who are ripe in understanding), we do impart a [higher] wisdom (the knowledge of the divine plan previously hidden); but it is indeed not a wisdom of this present age or of this world nor of the leaders and rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing and are doomed to pass away.”

    1 John 4:3 “And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him]. This [nonconfession] is the [spirit] of the antichrist, [of] which you heard that it was coming, and now it is already in the world.”

    If things of this world have become as “idols” for us, then we are already “worshipping” false idols,… false idols take the place of (upstage/short circuit) our relationship with God,…

    John 4:23,24
    23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Exodus 20 [The Ten Commandments]

    1 “And God spoke all these words, saying:

    2 “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

    3 “‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

    4 “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. … ”

    God is jealous for our love in a good way,… it is life for us,…

    • Georgie-ann

      edits: “of a substitute/imitation reality … … … right into one’s own home,…”

      “God is jealous for our love and worship in a good way,…”

  2. Georgie-ann

    I think I was trying to say that our obvious “cultural problems” (which ultimately “present” in some of the sad and pernicious ways described), are really beginning way upstream compared to where we usually begin to try to interface with them socially,… instead of “nipping things in the bud” (advisable), we allow a vast network of unquestioned and intertwined influences to be established, “allowing” a passive pipe line to be created that can very easily be usurped and abused,… in the incipient stages, we are too trusting,… and it’s often too late already, to protect “innocence” from being violated/overwhelmed, by the time we do try to “get on board” and attempt to “warn about/guard against/prevent problems,”…

    but “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” is one of our promises,… but no one wants it to be their own child which gets caught, alone and vulnerable, in the jungle,…

    Romans 5:19-21
    19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

    20 “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    I think I mentioned this awhile back: There is a “teaching” about the types of influences we have in life: called “A, B and C influences”,… where it originated, I don’t actually know, but I could strongly relate to it in my spiritual journey/searching days,…

    “A” influences are like our strong moments of sensing our direct connection with God or the universe, and also true spiritual works and influences that facilitate this awareness,… pointing directly to the spiritual truth of these realities,… and also connecting us with them,… (such as the Bible, Holy Communion, deep prayer and meditation/contemplation, etc.,… ),… When we first approach this realm intentionally, searchingly, it might seem a little illusive to us,… or maybe the direct Light is too bright for our earthly dimmed focus to apprehend,… but we know/sense that something “more” is beckoning to us,…

    “B” influences are more available to our minds, “disguised” references to the above,… “hinting” at the existence of this “greater/brighter/more true and significant” realm, but more in the form of inspired poetry, symbolism, fairy tales, and such,… I always loved/enjoyed the “B” influences: such as reading fairy tales (Grimm, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, etc.,… ), feeding on them personally, as well as presenting them to my children,… As some of these dramas became modernized and sensationalized, “bigger than life” presentations “on the screen” (even Walt Disney in some cases), I became more than a little leery of some of the overblown emphasis on the seductive vibes of the negative portions of the good vs evil dramas,… it was great that good would ultimately triumph, but sometimes I felt that satan was being overly glorified,… “polished up” in a way he didn’t deserve,… Harry Potter books did a pretty good job of making satan look as absolutely bad and pathetic as he is, however,… I prefer the books to video in these things,…

    “C” influences are earthbound/worldly, having nothing at all to do with higher spiritual matters,… I loved escaping the dull, boring weight of “C” influences via the entertaining “B” influences,… but over time, I have developed a sheer unadulterated love for “sipping the proverbial spiritual wine” of the world/realm of the “A” influences,… better company, no man can find!

    (Cheers!,… )

    • Very true, G-a. How’s summer going out on your end of the world?

