The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 42, The Fall of Isengard

After the victory at Helm's Deep, Théoden and the Company ride to Isengard to deal with Saruman.

Upon their arrival they find that the battle has been already won by the Ents. Merry and Pippin vividly recount their assault on Isengard and how their releasing of the river, like Noah's flood, washed the earth of Saruman's evil works.

Yet, Saruman remains in the tower of Orthanc. And there, in a last bid, he tries to weave a tapestry of lies to sway Théoden and then Gandalf. Théoden is tempted, but resists. Gandalf laughs. 

Mercy, though, is offered to Saruman, but he is too enslaved to accept Gandalf's terms. So his staff is broken and his power stripped.

Commenting on Saruman's choice, Gandalf observes:

He will not serve, only command. He lives now in terror of the shadow of Mordor, and yet he still dreams of riding the storm. Unhappy fool! He will be devoured.

In the biblical imagination, there is no lordless place. Everyone serves. The only question is whom you serve. We moderns, however, in light of our political freedoms, tend to see ourselves a free agents, obedient to no one but ourselves. We do not serve, only command, even if that command is only over ourselves. We are world full of little lords.

But this is the same illusion that held Saruman. We are unhappy fools, dreaming that we can ride the storm. Just look around at all the little lords, the teapot Sarumans. How are we doing? Are we relaxed, peaceful, and joyful? Or is the storm slowly devouring us?

Paul stands before us, like Gandalf at the foot of Orthanc, and makes the offer: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."

An offer of peace has been extended. But we will not serve, only command. And that will be our doom.

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