“There is no place like home…”
— L. Frank Baum
The Wizard of Oz, authored in 1899 by L. Frank Baum, is arguably one of the most famous American children’s fables ever written.
It details the adventures of Dorothy and the characters she meets in her quest to go back home to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas. All along the yellow brick road of life, Dorothy helps and bonds with the people she meets.
Her search mirrors fundamental questions at the core of any religious system: “What does it mean to be here? What is my place in the world?” Perhaps related but no less important: “Where is my home? How do I get back there once I have journeyed away?”
While religious practice may not definitively answer all these questions, it may help us to see our connections with the people in our lives.
We are not on individual journeys, but rather one in which we build community that gives us both joy and (at times) sadness. One could argue that Dorothy creates a community of fellow pilgrims who are searching for higher meaning: the scarecrow searching for more brain-power, the tin woodsman searching for a heart, and, of course, the rather wimpy lion looking for courage.
These characters, despite their fears, yearned to go home. Together, they discover the power to overcome their individual fears and gain what was within each of them all along, as it is within each of us.
At Trinity Church in Rocky Hill, we try to live out this discovery each week through our worship experience as well as the relationships we build.
To successfully complete our faith journey home we must be motivated — not to follow the yellow brick road and discover the Emerald City, but rather to continuously build … repair … and build again even stronger relationships with the people who are here with us on this earthly journey. In so doing, we are bound together as members of various communities (a school, a town, a church, a Temple, a cooking or book club, etc.). We meet people who we enjoy, who inspire us; we meet people who we help and who help us, and yet we also meet people who we believe to be the WICKED WITCH come to life!
When we meet those perceived enemies / antagonists, should we ask ourselves how they are making us stronger and better people?
When the tin woodsman asks Dorothy what she has learned at the end of the story, she realizes that she already had what she was looking for: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?”
Where is our home? Maybe, if we take a closer look at the people around us, we may find that we are already there.■
Johan Johnson is vicar of Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Ave, in Rocky Hill. He comes from a long line of Episcopal priests. His brother, father, and grandfather were all ordained. In addition to serving as vicar, Father Johan is chaplain of the Peddie School in Hightstown, where he resides with his wife and two daughters, coaches tennis, and teaches. Previously, for 16 years, he served a parish in Harlem. He has also worked for several schools as a teacher and administrator. He graduated from the George School, has a bachelor’s degree from Clark University, a master’s of divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in education from Fordham University. ■