I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
This sounds like a pretty timely reflection for what we are going through right now eh?
We all know Frodo and Sam right, the lowly hobbits that become heroes through their bond of companionship and sacrifice for one another. This monologue known as the speech at the stone window by Samwise Gamgee at the end of the second edition of the Lord of the Rings movie Trilogy has become one of my favourite moments in all of cinema.
We have a pair of companions like Frodo and Sam in scripture and they are represented this week in our Jesse Tree series with the harp. This represents the story of David and Jonathan as we look towards Christmas. And I chose this image, partly because: well it’s a great story, it’s why I was given the name Jonathan David by my parents, and partly I think on some level it is a hidden story along the way as we look at the lineage that the scriptures give to Jesus and one right now we could all do healthy reminder of.
The story of Jonathan and David is one of great interest to the LGBTQ2S+ movement in biblical scholarship, and has rightly brought a strong claim to their relationship of being more than the commonly held perception of companionship, friendship and of love to include romance and transcendent, progressive partnership.
Now it is kind of funny if you read up about the pair as I have over the years, because it appears that long before we would ever have categorized a section of biblical scholarship as LGBTQ2S+ affirming, there seems to be a lot of people spending an awful lot of time trying to argue why Jonathan and David were not gay.
Whether it be arguments like: how David found “grace in Jonathan’s eyes” as he shared his deepest secrets, reflected God’s grace for David rather than Jonathan’s, or how their shared kiss was simply a specific type of kiss that was a culturally appropriate type of kiss that was unromantic; and of course the reaction to the passage that says: “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” as well something else. I don’t know.
Of course, we can all read the bible and take a stance based on what we believe if we wish to do so, but what is important to me as I sit and think about how we are talking about the lineage of Jesus through the Jesse Tree this advent. Is that what is important to me, is that in telling the story of Jesus through the legacy of the Hebrew Scriptures, we make sure that we don’t allow Jonathan’s contribution to this legacy to become a lost voice in it all.
In Matthew’s Gospel when go through the genealogy of Jesus, beginning with Adan, we have this awkward section of names that goes:
Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam etc.
Part of the beauty of doing the Jesse Tree rather than Matthew’s genealogy, is that we don’t name the biology, we name the stories.So what was the story of Jonathan and David?
Jonathan was the son of Saul who was the King of Israel, and rather than taking on the crown for himself, in meeting David for the first time, Jonathan in what of course was a symbolic gesture of abdicating the throne and nothing more, took off all his clothes and clothed David in them.
In David’s struggle to accept the responsibility now entrusted to him, as God’s chosen King, Jonathan comforted David through song, how he “unromantically” of course, played the harp for him, sang songs and cheered him up. He helped David escape by night through creating a ‘fake David’ out of straw lying in his bed. That’s a cool episode.
His comfort and love was the support that David needed to navigate the political pressures that he was under in the early part of his reign, a reign which would go down as the most successful and stable of the Ancient Kingdom of Israel.
Just like Jonathan and David, the story of Samwise and Frodo lives on with the legacy of deep love and companionship for the characters as they face the trials of taking the one ring to Mordor. Sir Ian McKellan of course our hero who played the Wizard Gandlaf in the series, knowing the history and legacy of the queer community’s claim for the pair, describes in the documentary series that accompanied the films, that in the moment at the end of the film, when Frodo wakes up in Rivendell after all is over, Sam comes into the room and greets him with the line “Godbless you, you are awake”, Sir Ian reminded the actor who played Samwise, Sean Astin he said, “remember in the books, it Says Sam goes to Frodo and holds his hand”. It’s a beautiful and tender moment when we the audience realise that Samwise had waited by Frodo’s bed for him to awake from his coma, we know the true care and love that Sam had for Frodo.
Sometimes, we can get lost in the debate, and the hurt that can come with it. But it is our individual right that when we read scriptures, we put ourselves in the shoes of the characters, and we form our associations how we chose. If they inspire faith in us, like the story of Jonathan and David no doubt does for so many of us; the stories themselves provide us with strength and purpose. They teach us about how to love and how to care for our partners and our friends.
When we are called by Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves, these are the pieces that we hold onto.
Moments before the speech that Samwise makes at the stone window, Frodo in a moment of delusion caused by the ring, turned on Sam and pulled his sword on his friend thinking that he was trying to take it from him. In dropping his sword and realizing what he nearly did, Frodo’s reaction tells the audience that he feels like he cannot continue his journey, that he is willing to give up. This is Samwise’s response:
I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo says back to him: What are we holding onto Sam?
That there is some good in this world Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.