A Musing on the Road to Mordor
When I was a middle school social studies teacher, part of the curriculum was to teach about the geography, people, history and culture of different areas of the world. It wasn’t always the most exciting thing for these students to learn. Most 11, 12, and 13-year-olds are just not interested in knowing that a certain country’s chief products are sorghum, bananas, and rice. (To be honest most teachers are not real excited about that either.)
So, in order to get kids attention, I tried to find some “hooks” to pull kids in and have them excited about learning the material. I then always included hands-on projects for them to show what they learned. Learning about agricultural resources of a region is a lot more fun when you can bring in food made from recipes from the region you are studying to share with the class (and of course the teacher.)
I also loved telling folk stories from the region and trying to present the material in a fun story form.
One of my favorite places to tell stories from and introduce about via a story was Oceania – the area of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the surrounding islands.
I loved to introduce them to the region by making up a story about a perfect day. I tell them that I went to place where I got up in the morning and went snow skiing on beautiful snow-covered mountains, then ate lunch at one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and then spent the afternoon on the beach sunning and surfing before enjoying the sunset with a dinner of fresh-caught ocean seafood.
I asked them to guess the country and they never did. When I told them that it was New Zealand, and we would be studying it, I had the vast majority hooked.
I even hooked myself a bit I guess as it is one of the places I would like to visit someday. Until that someday, I have watched a few travel shows featuring this place. I also watched the Lord of the Rings movie franchise with great interest after finding out the movie was filmed on location in this beautiful country.
The movies led me to read the books by J. R. R. Tolkien. There is a marvelous scene in the novel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Hobbits, where Sam and Frodo, on a seemingly impossible and hopeless quest, have forced their way to the edge of the evil land of Mordor. They are taking their rest before the final hopeless push, when Sam muses aloud that in some ways they have found themselves in a story of the sort he had enjoyed listening to when he was younger. He says at one time, he thought the people in great stories went out and sought such great adventures. Now, he admits: “I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.”
Friends one of the greatest attributes you can have as you go on your journey of faith is stick-to-itiveness—otherwise known as persistence. Keeping going even when things are hard, or you are tired, or things seem to be going against you or… is one of the most powerful traits you can demonstrate.
In Romans Chapter 5 Paul talks about the importance of perseverance to our faith.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-8)
Friends – the great leaders of the faith which we often call saints were not perfect people, nor did they have superpowers. What they all did have, however, is perseverance. Through their faith they had the ability to stick to it out, even when in the valley of the shadow and on the days when the world would say quit.
Perseverance is an essential part of our call and we have such wonderful examples to follow. Some of these examples are specific to you. Just as I can remember my own “saints” with names like Mema, Mommies, Grandaddies, Mr. Foster, Uncle Shelvyn, Ms. Robbie, and Trev & Lib. Some are names from scripture, and some are names from the history of the church. And some are examples of the church and its work together as a community. Churches like ours right here at LaFayette Presbyterian who are turning 185 years old. Certainly, there were plenty of times when folks could have given up along the way and yet they persevered through wars and pandemics and economic depressions and internal conflict and so much more. (I just think of the numbers of tables and chairs moved over those times and am amazed.)
I am also amazed by the number of churches who are formed by communities seeking to worship and serve God in their community – my own brother has a new church development that has worshipped in his home, a store front, the YMCA and now rents a building from a nursey as they seek to find a “permanent home.” I pray they will have the courage to preserve so they might witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ to a world who needs to hear this good news.
Friends, let us seek to persevere so that the gospel will be proclaimed in LaFayette and Rock Springs and Woodstock and Nashville and Hendersonville and New Zealand and throughout every street of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation and world.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.