My first conscious awareness of 2020 was the song, “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” No kidding. I woke up with that song running through my head. There was Dorothy in her ruby slippers, skipping down the yellow brick road with her three companions. I dressed and skipped (no, not really) to the chapel for my morning routine of prayer.
At first, I wondered if this wizard song had anything to do with my impending visit to Rome. True, I do have “new slippers” in the form of a new cassock. I am excited to meet Pope Francis, but not because I want something. Rather, I hope to listen to his wisdom and experience and that of the various leaders of the Vatican offices to learn and grown in my own ministry. Rome is not emerald, but rather more of a mixture of stony white and various shades of tan, orange and dirty pink.
I quickly dismissed these ideas as misguided, but as the song persisted in my head, I contemplated further the image of these four wandering misfits on the yellow brick road. Nothing in life is coincidental. God speaks to us in many ways if we have expectant faith.
Dorothy and her companions wanted a brain, a heart and courage, along with a return to Kansas. More deeply, the travelers wanted 1) to see clearly and understand, 2) to feel deeply and know love, 3) to have the willingness and resolve to act, and 4) to find the way home. In this first prayer of 2020, I examined my own need for renewal as I pondered these four desires.
Like the scarecrow, I want a brain that understands. I want to see clearly and to know what it is that God wants for me and from me. A significant dimension of the spiritual journey is understanding. Understanding by itself is insufficient, but it is, at the same time, essential. How often have you wanted to understand and did not, or had a moment when suddenly you did understand and then felt rather foolish about having missed the point? God wants us to understand. God wants us to see with the kind of clarity that will propel us into a relationship with him and with one another.
Like the tin man, I want to feel deeply and to love. My heart can be filled with bitterness, anger and envy. I can hold grudges in a self-righteous determination to “get my way.” I suspect you might identify with that smallness of heart that leaves us shriveled and stingy and lonely. Do you want something more? I want to reflect more deeply, to open my heart more honestly. I want to feel the hurt and release my pain into the eternal embrace of God’s gracious love and experience that love which flows from God’s heart into ours. I want to open my heart to the depth of God and discover in me the ability to love as God loves.
Like the cowardly lion, I also want to have the courage to act, to do something, but only with and through that understanding and selfless love of God. Do you find yourself fearful and trembling, at least inside, not knowing if and when and how you should do something? Or do you find yourself charging in without a clear understanding or a genuine compassion, only to be ashamed of your thoughtless and uncaring comment or action? I want to have genuine courage and to speak the truth with deep kindness in a way that calls both me and the other to a new response.
Finally, and above all, I share Dorothy’s desire to go home. I really do want to be in heaven when my yellow-brick-road journey is complete. My deep longing to be an understanding, loving, courageous disciple is rooted in the ultimate goal of life with God. Do you find yourself longing for that kind of peace and security that is never ending, to be cherished for being you? Heaven is our true home and I want to live my life in response to God’s gracious invitation to live with him so that I can find a new and glorious home — not the Emerald City, but the heavenly Jerusalem.
So, 2020 has begun. We in the Diocese of Rapid City are mostly likely off to meet, not a wizard but a new bishop. When that will be, I don’t know. In the meantime, as we travel down the road, I pray that you will receive the gift of understanding to know and see what it is that God desires for you. I will pray that you will receive a heart of overflowing love that will allow you to meet each person with kindness and truth. I will pray that you will, with understanding and love, have the courage to live your discipleship in the Lord Jesus and make the choices that make a difference in our small corner of the world. Above all, I pray that your desire for our heavenly home will increase and that all we say and do will be led by that desire to be with God now and forever. I would ask you to do the same for me.
Thank you and God bless you in your 2020 yellow-brick-road journey.