Mordor and the Truth

Albert Bogle October 15, 2022 0 1
Mordor and the Truth

Mordor and the Truth

Albert Bogle, minister of Sanctuary First, reflects on the compelling image for this month’s theme and what helps us find hope in dark times.


This month’s theme illustration, When all seems lost, produced by Sanctuary First’s creative director Jack Steel, has been likened to Tolkien’s land of Mordor. It’s common knowledge that many of Tolkien’s fictitious names had their root meanings in languages invented by the great man himself but also in ‘real’ languages.

The name Mordor has its roots in the old English name morðor which means sin or murder. In some Nordic mythologies the land Mordor is a location where the inhabitants practise evil without knowing it.  One wonders if Mark Zuckerberg’s and others’ dream of a metaverse has the potential to become such a place. I’ll pick up on this later in the article, but the metaverse is a word used in a number of different contexts. It broadly refers to emerging ways of interacting online combining things like virtual reality and 3D technology to create immersive continuing experiences.

What makes Jack’s image so theologically powerful and illustratively constructive is that in the midst of the darkness a light is shining on the first green shoots of hope. When all seems lost in a desolate place like Mordor hope can return, because goodness is in the DNA of even of the most depraved, for we are all made in the image of God and we have an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. We may practise evil without knowing it but once the light of truth has dawned, like the law of God, evil is exposed. Paul writing in the epistle to the Romans engages with this topic (see Romans 3: 20). He then goes on to explain how we can be put right with God.

When all seems lost, is a feeling that seems to resonate with many people in the world today. It feels like the perfect storm has arrived. War, climate change, and an economic downturn, all seem to play on our minds as we begin to think what the future might look like for our children and their children.

In addition to all this, many Christians here in Scotland are discovering that the deconstruction of the Church of Scotland, through the new presbytery mission plans has created a great deal of unrest and unease as congregations have to face up to building closures, often feeling misunderstood.  All these unknown outcomes now feed into the scenario that all that has ever been held dear is about to be lost. This is a very real feeling for many faithful people at this time.

This is why our theme is relevant and has within it the seeds of hope. It’s in these kind of situations that the gospel takes root and brings about hope and assurance that all will be well. When the light shines in the darkness the truth exposes the fear, and fear cannot face the truth. It is the truth that sets a people, a nation, a person, a church free.

Four words

We’ve chosen four words to go along with the Sanctuary First theme. Four words, from the Gospel of Luke, that give a new perspective on the land of Mordor. In Luke 17: 5-6 Jesus suggests if we have faith as small as a little mustard seed great things can be accomplished. So faith can change the outlook of our disposition. Yet faith is not something that comes naturally, we are told it is a gift from God (see 1 Corinthians 12:9). It is a working gift, no matter how small it is, like a muscle if we exercise it, it will grow. It will become strong. 

The next word we’re going to look at is gratitude. Gratitude is an amazing word. It wells up from the place of thankfulness. The next story in Luke 17: 11-19 invites us to consider the responses of the ten people who were healed from their leprosy. They had approached Jesus with just a little faith asking to be healed. When it happened most forgot to return to give thanks.

When all seems lost holding on to a good memory can be the difference between surviving and sinking. Remembering the good times, the kindness of others, the joy once experienced in living, can in its own way help us to lift our eyes beyond the borders of Mordor and view life from another perspective. Learning to give thanks in every circumstance becomes in itself an act of faith. In remembering we are reminded of the hope that what happened then in the past can happen now.

And so we come to my third word, perseverance. Jesus tells a story in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 18: 1-8) about the persistent widow and an unjust judge. In this story Jesus contrasts God’s mercy and compassion — who out of his generosity and compassion listens to our prayers and brings about justice — with the judge who eventually gives justice out of the sheer persistence of the widow. This word perseverance is another word for prayer. In the darkest of times bring your situation to God in prayer, you need not plead he understands your situation. The persistence in prayer is to help us understand God’s answer.

Holding out a little faith, remembering to have a thankful heart and knowing that God understands our hearts, leads me to the final word, humility. In Luke’s Gospel, after the story of the unjust judge, there is a story about how we should approach God when we come to pray (see Luke 18: 9-14). One man, ever-so-religious who kept all the rules, comes before God with the wrong attitude. He comes as someone who thinks he deserves God’s favour. The other man comes believing he doesn’t deserve to be heard.

It is the voice of humility that God hears and answers.

'When all seems lost’ is a feeling close to many at this time. When everything feels lost it is a time when some turn to alcohol, or other addictive past times. This is where Zuckerberg’s metaverse has the dangers of becoming the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire. Entertainment was used in those days to keep the plebs happy. The metaverse offers the potential for a person to change their world, change their name, change their identity, and escape from the reality of our broken world, sadly, only to find that the virus of sin and greed has  already been imported into the manmade Eden. The fruit of the tree of life has already been bruised. On display an apple with a bite size piece of truth  and reality missing.

Here in Sanctuary First we hope by offering some gospel light from the teaching of Jesus we might find ourselves more confident and willing to face up to the challenges that most certainly are going to be coming our way over the next few months, without seeking  our future deliverance and    hope in a world of fantasy. Let’s hold on to faith, gratitude, persistence, and humility as we look to walk out of the darkness into the light.

Albert Bogle