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A Lesson on Community from The Lord of the Rings

A lot has been said about the little brotherhood of hobbits tasked with saving Middle Earth in The Lord of The Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Much of the focus has often been placed on Frodo and Sam. Throughout the story, Frodo understands the dangers they will face. On multiple occasions, he actually attempts to strike out on his own in order to protect his friends. But the devotion of his good friend, Sam, won't be shaken. If you've read the books or watched the movies, it's easy to see why the relationship between these two captures our imaginations and moves us in profound ways.

There are a number of moments shared between Sam and Frodo that paint a touching picture of Christian community. During one of Frodo's attempts to sneak away on a boat to protect his friends from the dangers of the mission, Sam nearly drowns to catch him. And who can forget the image of Sam holding Frodo in his arms when his friend collapses from the burden of the ring that he carries.

However, Frodo and Sam are only half of the little community of Hobbits sent on this task. Why does so much of our focus fall on Sam and Frodo? After being introduced to the other two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, it's easy to see why.

When Frodo and Sam embrace the mission at hand and prepare to leave the safety of their home, Merry and Pippin come crashing—literally—onto the scene. They stumble out of a cornfield, clearly running from some kind of shenanigan. A pitchfork-wielding farmer isn't far behind, shouting at them through the corn. Merry says, "I don't know why he's so upset—it's only a couple of carrots." Without missing a beat, Pippin continues: "And some cabbages. And those three bags of potatoes that we lifted last week. And then the mushrooms the week before."

"Yes, Pippin," Merry says, "my point is, he's clearly overreacting."

Merry and Pippin aren't exactly poster boys for a world-saving campaign. In fact, their very presence seems only to complicate things. Yet if you know the story well, these two misfits play an important role in the completion of Frodo's quest. And, along the way, we witness the transformation that each of these characters experience as they journey together.

All four members of the little brotherhood of hobbits show us that Christian community has a purpose. God has entrusted us with a mission, and we'll find that he has surrounded us with the unlikeliest of partners for the journey. Instead of ignoring our Merry's, instead of brushing aside the Pippin's we know, we need to embrace them, recognizing and validating the important role they have to play in our community and its mission.

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