October 21, 2015. This is a significant date in the life of dorks everywhere. It’s “Back to the Future Day.” In the second movie, when Marty heads to the future to keep his son from making a huge mistake, he arrives on this very date.
Today, in recognition of the date, and also because the last two weeks have been about as insane as December in our church, a few of us on staff decided to watch the full Back to the Future marathon. We started at about 9am and watched all three movies. I love them just as much as I remember!
More than a few of us are wondering where our hoverboards are. Where are our power laces and self-drying coats? Where are the flying cars? How about the holographic billboards? Indeed one of the best parts of watching the movies is enjoying all the differences between the times in the films. The clothes people wear. Their hair. The cars. The houses. Past, present, and future (now past again!). Blacksmiths, dirty water, and insufficient technology even to make ice. Convertibles, poodle skirts, and early rock and roll. 1985 (which is all I’m going to say about that. And of course a fanciful future filled with all the aforementioned devices we wish existed (yes, Janice, I want the gadget that puts people to sleep for a while too). The worlds are so different.
Or are they?
It seems to me one of the points of the movies is that while the scenery changes, much of the human condition remains the same. They make this point in many not-too-subtle ways. They have the same actors play the roles throughout (except for the girlfriend, which they try very hard to make you forget). Many of those roles are consistent archetypal roles: the villain, the hero, the scientist, the dog.
Some of this continuity provides comic relief at the same time. In the first movie, Marty’s mom decries girls who are too “forward” with boys, but we find out this is probably because in high school she was the epitome of “forward” when she asks Marty to a dance...and then wants to “park” with him, drink, and smoke (no, this is not a choir tour appropriate movie, I’m afraid). There is always poverty. And drug abuse. And bad tempers.
There have always been bullies, and there will always be. We have always been struggling to find courage within ourselves to be the better us, and we always will. Moreover, being bullies will inevitably lead us to our own destruction, while being the best us is ultimately more fulfilling (even if at the time it’s hard to see it that way). Love has always been and will always be a powerful motivator that at once leads us to play foolish games and strive above all else for the good of the one we love.
Christopher Lloyd, in a short clip circulating on the internet, says, “The future has finally arrived. Yes, it is different than we all thought. But don’t worry, it just means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.” Inspirational words.
Our future is not defined by the world around us. It’s not defined by our gadgets and gizmos. Instead of hoverboards to ride on we carry computers in our hands. While in the movies we find cars that don’t need roads, we in this 2015 find cars that don’t need gas. These tools enhance our existence, but they don’t confine it. As Christopher Lloyd reminds us, our future is whatever we make it. It is ours to make good.
All this talk about the future is even more important for Decatur First UMC at this moment as we begin our journey into the future God has laid ahead of us. There are so many ways to define us: our building, our finances, our programs, etc. Indeed our future story team looked 10 years into the future last Sunday and took a stab at what some of those things will look like. I suspect that, like the movie, some of their guesses will be right on the money. Others may look silly. Regardless, from this time to that, we as a church will choose how to be in the world. We can choose to bully. We can choose to find the better us. We can choose to be motivated by love. It is we, not our world, that will choose destruction or fulfillment. Free will means the future of DFUMC will be whatever we make it. So let’s make it a good one.