Grab a snack, find a seat... you're At the Movies! Each week we'll see how God uses characters and situations in our lives to move us along on our journey, so we can discover what He has for us.
What was the first movie you remember seeing?
Hidden Figures is the incredible true story of three brilliant African American women working at NASA in the early 60’s. These ladies – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson – served as the brains behind one of the greatest achievements in the last century, launching John Glenn into space and pushing our American space program into the future.
They courageously crossed gender, race, and professional lines. Their brilliance and big dreams firmly cemented them in history as true American heroes.
While there is much racism and bigotry to grieve in this movie, there are moments to feel proud. These women stepped up and used their God given talents and abilities – no matter what the people around them thought – to reach their destiny. You find yourself cheering for them, wanting to see them succeed when everything seemed stacked against them.
This movie evokes many different emotions. It’s hard to grasp that for many of us, in our own lifetimes, there have been places in our country where our black brothers and sisters would have to use a different bathroom, drink from a different water fountain or ride in the back of the bus just because of the color of their skin. This is so contrary to the heart of God. As Dorothy said to her boys in the back of the bus, “Just because it’s the way, doesn’t make it right.”
Consider the communities you live and work in. Where have you seen oppression or discrimination? How have those involved been able to overcome that oppression or discrimination (or not)? What impact did it have on you?
Have someone read James 1:2 and Galatians 3:26-28.
Racism, and classism, and sexism were crucified on the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and by His resurrection power.
We see the spirit of these three ladies, working at NASA, who weren’t going to be held back by small, petty thinking. They decided they weren’t going to allow other people’s opinions define their destiny. They stepped into the more that God had for them. Working as mathematicians and scientists, they were “computers” before there were computers. Their faith in God is portrayed authentically throughout the movie, and their deep friendship with each other fueled their desire to overcome every obstacle in their path.
The ladies’ friendship and support gave them the grace to keep going and the courage to stand up. Share a time when your friends and family’s support encouraged you to step out in faith.
It is powerful to watch them decide to stand up and say enough! It encourages us to not sit back and allow injustice to continue. We find ourselves cheering for Katherine as she tells her boss and the entire room what she’s been going through. It’s wrong that she would have to use a different bathroom. It’s wrong that she would have to drink from a different coffee pot. Racism in every shape or form is wrong.
At Eastside we strive to be a place that fully embraces, loves, and accepts everyone, no matter their ethnic background. Heaven will be a place where all nations are represented because Jesus died for people of every color, language, tribe and nation.
Have someone read Acts 10:34-35.
The apostle Peter wasn’t sure that the Gospel was for everyone, that it included anyone who wasn’t a Jew, a member of Peter’s race, but in Acts 10 God opens Peter’s eyes. He comes away from that experience knowing God treats everyone the same, regardless of their ethnicity or the color of their skin.
We all struggle with bias. We don’t like certain people because of the jobs they have, the amount of money they make (too much or too little), the country they’re from, the color of their skin, the way they vote, or their gender. What is one bias you struggle with, and what change can you make to begin viewing those people the way God does?
Mary’s challenge, “Be the first, your honor,” is a challenge to us today, to do what we know is right even when nobody else is doing it.
We all are in the position to “be first” for someone. It could be at work, at school, in your family, or in an organization. This is something that goes beyond race. Maybe you could be the first in your family to break the cycle of divorce. Maybe you could be the first in your family to go the rest of your life sober, because alcohol has ruined your family. Maybe you’re excited because you’re the first in your family to go to church, to find an authentic relationship with Jesus. Maybe you were the first so you could lead some of the rest of your family to Jesus. If not you, who?
At your work maybe you see injustice, or sexual harassment, or other inequities and you could be the first to write the memo, send the email, make the policy change, or fire the offender.
In Hidden Figures, when Katherine Johnson entered the Task Group, she was the only non-secretarial female as well as the only black person in the room. Some of us have experienced that level of discrimination. Many of us have not, but we have been excluded or made to feel like an “other” on some level at some point. When is a time when you felt excluded or discriminated against? Has that experience shaped how you view and relate to people who have experienced significant discrimination?
Have someone read Proverbs 31:8
Be the first. Some of you have the power and authority to leverage it for those who don’t. You have the ability to open the door, to make someone else’s dream come true.
In the movie Katherine gets to be the first. Feeling the pressure of a looming launch date and the growing realization of all the obstacles, her boss has finally had enough and walks her into a meeting where no African American woman has ever been before.
Who are the hidden figures in your life who you could help show their talents, give an opportunity, or even rise to the top?
We can all do this. We can all look and take notice of the hidden figures in our lives and community. We can all leverage whatever position and power we have to give opportunity to those who have a lot to offer the world but no way of getting it to them. You never know the eternal impact one simple act can make.
Have someone read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
We know this works because at some point in our lives someone handed us the chalk. Someone gave us a chance and helped us succeed. It could have been your parents, a teacher, a coach, or even a boss. In Gene’s case it was a church who invited him to be their senior pastor when he was just 25 years old.
When is a time someone in your life gave you a chance and helped you succeed?
When you pass that on and give a chance to someone who needs that advantage, it’s a beautiful thing.
Gene challenged us to pray in three different ways. As a group spend time together in prayer.
First, it could be today that some of you have been the object and the target of acts of racism or sexism or some other injustice in your life. The Bible says to love and pray for your enemy and to do good to those who hate you. It can be so hard. Maybe today you just need to say, “Oh God, give me your grace not to fight back. Help me to be known as a strong person of character, of love, joy, peace, and patience. Help me not to become bitter by the pain, but better through your son Jesus Christ.”
Second, some of us need to pray for forgiveness for our own hidden racism or hidden attitudes toward people of different races. Like the apostle Peter some of us need a heart conversion moment where we say ‘I now realize God treats everyone on the same basis, no matter what race they belong to. And I want to treat people like God.’ Just pray, “God, forgive me. I’m sorry for demeaning people who you have made in your very image and who Jesus died for.”
Third, continue to pray for our church. Pray that one day Eastside will truly be a church where God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, a place of every tribe, nation, language, and race. Pray that a watching world will look with amazement at the hearts of the people who have been transformed by Jesus Christ here, and that they will say, “My how they love one another.” Pray that we will be the ones who are the first in this world.