by: Denise Robinson
The Bible Meets Broadway: Annie
Ephesians 1:3-12; Romans 8:14-17
Whether you’ve seen the musical Annie – or whether you haven’t – you have likely heard the story of the cute, little, eleven-year-old, red-headed orphan who knew little of her past except for her name. She began life as a comic strip in 1924 and then was featured on the radio show Little Orphan Annie which aired from 1930 to 1942, before making it to Broadway in 1977. Annie ran on Broadway for six years and won the Tony Award for best musical. After leaving Broadway, it landed in Hollywood where movies based on the musical were made in 1982, 1999, and 2014. When we are introduced to Annie, she is living in an orphanage with numerous other children living a “hard-knock” life and dreaming that her parents will come and claim her or that she will one day find them. Her world is turned upside-down when Oliver Warbucks, the richest man in America, plucks her out of the orphanage for a one-week adventure. By the end of the musical, that one week turns into a forever home for Annie who finds her life transformed from hardship and loneliness to wealth and a family. Annie’s story reminds us of the impact that belonging somewhere and to someone has in changing the course of a life. Annie’s adoption makes a difference in her outlook, her attitude, her self-image, and her future. So, what is the theology of Annie?
First, Annie reminds us of the desire for, and importance of, belonging. In the song “Maybe,” Annie articulates her longing for family. She imagines where her parents might live and what they might be like but in the end concludes that she “don’t really care, as long as they’re mine” and as long as they come and get her. We all share that same need to belong and all of us at one time or another have questioned where and how we fit in. If there is one constant theme that runs through the entire Bible, it is to remind and assure us that we have a heavenly father, a creator, who loves us and wants to be with us. As Scott reads from Ephesians 1, God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ and in the fullness of time it is God’s intent to gather us into his presence. On a spiritual level, we, all of us, were once orphans. Our sin separated us from the God who created us but, fortunately, God didn’t want that separation. Instead, Jesus came to free us from the consequences of sin and offer us the opportunity to restore the relationship God meant for us to have all along. For those who believe in Jesus and have placed their trust in his promise of salvation, they were once orphans, but now are adopted children of God. We belong to the God who claims us as children.
There’s more to it, though. We are not just adopted children who might be perceived as having a lesser status than a “real” child. Ephesians 1:11 says that we have an inheritance. Romans 8 gives us the assurance that we are not just heirs, we are joint heirs, co-heirs, with Christ. When we think of the word “heir,” we tend to think of money, stocks and bonds, and real estate – inheriting part or all of an estate. That’s what happened for Annie. But for us, we are talking about much more than money. We are heirs in the kingdom of God; we share in a kingdom of grace and peace and hope and love and eternal life. And, it’s a promise from God. There’s no “maybe” about it.
Second, Annie reminds us that the hardships of this world won’t last forever. In “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” Annie sings: “Don’t it feel like the wind is always howling? Don’t it seem like there’s never any light? One a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in? It’s easier than putting up a fight. No one’s there when your dreams at night are creepy. No one cares if you grow or if you shrink. Empty belly life! Rotten smelly life! Full of sorrow life! No tomorrow life! It’s a hard-knock life.” We all have those feelings at one time or another; Christians are not exempt. But for us, I think we sometimes put more pressure on ourselves because we not only have these feelings, we feel guilty for having them. The Apostle Paul wrote of his suffering several times in his letters and also of his human failings, his inability to do what was right despite his desire to do so. But in the end, he was able to find joy in life and rescue from his shortcomings in the love and grace of God. We may go through periods in our lives when we feel like the wind is always howling – but we should never feel as if no one cares or there’s never any light. God cares so much that Jesus came into the world to bring light into the darkness.
What’s more, we are never alone. Romans 8:14-17 says: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” The word “Abba” here is important because it literally means “daddy.” Father can sound stilted and formal, but when a child refers to their parents as mommy or daddy, there is no doubt as to their relationship. This is how the Holy Spirit draws us to God and to the realization of how much God really loves us.
After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and before he ascended into heaven, he reminded his followers that the Holy Spirit would come and be with them as they continued to live according to their faith. The same promise is true for us today. The problem is that too often we fail to claim the promise of the Spirit’s presence with us. It all sounds too out there, too unconventional, too spiritual for us practical people. We need to remember that when things seem to be at their worst, we need to rely less on ourselves and more on the promises of God. When we the last time you told God plainly that it seems like the wind is howling and there isn’t any light and that you are close to throwing the towel in on life? If God is a loving parent and we are heirs of God – joint heirs with Christ – then we have the privilege of telling God how we feel and telling God we need help.
Finally, in the song “Tomorrow,” Annie sings of her longing for a day when there will be sun. She faces the gray and lonely days with a grin because she knows there is a tomorrow and someday that tomorrow will be better than what she is experiencing today. I learned something new while researching the song. At the beginning of the musical, when she first sings the song, tomorrow is always a day away; nearer to the end of the musical, the word “always” changes to “only.” Hope does that to a person. Our call to worship this morning reminds us of the tomorrow we have in Christ. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See I am making all things new.”
Annie’s tomorrow met all the world’s criteria for a perfect life. Adopted by the richest man in the world and suddenly transported into a life where in a mansion with everything she could ever want. In another song in the musical, after seeing the Warbucks’ mansion with her bedroom and new clothes, the swimming pool and the tennis courts, and the staff waiting to fill her every request, Annie sings, “I think I’m gonna like it here!”
In John 14, Jesus made us this promise: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” For all who believe in Christ, the sun will come out tomorrow in an awesome way; Christ will come again and we will live in the presence of God and Jesus in a new heaven and new earth, in a place prepared for us by Christ where death, crying, and pain will be no more. It is truly only a day away, and we are gonna like it there.
There is one more song in Annie that highlights the central key to the theology in the musical, and it is sung by Annie and Oliver Warbucks near the end of the show. The title is, “I Don’t Need Anything but You.” The song opens with the words, “Together at last, together forever.” The two realize that they complete one another, and so it is with us and God. Just like Annie we need to belong, to feel loved, to know that someone will be there for us, and in our case that someone is God. Guilt is removed, grace is given, love is established, hope prevails, and we know that someday we will really be together at last and together forever. These promises are all God’s gift to us that comes through belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus, in John 14:6, says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Do you believe that Christ is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for forgiveness of sin? Have you professed your faith in Christ and claimed for yourself the promise of eternal life that he offers?
Annie is a girl who doesn’t know her past, hates her present, and longs for a future. In God, we know our past; in the Holy Spirit, we have someone with us in our present; and through faith in Christ, we are promised a future. There is no maybe. The sun will come out tomorrow.