Tennyson tells us that King Arthur established the order of the Round Table. A table without a head or foot, where all were equal in their commitment to justice for all and might was for right. His dream drew knights from all over England and Europe and the effects of it were felt all over the land so that women could walk out in the evening alone without worry, doors were left unlocked, the roads were cleared of robbers and tyrants were overthrown.
But just when things were flourishing, the greatest knight of them all, Lancelot, set his eye on the king’s wife, Guinevere and she on him. The wickedness became known and Lancelot rode away only to return when he heard that the knights had demanded that Guinevere be tried for treason. She was tried and condemned to death but Lancelot came and rescued her and carried her off to France where she entered a convent. The knights and Arthur raged and for a while there was nothing but inflamed pride and vengeance in their hearts and so they sailed to France, to make war against Lancelot and his forces.
Arthur is broken-hearted and dispirited. The dream had failed, the purpose had died. The great sin of Guinevere and Lancelot had also exposed the underlying sin of all of them when violence, vengeance and bitterness reigned and offended pride had proved stronger than brotherhood and forgiveness.
In the musical adaptation the king is putting on his armor in the dawn of the day of battle when he hears a rustling in the bush; it was a boy about twelve who had stowed away on one of the ships—to kill the enemy and be a knight, he said. Arthur wanted to know why he would want to be part of an extinct fellowship. Had he ever met a knight, was his father a knight or had his mother been rescued by a knight? The answer to all these questions was no, so what did he know of knights? Only the stories he had heard, the boy said, and when the king asked him what stories, he spoke of justice for all, the round table and might used in the service of right. As the boy spoke the astonished king was mouthing the words with him.
Stories! The story of the dream had kept the dream alive. The stories of righteousness and justice for all kept the vision alive in the heart of a boy who’d never even seen a knight. The deeply depressed and weary king gained new heart and energy and knights the boy Sir Tom of Warwick with a commission to go home and grow old telling the story of the meaning of Camelot. Part of his instruction was this:
Every evening from December to December
Before you fall asleep upon your cot
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Ask everyone if he has heard the story
And tell it loud and clear if he has not
Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one bright shining moment
That was known as Camelot.
At that moment an aide comes to remind the king that they have a battle to fight and win but the king, all smiles and optimism, assures his companion that their victory already stands before them in the heart of a boy who cherishes the story and what it means; a boy who will tell it everywhere he goes. What happens at the approaching battle is now irrelevant.
The massive truth on which all great fiction is built is that God’s great purpose for the human family was and is accomplished in and through Jesus Christ and that it is God’s wisdom by the foolishness of a preached message—a Story—to redeem the world (1 Corinthians 1:21). The victory has already been won and in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Church’s mission is to learn and love and be shaped by that message about God’s dream and purpose that cannot finally be thwarted and keep that Story alive in each new generation.
Truths associated with the Gospel must be taken seriously, congregational structures must be taken seriously so that assemblies (God meant them to exist!) can function as assemblies that are how the living Lord Jesus is made concrete and visible in societies (these are Jesus Christ making Himself present in congregational form—Romans 16:16). But undergirding all these and others, the foundation on which all these and more are built are the breathtaking truths about God, His incarnation in and as Jesus of Nazareth as He has come to redeem and bring a new humanity to glory—a glory He eternally purposed. These are central to the Gospel of God (Romans 1.1 and elsewhere) People are not brought to salvation in Jesus Christ by a correct understanding of the “qualifications” of deacons or anything of that order, though we must pay attention to these things.
In ultimate truth, the world isn’t saved by science or philosophy or political reform or a correct understanding of all the ways believers are to respond to God however needful these are and no matter how true it is that these are instruments of God at His pleasure. The human family is saved and all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled to God and find their ultimate state of blessing in Him about whom the Story is told.
And the victory over the world is gained in the name of Jesus Christ through those who cherish the Story and will not let it be forgot (1 John 5:4-5).
Preachers and teachers and the entire church of God (the “fullness of Christ”) have a commission and a destiny—to tell and live out the Story about GOD and consequently about us!
(Holy Father, draw us to believe that the war against the Enemy has truly been won. Win us to believe, even if we don’t understand very well, that the telling of that Truth is the way you have chosen to save this world. Convict our schools, preachers and teachers that to know you and your Holy Son is eternal life. Fill our pulpits and classrooms with those who do more than pursue truths here and there but who are rich in and fervent to teach nothing other that Jesus Christ, crucified and raised. Give us teachers who glory in nothing but the cross and what it means in light of the One who slew the world there. Get them to give us something to tell! Fill and thrill your People with that cosmic good news, for the poor oppressed world’s sake, for our own sake that we might leave here and come to you not unhappy servants, and for your own dear sake who merits all our happy admiration and worship. This prayer in His name.)