Archives For July 2006

Ephesians 3:14-21; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Olivet-Covenant Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
© Andy Campbell 07/30/2006

3 min. scene from the Wizard of Oz:: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion ask the Wizard…

Last week my daughter, Sydney, got a lot of compliments on her ruby red slippers. People kept saying how much they love the movie The Wizard of Oz and kept referring to them as “Dorothy’s shoes”. That got me thinking about how much I liked that movie when I was a kid, and the lessons it taught me, like, if you throw water on a witch, she’ll melt; I tried that on a teacher or two and it didn’t work. I guess it has to be Oz water.

As an adult, the movie still has a special place in my heart. It still entertains and it still teaches. But the lessons it has for me now that I’m older are much deeper. Like, to really do a witch in, you’ve got to drop a house on her.

I think that one of the things that draws adults and children, alike, to this movie is that it deals with characters who, in some way, become complete. In the scene we just watched, we saw each of them ask the Wizard for what it is that they need to be made complete. The Tin Man asked for a heart, Scarecrow asked for a brain, it is obvious that the Lion needs courage, and though it isn’t articulated in this scene, Dorothy wants to return home.

Those are four things that many people feel that they need in order to be made complete. Our society is teeming with people who feel inadequate. It is also teeming with things promising to fill those inadequacies. Our own modern-day wizards. Yet, there is one person we can go to that is more than capable to fill those needs and make us complete. But before we go there, let’s take a closer look at what those needs are.

Let’s look first at the Tin Man. He wanted a heart. His inadequacy was the inability to love or to be loved. Do you know people who need to be loved? Alice, in her sermon last week, talked about the outcasts of today’s society – those living with HIV/AIDS – who are in dire need of love. There are the homeless on these very streets. But it is not just those in need of love, there are also those who need to love. People who need to love without motive, without condition. It is unimaginably taxing to guard oneself so closely as to never give others love. Are you one of those people who needs to be loved, or perhaps one of those who needs to love?

In Ephesians Paul prays that we would know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is. We are to do this, he says, through Christ’s Spirit dwelling in our own hearts, through faith. If we do this, what results is something amazing. We will be “filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” Can you imagine how full that must be? Paul is saying, in essence, that we are to have the heart of Christ.

With the heart of Christ, we will not only be loved enough to be satisfied, we will be overflowing with love that will spread out and touch the lives of others. The heart of Christ is not a container, rather it is a conduit. It does not merely hold the love of God, but it allows it to be poured through. It is only selfish, human love that is hoarded. Therefore it is ridiculous for one to say he or she has the heart of Christ or is filled with the love of God, and at the same time, to not be actively showing others love and compassion. Do you have the heart of Christ in you?

Let’s look next at the Scarecrows among us. Scarecrow wanted a brain. Towards the end of the movie, the wizard clarifies that it is not a brain that Scarecrow wants, but knowledge. In 1 Corinthians Paul is writing about wisdom. He writes that there are two kinds of wisdom: man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. Man’s wisdom is that kind of academically gauged knowledge that some of us will fork out tens of thousands of dollars for. Yet that knowledge doesn’t really make one wise, does it? I’m sure we all know people with a lot of schooling who still don’t seem to be very bright.

God’s wisdom, on the other hand, is true wisdom. It comes from God and is revealed through his Spirit. Such wisdom seems foolish to those without it, because it is a kind of wisdom that is spiritually discerned. For example, those with this kind of wisdom know that all things belong to God and we are merely stewards. So, it is wise to give back to God even just a tenth of what he allows us to have. We do this in the form of tithes and offerings. Yet to someone without God’s wisdom, giving away 10% of your gross income seems ridiculous unless you are rich.

But wisdom from the Spirit doesn’t just help us to make good judgment calls. It also allows us to know God deeper. The poet David wrote that no man could know the mind of God, but Paul turned that on its head and said that we, as Christians can. Why? Because we have within us the mind of Christ. Scarecrow received a diploma, a Th.D or “Doctor of Thinkology”. Yet through God’s Spirit, we have the very mind of Christ. But what about you? What kind of wisdom do you possess? Is it just man’s wisdom or do you also have the mind of Christ?