      • Georgie-ann

        it’s hot!,… I’m currently “resting a lot” on purpose,… taking advantage of the end of a long, extended way-too-busy season,… (the “nerves” eventually deserve some respect & TLC!),… neither are we as young as we used to be, nor are we made of iron,… our minds and energy are no longer pretending to be infinite in capacity,… and we are not “invincible”,… but we are blessed!

        sorry to hear about the Colorado fires,… hope they are not too close to you, and that relief is on the way!,…

  3. Georgie-ann

    edit: “illusive” should probably read “elusive”,… sorry,…

  4. Georgie-ann

    Pete Seeger & Doc Watson singing “Lonesome Valley”

  5. Georgie-ann

    these songs really are related to a different discussion, but they’re good,… and I can’t get them out of my mind: (there are other maybe better versions on you tube)

    Anne Murray singing “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”

  6. Georgie-ann

    (what can I say, Eugene?,… you guys get me thinking!)

    A few days ago, a “lawn guy” who couldn’t tell a weed from a protected and desired flowering 3-year-old perennial, pulled up said perennial in front of my suddenly very distressed and anguished eyes,… it was “an accident”,… a genuine case of mistaken identity,… no harmful intentions at all,… but,… my 3 year investment of tender loving nurturing care, was abruptly rendered a moot issue,… the plant was most likely “history,”… done, kaput, finished,… “what good can come of this???” were my clingingly bereaved emotions persistently telling me,…

    “Life gives you lemons, make lemonade,”… I lucked out, after canvassing several local nurseries, in finding some end-of-the-spring-line replacements, so there will be hope again for next year,…

    but I sensed something else lingering in the “meaning” department of this sudden and momentarily extremely painful experience — a very helpless and sad situation for me — and I was having great difficulty in detaching myself from the emotions connected to it,… today I “decoded” it,…

    the man managed to pull up ALL of the unifying crown and green of the plant,… a brief examination of the spot, had revealed only disconnected roots left in the soil,… it was doubtful that the roots could get anything together as far as producing another green plant shoot,… that definitely looked pretty hopeless,… a closer desperate look at the crown of the plant revealed a very few fresh green looking root-like things protruding from it, so I immediately plopped it all into water,… hoping,… everything would depend on those roots becoming bold and strong, asserting a gigantic will to live,… they didn’t,…

    so, I’m glad that I found the replacements,… because — in spite of the water — the whole green plant thing now has a very fatal brown and withered look,… so much for wishful thinking and last ditch efforts,… sometimes you can only do just so much,…

    As I was thinking about Eugene’s blog today, and how it was making me look at things that we tend to take for granted, as givens, in our contemporary lifestyles,… where everything more and more just “is what it is”, for better or worse, take it or leave it,… and that there are many things that we want to be able to trust in, but that in many ways don’t really seem to be very trustworthy,… then I started to think about our “modern” ways of experiencing/living out our Christianity,…

    If I compare many modern and exciting styles of worship and “values” and goals and teachings and faith and self-images, to patterns of earlier times (even just in my lifetime), I seem to notice much more of an emphasis now on that which is VISIBLE,… how we look, how we speak, what we use our faith for, what we’re believing for, and lots of projects to be accomplished that will demonstrate our abilities and spiritual capabilities,… we seem to be very involved in “acting out” a Christian plan and design for our lives,… I would imagine that so much televised Christianity since the 80s has had a great influence on all this too,…

    so, here’s what I thought,… are we still in touch with/connected to our deep (hidden) spiritual roots?,… are they strong and well nourished?,… do they anchor us well?,… is our “foundation” still firm and secure on the Christ of eternity?,… do “eternal verities/truths” still matter to us in a significant way?,… are we willing to sacrifice worldly gain or vanity for a faithful walk with God?,… or are we in danger of focusing on the “pleasing and pleasant” visible effects we can learn to create, while ignoring other questions that might be very significant regarding our personal and faithful walk with God?,…

    I saw/experienced how helpless my beloved and beautiful plant was to make it, after being separated from its healthy and established root system,… even though in every other way it “looked” complete and with potential,…

    I can think of so many parables relating to the importance of having deep roots, or a strong foundation, or Christ as our anchor, and our Cornerstone,… this “less visible” component of our faith walk is, nevertheless, very essential to our viable and genuine success as Christians,… are we still connected?

    my plant, by the way, was a very beautiful old-fashioned style bleeding heart,…

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