“This is My Story”
Hebrews 11:1-16 NRSV
The Meaning of Faith
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
The Faith of Abraham
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Stories Shape Us...
WE ARE PEOPLE OF A PARTICULAR STORY
“I can only answer the question, ‘What am I to do?’
if I can answer the prior question,
‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”
Philosopher and ethicist Alasdair MacIntyre
We find ourselves in a unique “life story” (worldview, metanarrative, paradigm).
• Everyone has a life story.
• Our life story answers several key questions:
Who am I?
What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a person?
Where am I?
What does it mean to live at this place in this time? What is this
place that I find myself in? What does it mean to be a citizen of my country? What
does it mean to be a twenty-first-century human? What does it mean to live in this
What’s the problem?
Is there a solution, and what is it? What should we do to try to
fix the problem?
What time is it?
What does it mean to be part of this era? Where do we find
ourselves in the midst of the story that narrates our lives?
• Life stories are usually shared; communities of people tend to have very similar stories.
• Our life stories compete for allegiance
- Hebrew story vs. Babylonian story
- Christian story vs. Roman story
- story of the Lamb vs. story of the beast
Hebrew 11:3—“By faith we understand . . .” (CEB).
Our faith story isn’t the metanarrative of the Roman citizens.
How do we think about this story in contrast to the stories that surrounded the people who told them?
• Story of Babylonian creation vs. story of Hebrew creation (Gen. 1)
• Tower of Babel (Gen. 11)
Domination, Revolution, Victimization and Retaliation
Withdrawal, Fear, Protection, Security
Appetite, Desire, Health, Wealth
Competing stories are forms of idolatry:
The success story:
We should accumulate as much money, status, and power as we can
because this proves our worth (baals, fertility gods, “two masters”).
The sensuality story:
We all have appetites for experiences and pleasures, and we can
pursue them without limit or consequence (serpent in the garden of Eden).
The humanist story:
We should all do our best and make progress because progress is
what will move us forward (myth of the Internet).
The fragmented story:
We mix a little bit of the success story, a little bit of the sensuality
story, and a little bit of the God story because in our culture, there isn’t a “story”
The damaged story:
We are erased from the story because we are worthless and
meaningless and unlovable.
Imagine we discovered a lost Shakespeare play,
but it had five acts and the fourth
one was missing.
-N. T. Wright
• Act 1: Creation and fall.
• Act 2: God redeems and calls the people of Israel.
• Act 3: Life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, advent of the Holy Spirit.
• Act 4: Immerse yourself in the story, and improvise!
• Act 5: Lion and lamb, new Jerusalem.
Paraphrase of Hebrews 11:39–12:2: “But all these died, convinced that there was a story that
was more true than any other story in the world. They died looking forward to act 5, but that
story is not complete without us. So now, since we’re surrounded by all of these folks who
live the story so well, let us get rid of all the ways those other stories shape us. Take those off,
and look to Jesus, the One who’s writing this story. He’s the main character. It’s his story, the
Author and Perfecter of our faith, who, for the glory of the story, took on the cross, despite its
shame, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, urging us on to be faithful to the story.”
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God,
the Father Almighty,
From there He will come to judge
the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
May Peace Become You
by Kelly Ann Hall
In the cross-fire,
In the cross-contamination,
At the cross-roads that call you forward but give you no sign,
May peace become you.
In the seemingly impossible
In the human tragedy
In the unworkable situation of division and strife,
May peace become you.
May peace become you, Beloved,
and courage carry you
when you cannot see your way forward
But, nevertheless, take one more step in the direction of love.
Questions to Consider:
- What stories have shaped who your are (positively or negatively)?
- What stories have you had to reevaluate over the years?
- Has "new light" shed on your story ever made you feel like you were in exile?
- What part of the Christian story most appeals to you?
- How are you actively living the story that Jesus invites you into?