The Lion is the character that I can identify with the most. He desired courage. At different times in my life I have battled with bouts of worry. I have two younger brothers who are out on their own. They are making their own decisions and I have stood by and watched as they have made good and bad decisions. It is fear of the lasting repercussions of bad decisions that makes me worry most. But it is a lack of courage that prevents me from speaking to warn them, many times.

I simply don’t have the courage to be stern with them and tell them the way they should go. I fear their reaction, I fear that they will resist my advice and push me away. I fear that emotional distance would separate us even more than physical distance has. Other people lack other kinds of courage. Maybe you feel that you lack courage. Courage was definitely needed by the founders of the Church. In Acts 4 we read that Peter and James were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “empowered with boldness” to proclaim their faith to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, the same leaders who had crucified Christ.

That courage spread to all the believers in Jerusalem. At a prayer meeting they asked that they, too, would be enabled to speak the Word with great boldness. God immediately granted their request and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, as Peter and James and been, and went out speaking the Word of God with great courage.

This courage is the same kind we see exhibited in Christ when he is brought before the high priest, the Sanhedrin, and Pilate. It is fortitude in the face of danger or peril. It isn’t reckless abandon, for this courage requires that one count the costs. It isn’t steely resolve, because this kind of courage isn’t found inherently within. It is a divinely imparted courage for the purpose of spreading and building the Kingdom of God. A boldness that comes from an assurance that the battle has already been won, though the fight wages on. Such is the courage of Christ. I need the courage of Christ. Do you?

That brings us to Dorothy. What does she want from the Wizard? To go home. She realizes soon after arriving in Oz that Oz is not where she belongs. She belongs at home, on the farm with her aunt and uncle. How many of us are searching for that same sense of belonging? How many people spend their whole lives trying to find a place to belong? We search in relationships, in material things, in our jobs, in the places we live, for belonging, for that “at home” feeling.

We are made to make our abode with Christ. It is said that “home is where the heart is”. Our hearts long for Christ. Home is where Christ is. He knows that. In John 14 he told his disciples that he would be leaving them to go and prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. Further, he promised that he would return to take them to that place. Until that time, he has sent his Spirit to guide us, empower us, and remind us of the home he’s preparing for us.

We could spend a long time discussing what that place, that home, is like or is going to be like. That’s what we’re doing on Wednesday nights in our Bible study series. But it suffices to say that regardless of the nature of that home, our desire is to be there because we know we belong there. That desire is not something fabricated on our parts, and it is not attainable by us alone. Rather, the desire is implanted by the Holy Spirit and it is attainable only through responding to the Holy Spirit’s call. Any other response will fall short, providing temporary relief at best. The desire will only be completely fulfilled when we are at home with Christ. But until that day, the desire can be tempered by joyful anticipation arising from the assurance that we will join him there. Do you have that assurance?

Like the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and Dorothy, we all have voids we need filled. Towards the end of the movie the Wizard is revealed to be nothing more than a mere man who tells the four sojourners that they have had the answers to their problems inside them the whole time. That is where our parallel with the movie breaks down.

I titled this sermon “The Man Behind the Curtain” because in the end of the movie there was one thing that tied all the gifts together, one person that granted them – the Wizard. Similarly, there is one thing that ties all the answers to our questions together, though not a man, a spirit. The heart of Christ, the mind of Christ, the courage of Christ, and the home of Christ are all available to us only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Though each one of us may experience the need for one of those stronger than the others, we are each in need of them all. We are usually made aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the world as we become cognizant of a desire for belonging, a need to feel at home somewhere. The Spirit calls us to respond through salvation. Like Dorothy our journey down the yellow brick road starts with one simple goal: to belong.

Along the way, we are made aware of other needs we have. Like the Tin Man, we feel a need to love and be loved. The Spirit gives us the heart of Christ. When filled with the love of Christ, we overflow into the lives of those around us, knowing for the first time what it is like to love and to be loved.

Just as the Scarecrow was aware of his lack of knowledge, we become aware of the limits of human intelligence, the failings of purely logical thought. As we ponder the world and the way things are, the Spirit grants us the mind of Christ. The wisdom that flows forth from the mind of Christ broadens our perspective, allowing us to see beyond our human ability to be rational and giving us supra-rational insight.

