By Jeremy Grossman, Discipleship Chair
I always liked the Tin Man. Of all of Dorothy’s friends in Oz, I thought the Tin Woodsman as described in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and portrayed in the classic 1939 movie was the most fascinating. The Scarecrow, lacking both Brains and a Heart, valued Brains as his top priority. The Cowardly Lion, on the other hand, had both Brains and Heart but felt they were useless without the Courage to use them. But the Tin Man had it right—a Heart, the ability to Love, is what makes a Life worthwhile. The Tin Man himself says, “I shall take the Heart, for Brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” Happiness—as the result of loving and being loved—IS the best thing in the world. Love is, in fact, the reason for which we were created.
Of course the irony of the journey to Oz is that the Tin Man proves again and again that not only does he have the capacity to love, he is instinctively the most loving of all his companions. In the original book, he is at constant risk of rusting because his great compassion for all living things causes him to tear up and cry over the smallest things (like accidentally stepping on a bug). When Dorothy and company finally reach Oz, defeat the Wicked Witch, and reveal the Great and Powerful Wizard as a humbug, the Tin Man receives his Heart as a token gesture. The only benefit in the Heart granted by the Wizard was to allow him to believe in the love he was already capable of. Put another way by the band America in 1974 (in a string of double negatives), “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man/That he didn’t, didn’t already have.”
Isn’t that so much like us? We have the capacity for greatness but we don’t see it? We are created in Love to Love, and yet we struggle to recognize our capacity to do good. I’ll admit I’m not an Oz-ian scholar, so I’m not sure what happened in the sequel books once the Tin Man had his Heart…did it change him? Did he become even more loving now truly believing he could? Most of us perform acts of Love daily without even realizing it, which is a wonderful thing about human nature—but what if we DID recognize it? What if we learned to be much more intentional in how we love, in our relationships? How much greater could we do for God, our community, our families, and ourselves if we learned more about how to love?
Christ explains the Greatest Commandments in the Gospels as 1) Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Father Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation explains, “The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself can love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me!” This is the goal of discipleship at Trinity United Methodist Church: our studies, our small groups, our classes all eventually point to learning to love.
As Discipleship Chair at Trinity UMC, I’ve chosen “Learning to Love” (or, in shorthand, “L2L”) as the motto of Discipleship ministry as we continue to move forward in growth as a congregation. More formally, I’ve worked with Pastor Tracey and the Governing Board to lay out a set of guiding tenets for this ministry along with the following precept: “A disciple of Jesus Christ at Trinity United Methodist Church seeks to grow and guide others in the Love of God and community through meaningful, intentional relationships and personal development.” The entirety of our goals and guidelines are published in this newsletter, intended to point us in the right direction as individuals and as a church. We recognize our failings, but we also recognize our potential. We recognize our weaknesses, but we also recognize our strengths. Like the Tin Man, we are learning to love.
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