Lent: Holy Spirit and Glinda the Good

March 7, 2021

Recently, I watched The Wizard of Oz for the millionth time and found myself totally relating to Dorothy Gale when she landed in Oz – we are definitely not in Kansas anymore!  

The last year has upended so many things – revealed many things about who we are as individuals, as a people, as a world. 

Many of us are constantly longing to go home: back to ‘normal’: back to life within our comfort zone; back to where things make sense, or at least to a place where we know what to expect and where we fit.  

But is that really home?

Where is home?  

Is it somewhere beyond the rainbow?  Surely it can’t be here…in the strange land where chaos has landed us!?

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So many sermons have been preached on The Wizard of Oz – such allegorical potential! Perhaps you know the theological breakdown: Dorothy’s companions on the yellow brick road are the disconnected parts of her psyche: her mind (Scarecrow), heart (Tinman), soul (Toto), and strength (Lion). We are taught that the pieces all must come together to form the whole of who we are as God’s people.

But how?   

I believe we have forgotten the most important character in the allegory: the nebulous character of Glinda the Good.   

Think of it – right from the start when the tornado drops the disoriented Dorothy in Oz:

  • Who shows up and brings order and reason to the girl?
  • Who first recognizes the powerful gift Dorothy possesses?
  • Who affirms Dorothy to the Munchkins and brings community to such different individuals? 
  • Who indicates that the only way home is to begin at the beginning? 
  • Who dismisses the Wicked Witch of the West as having no real power beyond what Dorothy is willing to give the old crone?

The entire movie revolves around the empowerment Glinda gives Dorothy as the girl faces her fears both imagined (the lions and tigers and bears – oh my!) and real (the witches and flying monkeys) that she thinks will kill her. Not only that, but Glinda later rouses Dorothy from the complacency (the field of poppies) that threatened to keep her from her goal (the Emerald City)

Even in the Emerald City, Glinda remains.

Dorothy thinks her help lies with the Wizard, but he is just a bullying phony who has run a con which put him in power over a gullible people.  The Wizard’s bullying makes Dorothy feel small and weak and the Wizard hooks that insecurity for his purposes. If Dorothy retrieves the witch’s broom she will be worthy of his attention!

Mission accomplished – but still not enough. Dorothy realizes that were the wizard really great and powerful, he would keep his promises; she gives up all hope of home.

Once again enter Glinda offering both hope and truth.  

The girl had forgotten about her gift: the ruby slippers!  

The journey to Emerald City had been necessary for the gift to be truly effective and correctly used. Dorothy needed to grow out of her fears, both real and imagined, in order to become her true self. She was far more than weak, whiney Dorothy Gale from Kansas jumping through hoops for a man behind a curtain!  She was intelligent, compassionate, fearless, and worthy – broom or no broom!   But at just the right time….all ends happily ever after!  

Dorothy returns to Kansas with a new understanding of ‘home.’ She now knows who she is, she values who and what really matters, and those who love her will continue to walk the rest of the journey with her – and the MGM lion roars!

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Okay, so movie reviews are fun; allegorical interpretations great as long as we can relate – and I sure can!

We often forget the person of the Holy Spirit.

Creator God – check! We can see creation all around us.

God the Son – absolutely – the visible presence of God walking the earth like one of us!

But God the Spirit – nebulous and difficult to wrap our minds around!

However, God the Spirit is a co-equal Person within the Trinity and, though unseen, is the ever present power of God in our lives today. To that end I believe Glinda gives us a simple, yet deep illustration, of the Spirit working in our lives.

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This year, our tornado has been COVID. We have been dropped into a place we don’t begin to recognize and nothing makes sense! 

The curtain has been pulled back on the things we have always relied on.

We have trusted other humans to define us. We have allowed our souls to be captured by fear of ‘the other;’ our courage sapped by the need to maintain a beneficial status quo; our hearts shriveled by self-interest; our intellect co-opted by competing ‘truths.’  We have falling for con-men offering quick fixes and prosperity; those who challenging our worth and demand we prove our right to exist! These are the lions, tigers, bears, witches, flying monkeys and wizards that we have relinquished our power to on our life journey.

And in the midst of it all, the Spirit comes: 

  • comforting and empowering us, gently reminding us of the gifts God has given us in order to live and serve a purpose beyond ourselves in the world; 
  • letting us know that we are more than weak and small humans dependent on the person behind the curtain, we all belong to God; we are all on the journey home together.

Sounds great – but ….. where is home? Everyone needs to know where they’re going!

The home we long for – the home we pray for – the home of God’s promise – is the home where God will dwell among us, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where all are safe and secure in the unconditional and all-inclusive love of God. 

This isn’t some fantastical and illusive place over the rainbow, or some unattainable promise; this is the home God intends.

A home actually possible here and now as we accept the Spirit’s power working in us and through us to make it so; relying on our hearts, souls, minds, and strength alone will never get us there.

I, and maybe you, need to begin at the beginning by: embracing the power of the Spirit to deepen me beyond words and into action, allowing myself to be transformed by God into God’s image, rather than imposing my intimidating interpretation of God on the world, and by remember who I am and who everyone else is: beloved children of God – each cherished beyond all human understanding.

At the end of the movie Dorothy said: ‘If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I will look no further than my own backyard, because it’s right there – I never lost it to begin with.’  Neither have we.

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Next week: Lent:The Holy Spirit and Mr. Rogers

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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