And, like the Lion, we face times where we need courage beyond anything we feel capable of. The Spirit gives us the courage of Christ, emboldening us to carry forward in our lives building the Kingdom of God, spreading the Word of God, and preaching hope and redemption to those who are still searching for home.

Who do you resonate with most today? Dorothy, looking for home? Tin Man, looking for love? Scarecrow, looking for knowledge? The Lion, looking for courage? Wherever you are, whatever your needs, the Spirit stands ready to give you access to the very home, heart, mind, and courage of Christ. All you must do is ask.

Psalm 40:1-11; John 1:35-42
Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
© Andy Campbell, 7/2/2006

My daughter, Sydney, is completely taken by the Disney Princesses. Her favorite is Cinderella. She’ll take a paper towel and scrub the carpet while singing “Sing Sweet Nightingale”, just like Cinderella does in the movie. She loves to dress up in her “ball gown” and dance around the living room in circles while singing different numbers from the musical.

Musicals are all, to some degree or another, formulaic. One of the components of that formula is the “I Wish” song. This is a number near the beginning of the story in which the protagonist shares his or her desire, the desire that carries forth the action of the play. For example, Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, sings about wanting to be “Over the Rainbow”. Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady, sings the song “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”, in which she tells of her desire to live among London’s upper crust elite. Most of the Disney Princess movies begin with “I Wish” songs. There’s “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, “I’m Wishing” from Snow White, and “I Wonder” from Sleeping Beauty.

Do you have an “I Wish” song? What dream stirs you? What is that one thing that you feel would make your life complete? Do you remember the movie City Slickers? It is a story of three friends from the city who go on a trail ride together. They’ve never so much as camped before, yet they are driving cattle across the plains of the west, led by their gruff trail boss, Curly. In one of the more memorable scenes, Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is riding along side Curly when Curly says, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” He then holds up a finger. “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean nothing.” “Yeah,” Mitch replies, “but what’s the one thing?” Curly answers, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

When Jesus saw Andrew following him, he turned and asked, “What do you want?” How would you answer that question? Jesus is asking you as well. God has implanted a dream within you. He’s put it there because He wants to fulfill it. There are three components to that fulfillment: the What, the How, and the When.[1]

The What is the dream itself, it is that “one thing”. God has created you with purpose and has given you the desire to be used for that purpose. Sometimes it’s crystal clear from the outset what it is God has created you to do. In that case it is easy to articulate your dream to God. When God said to Isaiah, “Who shall we send? Who shall go for us?” Isaiah was quick to answer, “Here am I, Lord. Send me!”

Other times it is revealed more slowly, much like watching a Polaroid picture develop. It is tough to put that kind of dream into words. You find that you’re not sure how to articulate the longing for purpose that you feel. David started out as a modest shepherd, the youngest and smallest in his family. Over his lifetime he grew to become a military strategist, and friend of the royal family, and finally became king himself. He didn’t know when he was tending sheep that God had it in store for him to be king. But once God had put him in that role, he excelled and grew the kingdom like none before him had done.

So I ask you again, what pulls you? Rick Warren said that you should ask yourself the question, “What would I attempt for God if I knew I wouldn’t fail?” What dream takes your breath away? Are you already seeing God fulfill that now?

The next thing is the How. The How is determined by God. This is where many people mess up. They think that it is their job to figure this out. So, they try a bunch of different things in an attempt to fulfill their dreams, and end up disappointed, frustrated, and discouraged. They start to doubt whether or not God placed the dream within them in the first place. Look at Abraham. The dream God gave him was to be the father of a multitude of nations. The How wasn’t immediately apparent, for Abraham and his wife were both on in years. So they began talking about the How. They decided that a child by Sarah’s handmaid was the best How. God didn’t think so. For God to be glorified, things must be done according to His ways, not ours.

