WORD FROM THE PASTOR: The Movies’ Greatest Songs
When I heard that the American Film Institute was going to name the 100 greatest movie songs of all time, I immediately predicted that “As Time Goes By” (immortalized in Casablanca) would occupy the Number One spot. I missed it by one: “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz was honored as the greatest cinematic song of all time, with “As Time Goes By” placing number two.
It occurred to me that those two songs, in an odd way, really go together. “As Time Goes By” talks about life in the “real world”, in the realm of time. In world of time, we find the joy of love...but often there also is struggle and pain:
It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory
A case of do or die...
But “Over the Rainbow” longs for a place beyond time, beyond this “real world”, a place of joy and perfection, where all is beautiful and the bluebirds never stop singing.
Put these two songs together, and you pretty much have the human condition: we live in a world where we experience many joys “as time goes by”...and yet in the end those joys don’t fully satisfy us, and we long for Something Else, something “Over the Rainbow”. We long for a place where there is no sadness, where time does not “like an ever-rolling stream bear all its sons away”, where there is no sickness and no grief and no loss.
This longing for a Perfect Place manifests itself in many ways. In fiction and film, we see places like Shangri La, Bali Hai, or the alien planet in “Cocoon”. One of the stories my son read for school this year was Jack Finney’s “The Third Level”, about a mysterious “third level” of Grand Central Station in which passengers can buy a ticket for 19th century Galesburg, Illinois. Most of the characters is the story ultimately succumb to the lure of this Better Place. All these fictional spots are places where sadness drops away and all is beauty. In real life, political movements have sought to create perfect societies (and inevitably have wound up fashioning nightmares instead, as in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany). In our own time, we continually see lists trumpeting “The Ten Best Places to Live in America”...and many of us look longingly at such lists and dream of a place where life will be better. (Oddly enough, the lists keep changing: In the 1930s, Woody Guthrie sang, “California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see...”; in recent years paradise has shifted to Denver or Seattle. Unfortunately, such places cease to be “paradise” when large numbers of people move there!)
Someone has called this gnawing desire for a Better Place “the nostalgia for paradise”. And that’s exactly what it is: deep in our DNA we remember that there was a perfect place once, where our ancestors Adam and Eve lived...and we long to return there. But since that paradise is always just out of reach, it seems that we are doomed to endless frustration.
But Jesus Christ came to lift that frustration from us...for He makes it possible for us to go “Over the Rainbow” and find that place where all tears are wiped away, “and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). He did this by coming into our world, where “time goes by”, and by dying for our sins...the sins that separated us from Eden in the first place! With Christ, we can indeed go “over the rainbow” into that realm of perfection and beauty. And it doesn’t just happen after we die–for even in this life, if we belong to Jesus, we are touched by the beauty and the perfection of heaven. “God raised us up in Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” says Ephesians 2:6. Right now, today, we breathe the atmosphere of heaven, because Jesus is with us. Even in this life, as I walk with God and live with God, I already have one foot “Over the Rainbow”.
“‘Over the Rainbow’ is a great song because
it’s about longing...and everybody is longing for something,” one of the
celebrity commentators on the American Film Institute show remarked.
Indeed–we’re all longing for something. In the end, that “something” is the
Better Place, the place of peace and joy. And the beautiful thing is–we can
have it! We can have it without moving to a place on the constantly
changing “Ten Best Places” list. We can have that Better Place right here
where we live. (As even Dorothy learned in the film: “If I ever go seeking
my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard”).
Even though I live in this world where “time goes by”, I can also live
“over the rainbow.” Because wherever Jesus Christ is...there is Paradise!
God loves you and so do I!