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Model Rockets and the Great Commandment

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).

I recently listened to the audiobook, Rocket Boys, by Homer Hickam. It is the book that was made into the movie, "October Sky," and is about the high school years of a future NASA engineer and his quest to learn about rocketry in the 1950s. Like so many other movies, the book is far better because the movie production often truncates the story. One of the stories that gets truncated in the movie is Homer’s (called Sonny in the book) first big crush on a girl named Dorothy, and her failure to return the undying love that he shows towards her. Homer continues to long for and to make grand gestures of affection toward Dorothy despite her repeated rejection, only breaking it off when she shows up at the Sr. Dance with his chief critic—and rival for his father’s approval and admiration – Jim, who is his older brother.

Similarly, the story of how Homer’s dad comes to support his rocketry career is told far better in the book. In the movie, the father’s support only comes at the urging of Jim’s mother in order to meet Homer’s critical need for a replacement display at the National Science Fair. In the book, we see a father who is reticent about giving direct, visible support of his son’s efforts, but instead offers all kinds of support behind-the-scenes that the other boys come to recognize and point out to Homer.

Whether you watch the movie or read the book, you come away feeling good; and you’re happy to have spent some time with Homer/Sonny in the small town of Coalwood, W.V. If you’ve ever had the “small town” experience you feel good to have had similar relationships with family, friends and neighbors. If not, you long for that feeling. (Do you hear some Disney music revving up? … “It’s a small world after all” … ).


Well, because somewhere in the core of our being we are made for relationships. That’s why Jesus’ Great Commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.” (That’s how I remember it … probably a mixture of versions of the Bible, but that’s how it’s written on my heart.)

This is all about relationships—God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him (and our need for this relationship), and both our desire and need to be in relationship with others.

In truth, from beginning to end, the Bible teaches us about relationships with God and with one another. In Genesis, we see God creating Adam (the first human) after God’s own image and immediately thereafter the woman (also in God’s own image) saying it was not good for them to be alone. In my mind, that implies that God recognizes it is not good even for God to be alone. We need others and “The Other” … God.

And so we come to this day … the day after the most contentious election in American history (ironically, I have to add “debatably” to that statement to be accurate).

And while I am writing this prior to that Tuesday event, I am remembering Paul’s words that started this devotional … that Faith, Hope and Love abide … the greatest being “Love.”

No matter who won the presidency … the Senate … or the propositions that either passed or failed; the most important thing going forward is maintaining our relationships with family, friends and neighbors. With the love both “from and for” these individuals, we can face any crisis knowing we won’t face it alone. And even more, God always seems to bless our coming together in difficult times. We can trust that God will do this again in the days ahead.

I know, I have heard news anchors and Facebook memes all communicating this same message.

But the Truth is the Truth no matter where it comes from.

We were created to be in relationship.

We need one another.

Even if we disagree.

Prayer: In these difficult times, Oh Lord, we need You. In these difficult times, oh Lord, we need our Family. In these difficult times, oh Lord, we need friends and neighbors. In these difficult times, oh Lord, we need to learn to love with our whole heart, mind and soul, not only You, but one another. Teach us to love, oh Lord. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran

Executive Minister

American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains

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