The When is the final and most agonizing component of the fulfillment. Though we want what we want now, oftentimes God has a different timetable in mind. Marking time can be depressing. It feels as if God has left you hanging. You know the What, you understand most of the How, but nothing is happening. David knew that feeling well. In Psalm 40 he says that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. God showed up. He pulled David out of the miry clay and set his feet on a rock. Jesus’ followers shared the dream of building his kingdom. They knew that it was coming through Jesus, the promised Messiah. But they didn’t understand why it wasn’t happening faster. They expected military deliverance when Jesus revealed himself to be the Messiah. They kept asking him when all of this was going to happen. His answers were always on the cryptic side, referring to the time when he will come in all his glory, and about always being ready. He confessed that not even he knew exactly when that would be, but assured them that it would be.

I think that knowing all that God has in store for you, all at once, would be overwhelming. I think that’s why God chooses to reveal the How step-by-step and why the When seems so slow sometimes. So what do you do when you feel like you’re not making any progress towards fulfilling the dream that God has placed inside of you? Or when you think you understand the How, but you don’t know where to start?

I recently purchased a new digital camera. I love playing around with the thing. One of the features that I use a lot is the macro mode. It allows me to take pictures of things up close. I can take a picture of a rose from as little as three inches away. There is an incredible amount of detail when you get that close. It would be entirely missed if viewed any other way.

We tend to default to a wide-angle mentality when it comes to viewing life. My camera operates that way. Turn it on and it defaults to a wide-angle setting. When we think of life, of our dream, we think in terms of the big picture. However, daily living is best done in macro mode. We still concern ourselves with the What, the How, and the When, but we do so on a smaller scale.

Daily you should ask God, “What is it that you want me to do today?”, “How do you want me to do it?”, “When do you want me to act?” Occasionally you’ll need to take a moment to step back and view the big picture once again so that we can see our progress, but by and large your dream will be fulfilled in small chunks. Jesus said that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, even the little things like what we’ll eat or what we’ll drink, because tomorrow has enough to worry about on its own.

You might feel that there is no way that God can use you to fulfill the dream you have. You might think it’s not possible. God thinks otherwise. He has the advantage of seeing not only what is, but what will be. Consider Peter. His given name was Simon, changed to Peter by Jesus when Jesus called him to be one of his disciples.

Jesus called him Cephas, which is an Aramaic word meaning “rock”. Was Peter a rock during the life of Jesus? No! He was rash and impulsive. However, after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, Peter’s role changed. He became the father of the Church, an eloquent preacher and arbiter of disagreements. I would say that it was Peter’s dream to be the rock that Jesus named him to be. But for all his attempts at being the most dedicated disciple of Jesus, it wasn’t until after Jesus had fulfilled his earthly mission that Peter began to see his dream fulfilled.

Yet for all of this, there are still some of you who have, long ago, boxed up God’s dream for you and put it on a shelf. Maybe you were told that you needed to be more realistic. Maybe your were discouraged by friends and family because your dream wouldn’t be very lucrative. Or maybe you just thought you could come up with a better dream.

Some of you think that this is all well and good for someone like me who isn’t even thirty yet, or that this message is better suited to the college students I work with. You are thinking to yourself that you’re too old to go chasing after some pie-in-the-sky dream. You don’t need to look any further than the leadership of this church to see that such an assumption is errant. Our pastor was called into ministry not out of high school, but out of the business world. She’s been with this congregation for nearly a decade, yet she just started working on her Doctorate of Ministry. God placed a dream in her and she is faithfully pursuing the fulfillment of that dream.

So where are you in the process? Are you dealing with the What, the How, or the When? Maybe you’re dealing with a little bit of all three at once. That’s not uncommon. Throughout his ministry Paul saw the gradual unfolding of what it was God was calling him to, how he was to go about it, and when he was to act. Right up until the end of his life. Through it all, God supplied him with the strength to carry on. In his second letter to the Corinthians he wrote that since God has given us our dreams, we can act confidently.

Wherever you are, wherever you’ve been, you can get on the track to dream fulfillment today. We need to stop praying for God to bless what we’re doing and start praying that God will help us to do what He’s blessing.


[1] I am indebted to Rick Warren for his framework on ministry dream fulfillment, which I have adapted for use in this sermon. Pastor Warren’s article can be found online at http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/?id=137&artid;=4520&expand;=1.