The Testimony of Hidden Figures

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The Testimony of Hidden Figures

By Tara S. Gibbs,

 

What does it mean for me to be a black millennial woman in ministry?  It means nothing short of having insecurities, being ignored, and even being silenced.  Being myself and bringing myself to my ministry has been painful. Fortunately, I have also discovered that being myself and bringing myself to my ministry has allowed me to see how powerful I am.  My testimony is powerful.  My story is powerful.  I am a black millennial woman in ministry, and I am powerful.  My ministry is not in spite of my color, or my age, or my gender; my ministry is in born out of the beautiful intersection of all of them.

John 4:27-30 and 39-42 NLT

 

“The Testimony of Hidden Figures”

A sermon inspired by the film Hidden Figures (2016)

Did you know that the real life Katherine Johnson

Once said that she didn’t know why anyone

Would want to write about or make a film about her life

In short, her testimony and her story didn’t mean much to her

But it meant the world to me

Because I’ve felt like her before

I felt like her when invited to preach, teach, and write

Why would anyone care to hear from me?

As a young black woman in ministry

I often feel like my story, and my ministry are average

Often, I compare myself to amazing women

My reflective writing skills are average

Compared to the poignant Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

My testimony was uninteresting

When compared to the powerful testimonies of Rev Dr. Renita Weems

My mentor and counselor asked me a question

To help me deal with my insecurities:

Who put these judgements on you?

 

I later found myself asking a similar question

As I read story of the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John chapter 4

Why are preachers always putting judgements on her?

Jews put on her the judgement of impure

Because she’s a Samaritan of mixed ethnic heritage

Men put on her the judgement inhuman

Because she’s a woman, property, not a person

Interpreters/preachers put on her the judgement of immorality

Because she had 5 husbands, and the 1 now is not hers

What if the shame are nothing but what others put on her?

 

What if the judgement on your story is something others put on you?

Being raised by a single mother isn’t scandalous

Buying groceries with SNAP isn’t shameful

Being divorced doesn’t define you

They are a part of your testimony

And you can reclaim it

For the Samaritan woman

If there was one person to embolden her to reclaim her story and her past

It was Jesus

No matter how scandalous and shameful folk made it

Jesus says, “I know you and your past

And how society labels/judge it

But I’ll still give you eternal life”

Then this woman

Hidden because we don’t even know her name

Boldly proclaims to the entire town

That Jesus knows her story!

She reclaimed her testimony as evidence pointing to the Christ

 

I encourage you to reclaim how others label or judge your story

They tried to shame you for having a low paying job

But your testimony is that your bills are still paid

They tried to scandalize for how mean you were in the past

But it never stopped you from growing and loving people now

They tried to shame you for going to a psychiatrist or counseling

But it was the help you needed and now you are in your right mind

They tried to shame you and your testimony

Because you were black

Or a woman

Or impoverished

Or young

Can I encourage you to take back your testimony?

Can I encourage you to add this to the conclusion:

And I’m still forgiven

I’m still worthy of love

I still have purpose

The Samaritan woman reached an entire town

The 3 Black women at NASA reached me and other moviegoers

Who will you reach, when you reclaim your testimony?

 

Like this Samaritan woman,

Whose testimony brought an entire town to Jesus

There is power in our testimonies

Like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan there is

Power in our stories

The power to inspire

The Samaritan woman’s testimony motivated an entire town to see Jesus

The testimony of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan

Motivated moviegoers to be ambitious

The testimony of Emmitt Till’s mother, Mamie

Motivated whites and blacks to support the NAACP

So lynchers would get tried in court

The testimony of the paraplegic in Luke 5

Healed by Jesus

Motivated the crowds to praise the Lord

There is power in testimony of those hidden figures in society

 

The power in the testimony of those hidden figures can upset the status quo

It is the very nature of our faith

And the entire ministry of Jesus

And our duty as Christians

To make sure the last would be first

To put the marginalized at the center

To exalt the downtrodden

To highlight those cast to the shadows

To magnify the story of the silenced

The beauty in the way Christ did ministry

Is that Jesus Christ never ignored someone’s past

Never pretended people weren’t treated wrong by society

Or purposefully silenced

Christ knows our past, our histories, and our testimonies

And still loves us, blesses us, and accepts us

Jesus brings all things into His redeeming light

Not to shame, but to reclaim

 

I’m still working on reclaiming my own story

I’m still trying to accept that Christ accepts me

I’m still trying to recognize the power in my own testimony

The testimony of a black millennial woman in ministry.

 

Close
Black Church Rabble-Rouser, Preacher, Teacher, Director of Christian Education, and proud geek.

Minister Tara S. Gibbs is from the city of New Bern, North Carolina. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in Linguistics. Tara was licensed to preach the Gospel at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in 2010 and since then, has preached numerous conferences, women’s days, and recently the 2017 Shaw University Baccalaureate Service. True to her belief in a “thinking faith” she entered seminary at historic Shaw University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master of Divinity. The following year she completed a Masters in Practical Theology with a concentration in Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. Outside of her studies, Tara has worked with non-profits such as Citizen Schools, Upward Bound, and the YMCA. She has been blessed to study abroad in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Mexico. Tara also spent time serving as a pastor at Woodbridge First Congregational UCC and Lumberton UMC, both in New Jersey. Now, she serves as the Director of Christian Education at Reeder Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. You can read more on her blog “The Black Church Rabble-Rouser” at taragibbsblog.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter: @_taragibbs.

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Black Church Rabble-Rouser, Preacher, Teacher, Director of Christian Education, and proud geek.

  • https://plus.google.com/115650697017776823436

    “who put these judgments on you?” Thank you for sharing this…I needed to be asked this question. Powerful sermon! I will be sharing.

  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10208291012178571/

    This is an awesome word! Growing up in Christian school and church, the Samaritan woman was portrayed as damaged and impure. I never questioned why, until now. Thanks for sharing!