Holy Week: The Far Country

For my brothers and sisters…

Loch Scavaig, Skye

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”- 1 Peter 2:11.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”- John 14:1-3.

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”- C.S Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”- J.R.R Tolkien, The Return of the King.

Brothers and Sisters,
One of the greatest themes of the Christian life, and of Easter itself, is that by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ the destination of believers has been secured. We are promised by Christ that as He ascended, He ascended to bring us to where He is, to bring us to the home for which we have longed, to the country for which we were created. This is a major theme in the writings of both Lewis and Tolkien, the stereotypes for true fantasy. In Lewis, the far off country is the place in which all of our longings and desires for true acceptance, true beauty, and true meaning find their true Object. We were created with these longings and desires, and we spend our time trying to fulfill them in the pursuit of things that cannot fulfill them. Lewis says it best. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased,” (Lewis, Weight of Glory). Though we, as Christians, have smelled the scent of this flower we have never seen, heard a faint echo of the tune we have never fully experienced, and have been given news of a country we have never stepped foot on, the promise of Christ in Easter is that one day we will behold that Flower in our own hands, we will experience that Tune in its fullness, and we will dwell in the midst of that beautiful Country. In Tolkien, this far off land brings about ultimate rest. The elves seek the West to find repose from the burden of immortality, a rest from their woes and sorrow, and Bilbo and Frodo are granted passage to taste of this bliss for their troubles and sufferings in Middle-Earth. The promise of Christ in Easter is that we will have Rest. We will have rest from pain, rest from sin, rest from suffering. We will be given the true Rest, Christ Jesus. As Tolkien and Lewis urge us even now, and as the apostle Peter exclaims, I also beg us not to try and make this foreign land our home. The pleasures and joys this world has to offer are not the Object in which our true desires can find fulfillment. Let us remember this truth of Easter. Our home is not here. We are travelers, sojourners in a land not our own. One day, however, pain will give way to joy, storm will give way to calm, death will give way to victory, and we will step into the arms of Him who is our true Home, in whom all our desires will find fulfillment, and in whom we will find our final and long-awaited Rest. Happy Easter.

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