NACFLA, the North American Christian Foreign Language Association, is an organization of Christian world language educators. NACFLA seeks to provide a forum for the promotion of Christian reflection and practice in the field of world language education, to strengthen the contribution of Christian scholarship in this field to the larger academic world, and to provide Christian world language educators a community and network for support and encouragement.
The annual conference of NACFLA was held at Abilene Christian University, April 7-9, 2011 on the theme of “Narratives That Shape Us.” I spoke at the morning devotional on Saturday.
Unnamed Heroes: Hebrews 11:32-40
Thank you for the invitation to speak. I represent one of those students that keep you up at night. Over the years, I’ve learned four languages, namely, German, Greek, Hebrew, and American Sign Language. Yet, I’m barely functional in my native tongue that I regularly butcher by the irregularities of pronunciation and grammatical constructions I learned as a child. Due to neglect, I have lost proficiency in the others.
The loss of language is why Cornell West argues for America to be bilingual. He describes the language that you speak in your dreams as your heart language. When a grandfather dreams in a different language than the grandchild, then a break down in community results. He sees this in the Latino community that has a close family system. But when grandchildren, while still bilingual, lose the ability to dream in Spanish, the family unit begins to disengage.
The phenomenon of community break down also happens when people do not share a common set of stories. Michael Gallagher writes in Clashing Symbols (pg. 159) that J.R.R. Tolkien’s [wrote] his famous Lord of the Rings [because] we had neglected the springs of wonder in our pursuit of surface living, and therefore he saw his writing of fantasy as a way to refresh our imagination and to put it in contact again with larger hopes. In his own words, a fairy story can let us experience ‘a sudden and miraculous grace’, that ‘lets a gleam come through’ and so ‘we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater’. The very success of his work, as fiction and now as film, shows that it meets a real hunger in people. … He wanted to awaken the adventure of redemption in human imagination for a culture where that language of desire seemed faded or forgotten. In other words, his creative writings sought to make spiritual journeys real again for people.
- Epic stories like King Arthur also function this way as demonstrated by at least two current cable television series.
Heb 11 recounts great stories of faith that shape us.
- These are the stories we remember. They are stories that have shaped us from our earliest memories of VBS and bedtime rituals. Stories about Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. These stories have inspired epic movies like the Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Others faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. Others were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. Others went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all of these were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
- Amazing stories about the adventures of being a follower of God for example, “women received their dead by resurrection.” Theses are grand stories everyone.
- As Heb 11 skips the stone, the writer does not retell any of the stories at length. The writer simply alludes to the stories. These stories are vital, vibrant, and vivid in the imaginations of the hearers because these stories have shaped their lives.
- God’s story that intertwines with God’s people in Scripture function to shape our lives. When we adopt those stories as our stories, our futures are reshaped.
VV. 35b-38 Others… These “others” are unnamed; yet heroes. Most folks in the OT are unnamed. And most Christians go through life unnamed. And they would not be listed in 1st Hebrews 11 with the heroes but in 2nd Hebrews 11 with the unnamed.
Conclusion: VV. 39-40 “Yet all of these were commended for their faith whether in 1st Hebrews 11 and the named heroes of faith or in 2nd Hebrews 11 with the unnamed masses. And their stories shape our own stories as our lives unfold before us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, AMEN
For readers of the blog: Assignment
- Remember unnamed folks in your faith walk.
- Remember an unnamed act in your past.
- Imagine an unnamed act in your future.