Zoom Meeting Sermon April 2 2023

 Topic: Recommended Reading-Wicked

Today we will be talking about the novel Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, published 1995, which is a rather clever retelling of The Wizard of Oz from another perspective.

Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, marked as different from birth with her green skin and sharp teeth, who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West. She is written as a sympathetic character who devotes her life to fighting on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden, only to be the victim of political assassination at the hands of a clueless patsy. The Wizard in this novel wants to get rid of Elphaba and get his hands on her book of spells so that he may solidify his position as supreme ruler of Oz. He only sends Dorothy on this errand because he is pretty sure she will fail and the Witch will kill her, and then he will not have to figure out how to get her home.

The first thing this book teaches us is that there is always more than one side to a given story. In the film The Wizard of Oz, I think the real villain is Glinda, the self-described “good witch” who really controls the whole narrative, but we are told that the green witch, who only wants her dead sister’s property back, is the bad guy. It is with Mindfulness and Compassion that we discover Elphaba’s history and learn to see things from a different point of view. We can then use the same critical thinking skills to look for the different sides of other stories we are told.

Another lesson we learn from Wicked is that you have power of your own, independent of anyone else, and you should use it. Elphaba cares deeply about others, especially those who are mistreated by the people in authority, and uses her unique power as a force for good in the world. We should all be inspired by her example, and do our best to be good people no matter what challenges life deals us. We also learn that you should never apologize for being yourself if you are not hurting anyone. Know where you want to be in life and be willing to put in the Effort to get there. Be passionate about something, and celebrate your light instead of hiding it. All of these important messages are found in this book.

The story itself is actually a tragedy in one sense: our hero dies with her life’s work unfulfilled, a failure at the end. But her nemesis also fails, denied his prize and stuck having to try and live up to a promise he never intended to keep, so she thwarted his scheme even in death. In both the book and film version, the humbug Wizard gets to go home via hot-air balloon, but the book reveals that he was about to be executed by a mob if he had not escaped. The only one who really wins, in both versions, is Glinda, who stands ready to step into the power vacuum left by the elimination of her two political rivals.

Some people have only read the book, some have only seen the film, a few have done both, but almost everyone is familiar with the story. Have you ever questioned the narrative of the first version of The Wizard of Oz that you were exposed to?

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