Judy Garland’s performance in Frank Baum’s the Wizard of Oz will forever be a classic. It is one of those movies that has successfully crossed barriers and renewed its place in the hearts of each new generation for many decades.
In the movie, Dorothy and Toto are accompanied on the road to Oz by three companions—the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Each feels frustrated by the lack of something. For the Scarecrow, he longs to have a brain so that he can think deep thoughts. The Tin Man wishes he had a heart so that he can love. And the Lion wishes that he could be brave. What is interesting is how each of these corresponds to what we have been learning in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.
The letters to Ephesus and Sardis addressed the problem of having knowledge, but no love. The Lord’s instructions were essentially, if you have all knowledge, but have no love, you are nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). We could call this the Tin Man Church.
The letters to Pergamum and Laodicea spoke to the opposite problem—having love and excitement, but no discernment. Their problem was that they were not using their heads to discern truth from error. We could call this the Scarecrow Church.
The letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia warned of coming persecutions and called the saints to be brave in the face of suffering and even death. Is this not the desire of the Cowardly Lion?
Perhaps Frank Baum was onto something when he created these three characters. Perhaps he knew that these three things get at the heart of what it means to be human. This is why the Great Commandment tells us to love God with our hearts, minds, and strength.
Unfortunately, in the Wizard of Oz, the solution was to look inside themselves and discover that they already had what they desired. For us, the journey must take a different road, one that is crimson, not yellow. The answer to our problems is not found in us, but in the one who speaks to the seven churches and laid down his life for them. And so the last letter that we will look at this Sunday—Thyatira—will point us to the only hope, Jesus Christ.