One of the best movies I’ve ever seen is the newly released “Hidden Figures.” It is the story of brilliant NASA mathematicians laboring to help put a human being into orbit in the early 1960s. The unexpected twist in the true story is that the phenomenally gifted mathematicians are courageous and tenacious African American women.
The story is inspiring. I won’t spoil it for you, but the themes of struggle, risk, love, family, faith and standing up to injustice wind through this inspiring tale. The story had me crying and cheering. It showed the darkness of prejudice and human cruelty alongside the bright lights of courage, imagination, righteousness, justice and love. I not only left the theater feeling good, I left wanting to be a better person who could make a difference in the world.
Then I thought to myself, do our church gatherings have the same impact? Please hear me out. I’m not seeking a temporary, emotion-driven, feel good worship service that gives a person his or her weekly shot in the arm, but falls short of genuine truth and discipleship. I’m simply saying that we have been given the greatest story—the truth of the Son of God sent, serving, crucified and risen for us. We’ve been given the real presence of God in Word and Sacrament. We’ve been blessed with the message of grace, and grace-filled lives as Christ Himself lives in us. This should stir us deeply and send us from our time together as changed and renewed people who change and renew a broken world.
In Jeremiah chapter two, God said to a straying and apathetic people, “Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me” (Jeremiah 2:19). Have we lost the awe of God and all He has done? Have we lost the art of fostering a genuine connection with one another as the body of Christ, His Church? Are we going through the motions? Is that why so many people have no interest in being a part of a community of faith?
God is writing stories of His miraculous grace in the lives of many people today. His ongoing narrative of forgiveness and eternal hope outshines the most inspiring movie. Do we need to communicate that better? Do we need to bring it to new people and new places in more innovative ways? Do we need to change anything? If we don’t, I’m afraid that the glorious and gracious Father, Son and Holy Spirit may become Hidden Figures to a world in desperate need.