President John F. Kennedy declared that the U.S. would be the first to plant a human foot on the moon. Katherine Johnson worked for NASA and was the genius mathematician capable of generating the equation so that the astronauts didn't die in flames on reentry on their trip from the moon. There was a problem. She had to leave her desk and run a half-mile to the "colored" bathroom across the campus in another building.
One of the most powerful moments in the movie, Hidden Figure,s is when Al Harrison, her NASA supervisor (played by Kevin Costner) confronts Katherine (played by Taraji P. Henson) about her long, unexplained absences. When she unloads on him about the insult of having to run back and forth, a mile, with all her papers in hand, and often in the rain just to pee, he marches over to the "blacks only" west campus and uses a sledge hammer to knock down the segregating bathroom sign declaring, “Here at NASA, we all pee the same color."
Bathroom laws and clean and unclean foods are not new methods used to keep people separate and in their place. In the first century the food laws of the Sinaitic Covenant kept Jews from connecting with Gentiles. So when God wanted the Good News about his Son to break across religious and racial barriers, he used his own sledgehammer, a daytime vision, to get the Apostle Peter's attention.
"Now the next day while two of Cornelius' trusted servants and one of his devoted solders traveled to Joppa and were about to enter the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. It was about noon. He got hungry and wanted something to eat.
While they were preparing it, Peter fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet with four corners being lowered to the ground. All kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles of the ground and birds of the air were in the sheet.
A voice said, 'Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!' And Peter said, 'Absolutely not, Lord, because I've never eaten anything that's impure or unclean.' A second time the voice spoke to him, 'What God makes clean, don't you call unclean!'
This happened three times and the sheet was suddenly taken back into heaven. While Peter was confused, thinking about what the vision he saw might mean, the men sent by Cornelius stood before his gate after asking for directions to the house.
"Is this where Simon, the man called Peter, is staying as a guest?' While Peter was still trying to figure out the meaning of his vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Look, three men are seeking you. So get up and go downstairs. Go with them and don't hesitate in doubt because I'm the One who has sent them to you.'
Peter did go down to the men, 'I'm the one you're looking for. Why are you here? Why have you come?' They answered, 'Cornelius, a centurion, and a righteous man who fears God and is well-spoken of by all the people of Judea, had a holy angel appear to him and told him to invite you to his house to hear a message from you.'" Acts 10:9-23
It was decision time for Jesus' disciple. Would he remain isolated in his prejudices and scruples not only about food, but about who he would eat and fellowship with or would he personally take the steps necessary to fulfill Jesus' command to bring the Gospel to every ethnic group on earth? (Acts 1:8)
LORD, tear down the cultural barriers that keep me from connecting with all different kinds of people. Help me to be willing to eat different kinds of food, hear different languages, and listen to the stories of those outside my comfort groups. Give me a passion to tell Your Story across racial and religious barriers.
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