"The Wiz" and Ordinary Time:
A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship

(January 9)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
January 9, 2022


This Sunday, we move from one church season to another, from Christmas and Epiphany, to Ordinary Time. With the stories of Christmas now behind, life in the church becomes more “ordinary.” Right? It’s an eight-week, eight-Sunday Season that focuses primarily on the “acts” of Jesus, all found throughout his earthly ministry.  Of course, these “acts” are anything but ordinary. People are fed, people are healed, people are forgiven, and the outsider is welcomed and included – all in this ordinary time.  Each year, this Season of Ordinary Time begins with the Baptism of Jesus. Through the work of the John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit falls upon Jesus as an affirmation of God’s presence within the earthly ministry of Jesus. The significance of how this “Ordinary Time” begins should not be missed. Read Matthew 3.13-17, the story of Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus began his ministry, why do you think it is important for God to offer an affirming voice: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” What significance does the affirmation hold for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?  Now, think beyond the moment, what significance does the baptism of Jesus hold for you?


For the past few years, Ordinary Time at Asbury has begun with a four-week worship series reflecting on the music of Broadway.  It’s an engaging way of displaying the ordinary acts of Jesus which impact our lives in extraordinary ways.  First up this January is a Broadway musical, originally a movie, that most Kansans – even some of us from Missouri – have familiarity with, “The Wiz,” a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz.  While the actors and actresses, location and music, are changed up from the original telling, the impact of the message remains. The Scarecrow still desires a brain, the Tin Man a heart, and the Lion courage. Then there’s Dorothy, lost in New York City trying to find her way home to Detroit.  Like the original version, everyone in this re-make is lost to some degree, all trying to find a new way. And along comes the Wiz, who reminds the four they already have what they need to find that new way. Okay, back to this first Sunday of Ordinary Time. Maybe the significance of baptism is the imparting of the promise: you have what you need. Most of us have some degree of familiarity with the message of “The Wiz,” aka “The Wizard of Oz.” Sure, it ends with the reminder, “There is no place like home.” But, in finding their home, what do the characters discover?


In the Church, the Season of Ordinary Time ends as it begins, with God announcing pleasure in Jesus. High atop a mountain, God repeats the words first used at Jesus’ baptism. This time the words “transfigure” the appearance of Jesus. I’ve always wondered why this part of the story gets re-imagined in two different ways, in two different locations. I guess re-imagining isn’t just limited to movies and Broadway. We call the second story The Transfiguration - where from a mountain Jesus descends into some hard life moments. I suspect it was good for Jesus to be reminded of God’s presence, not that Jesus was ever separated from God’s love and pleasure. For many of us in the United Methodist tradition, we begin the journey of a Christian life marked by the promise of baptism - God’s presence is always with us. Yet, like the characters in The Wiz, we get lost and forget we already have what we need. For in baptism, God does not just speak those words to Jesus, God speaks them to us, too: “You are my Child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Read Matthew’s story of The Transfiguration, especially noting the words God speaks. How important is it for you to be reminded of God’s presence?


Matthew 3: 13-17; Matthew 17: 1-8


Asbury's Weekend Worship:  https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, January 9 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.


"You are my Child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."


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