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Get Busy Living

Luke 9:57-62

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The movie Hidden Figures is the true story of the early days of NASA, prior to the Mercury missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. The film follows the lives of a group of African–American female mathematicians who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history.

It is a powerful story of how racism and discrimination impacted African Americans, and how these women overcame the barriers placed in front of them by an openly racist culture. But, like any great film, the movie has multiple themes worth investigating.

I will certainly talk of this movie again to look at the variety of themes it discusses. However, one of the themes that fascinates me is the fact that these women, along with the NASA team, were tasked to do something that many felt was impossible. In fact, critics considered the space program at its outset to be a fool’s errand.

In proving the critics wrong, these women served as “human computers” and did the very detailed analysis of the numbers and math that would ensure successful missions—work that today would be done by computers.

The big issue before these human “computers” was that they were doing math and tackling issues for things that had never been done before. They had to do what was hardly imaginable and make the leap into the unknown world of space travel. As we know from history, they made that leap, and the United States jumped ahead of the Soviet Union in the space race.

In the end, however, though they could only guess at what would happen when a man entered orbit. They thought they knew—they hoped they knew—but they could not be sure. They studied and predicted and then eventually had to step out in faith into the unknown.

They could have kept planning and meeting and discussing and without ever doing anything. They could have worried a decimal point was off or they used the wrong formula, or they had not thought of all the variables and alas John Glenn would still be on the ground.

Of course, that is true for all of us and even the church. We can only sit on the sidelines so long. Eventually we either need to enter the game or give up and leave the stadium. We can pray and plan and hope and believe, but in the end, we must step out in faith if we are to experience life as it is meant to be experienced.

One of my all time favorite quotes is, “You either get busy living or get busy dying.” (The Shawshank Redemption) This is what Jesus is saying in the passage above. It comes across as harsh, but I think Jesus knew our tendency to wait and plan and make excuses and look at all the options and put things off until it is too late to do anything.

Now I am not saying you, or I, or we together, should jump into things haphazardly, but from my experience this is never really what we do. This is especially true for us frozen-chosen, committee-it-into-submission Presbyterians!

Following Jesus is not a spectator sport. Living a life worthy of our calling means doing…not just planning to do.

Yes, the possibility exists that we will fail.

NASA has failed, the disciples failed, the Apostle Paul failed, and people great and small have failed too. But no one has succeeded by doing nothing.

The only way to conquer is to try and endure.

The poet Edgar Albert Guest said it in the first stanza of his poem See It Through:

When you’re up against a trouble,

Meet it squarely, face to face;

Lift your chin and set your shoulders,

Plant your feet and take a brace.

When it’s vain to try to dodge it,

Do the best that you can do;

You may fail, but you may conquer,

See it through!

Or to quote the author Erin Hanson “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

In fact, the risks you take might be the difference another person, your community, or perhaps even the world needs.

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