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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Wizard of Oz and How Jesus Works

One of my favorite movies as a kid was the Wizard of Oz. I never read the books until fairly recently, but the film is etched in my memory, in part because of the switch between black and white segments (on our earth) and the dramatic color scenes (in Oz). Spoiler alert, I'm going to spill the beans on the ending!

Dorothy spends the center of the movie wanting to go home. She is sent on a long journey and beset with many trials--because this is a mythic story and those are the elements that must be present. Along the way she befriends three companions, each with a glaring lack and desire (heart, brain, courage--which is strength of will). Mind, heart and will are the component dimensions of the human soul, with the fourth element, 'desires/wants' obviously present in each. Dorothy is arguably in search for reconciliation with her "True Self" (home). Like the prodigal son, she left home, and the storm (in the Gospel the storm is demonic nature--and a 'type' of the struggles and battles of life) does her in (knocking her out, which is a 'type' of death). Transported (the whole house) to the mysterious land, killing one witch and making another quite angry, she first encounters a "good" witch who gives her ruby red slippers. If the witches are seen as 'types' of angels and demons, the spiritual life is laid out before us in full array! Like Pilgrims Progress, Dorothy sets out on her journey to Oz, the place where she hopes to find her way home. At story's end (the witch is destroyed by water--think baptism!) Dorothy comes before the throne of Oz. Reading Revelation this week I'm struck by some of the similarities between that scene and the movie. I have heard that the face of Oz on the chair is the director of the movie ('type' of God, the one outside the movie who creates the movie!). However, the throne of Oz is a sham, he is a man playing a God (using technology). His inability to save Dorothy will manifest those limits.

When the Wizard of Oz, a bumbler of sorts, is uncovered, he makes every effort to do right by the four disappointed travelers. Tellingly, in each case, the supplicant is informed that it is a lack of faith which has created the experience of a lack. The props (sacramentals, concrete expressions, in and through which the intangible spiritual reality is conveyed) become a way for each one to discover that what they lack they already have!  Brain, heart and courage arealready possessed, but the scarecrow, tin man and lion needed some sign to believe it. In the movie, the Scarecrow was always the brains of the group, and the Tin Man an emotional softy (the lion's courage seemed less on display to me, probably because true courage is the willingness to keep moving while filled with fear). More tellingly, when the Good Witch appears to rescue Dorothy as the goofy wizard's hot air balloon drifts off into the sky, we learn that the way home has always been present. "Click your heals and repeat, there is no place like home," Dorothy is told. She does and soon we find her back home in bed (in Black and White). As the house is apparently no longer in Oz, we are left to wonder what really happened?

In the spiritual life, we ask God for gifts. Some of us spend our whole life asking God to fill us with the Spirit. We wait for something amazing to happen, some supernatural sign that the gift has arrived. Well, what if the gift has been given? What if we have been given the power and authority and we just need to use them? What if the Bible is true? what if the power is unlocked by true faith? Dorothy learned on her trial/journey that there is no place like home. When she really believed it then she was open to being transported back home. It wasn't a slogan, it was a lived reality.

The ministry of the church (proclaim, teach, heal, exorcise, reconcile) is our call and duty. Why would the Father give us such a mission if He hadn't also supplied the means to accomplish it? We have it already (in the Bible the shoes are associated with proclaiming the Good News!). We need to believe God has already provided, because He has. The ministry of the church, said Jesus, would be to do greater things than Him. We have the mind, heart and courage of Christ, we need to believe and exercise them. We have the (blood red Good News) salvation and Good News already. If we open with true faith we will see it manifest. Instead of asking God for help, what if we took Him at His word and acted like the apostles?  Forgiving sins, rebuking demons, healing illness, bringing people into the life of God and saying that the Father's Kingdom is near (because we believed it) and available; this is the life of the faithful church.

On my journey the last six months, I see more signs and wonders (and more witches and flying monkeys!) and I am learning that God really means to be among us (Emmanuel) to save, heal, forgive and renew. I am also seeing that it is in and through human agents that it takes place. Read the Word and believe it is true, today, and stop wandering around begging God to give you what He already gave you long ago. Click your heals and declare in faith, "I can do all things in Christ!"

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