October Sky - Mike Gatton

Along with the daily crossword, I enjoy working the Jumble Puzzles in the newspaper.  Words have always been fun for me.  Anagrams present a special delight.  Anagrams are words or phrases made by mixing up the letters of other words or phrases; e.g. “the eyes” is an anagram of “they see.”    How about these: Debit card = bad credit.  Halley's Comet = shall yet come.  Dormitory = dirty room.  Astronomer = moon starer.  In light of recent disasters, the hurricanes = these churn air. Snooze alarms = alas, no more z’s.  And my favorite, Britney Spears = Presbyterians.

A few years ago, there was a novel written by Homer Hickam, Jr., called Rocket Boys.  Subsequently the book was made into a movie, using the anagram title, “October Sky.” The book and the movie tell the true story of Homer Hickam, a teen-ager growing up in the mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. Life in Coalwood is grim. Mining in itself is difficult, but now the coal is giving out. Homer has no interest in becoming a miner but sees no way of getting out of Coalwood. The only boys from Coalwood who receive college educations are football players, and Homer is no football player. But then comes a night in 1957 when Homer looks up into the October Sky and sees the Soviet satellite Sputnik passing over his town of Coalwood. It is a vision which inspires homer to pursue a better life. Enlisting the support of three other boys, Homer becomes obsessed with rocketry. A gifted teacher encourages them in their quest, and the boys become so proficient in rocketry that they win a national science competition. All four boys receive college educations, and Homer goes on to a career with NASA. This is a story about character, hard work, perseverance and vision.

As the disciples walked along the Emmaeus Road, conversing with a Jesus they didn’t recognize, they concluded their story of his death with the desperate words: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” (Luke 24:21).  “We had hoped.”  Do you hear their despair?  So downcast.  Lives so shattered.  Eyes so filled with tears.  So focused on their circumstances that they couldn’t see Jesus in their midst.  How many times have we whispered in our souls, we had hoped?  The disciples needed to recover their vision, and so do we. 

Hope is a fragile entity. The forces of evil are still much alive in this world. We see those forces in the tragedy of racial and ethnic hatred; in economic exploitation; in the violence that still stalks our streets, invades our schools and worship places, silences music and ends lives at a concert where people gathered for fun; and even in the words directed against one another on social media.  If we give in to the forces of evil which enslave, dispossess and murder, then wrong will triumph. However, there is another way. It is a vision of the risen Christ conquering death. It is a vision of Christ's people standing up against evil in the name of hope. By rejecting the work of evil people whether they be down the street or across the sea, then we strike a blow for good. If evil is resisted, God's victory is sure.

In Proverbs, we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” (29:18).  If we take that to be a truth, then its corollary must also be true: "Where there is vision, there is life."  There is a vision in the October sky. And in that vision, there is life!

Agape, Mike