Toward the end of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, after her incredible adventures in the land of Oz, Dorothy wants nothing more than to return to Kansas. She tells Glinda, the good witch, that she wants to go home. Glinda says that Dorothy already has the power to go home. That power resides in her ruby slippers. Says Glinda, “Just tap your ruby slippers together three times, and keep saying, ‘There’s no place like home.'” Dorothy does as Glinda says and soon finds herself transported back to her beloved home in Kansas where she’s reunited with her loves ones.
Some people see this classic story of The Wizard of Oz as a parable of everyone’s pilgrimage from earth to our heavenly home. Earth is a kind of Oz. It is a place of goodness symbolized by Dorothy, her three traveling companions, a benevolent witch, and a loyal dog, Toto. But Oz (earth) is also a place where there is evil–for example, destructive forces like tornadoes, evil doers such as the Wicked Witch of the West, and conniving and dishonest people like the Wizard himself. If we buy into this parable, then Dorothy’s longing to go “home” is everyone’s longing for peace, security, acceptance, love, fulfillment. For Christians, Dorothy’s longing is our longing for our final home, heaven itself, or the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
What gives us the power to bring ourselves to our heavenly home? No, it is not tapping our ruby slippers together. No, it is not tapping our loafers, oxfords, high heels, or sneakers together either. Nor is it reciting some nostalgic words about home. In real life, the power that helps carry us home is our faithfulness to prayer.
Virtually every morning I, like many of you, begin my day with prayer. I get my cup of coffee and and sit in my living room chair and pray. And I’ve been doing this for over 60 years. Although, over the years, the venues have changed (and I have certainly changed!), the essential components of prayer remain the same: a specific time, a certain place, God, and me. I have some control over only three of those components: time, place, and my showing up. I have no control over how or if God might “show up.” But I can use aids for my prayer: scripture (of course!), silence, journaling, reciting the psalms, pondering a good book, gazing at art work, listening to music, communing with nature. No matter how I choose to pray, the aim is the same: To connect myself with God. To stay immersed in the Gospel. To grow in faith and love. To discover and stay on the path that contributes to the Kingdom God beginning here on earth and leads us to our final heavenly home.
There are other “powers” in our lives that give us direction too, of course, such as family, friends, serving others, love, joy, and even pain and sorrow. But prayer is one of the greatest powers we possess. We may never own a pair of ruby slippers, but if we remain faithful to prayer, we have the power to get ourselves “back home.” That’s why our prayer time is the most important “appointment” we keep every day. Using another image, I like to say that prayer is like a delicate, invisible thread that “tethers” us to God every day. As we journey through life, we will feel God’s gentle tugs on that tether or strong yanks at times! Whether a tug or a yank, the tether of prayer can keep us on the path that helps build the Kingdom of God here on earth and leads us to our heavenly home.
Does your own experience of prayer resonate with anything in this reflection?
Is there anything you would add about prayer?
Have you ever felt the gentle tugs or the strong yanks from God in your life?
PS: My rehab for hip replacement surgery continues to go very well. When I’m with my physical therapist, I have even walked the halls with only a cane–and that’s a major “step”! Thanks again for your prayers and concern!
Our song today is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” But I didn’t select the version sung by Judy Garland. Instead, here is the most popular version of the song ever recorded. And it’s sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, (known as IZ) a much loved musician and songwriter from Hawaii. It is said, he walked into a recording studio with his ukulele one day, sat down, and sang this song–improvising both the tune and the words. Then he left. This “one take” recording became a sensation. In his later years, IZ became a born again Christian. Having struggled with obesity his entire life, he eventually died of respiratory failure in 1959 at the age of 38. Thousands attended his funeral and later, the scattering of his ashes into the Pacific Ocean at Makua Beach. You will get a glimpse of that service at the end of this video.
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