Disclaimer - in this post i call the author of the book of Hebrews with a feminine personal pronoun because nobody has a clue who wrote the book and it could very well have been Priscilla. i also just want to mess with your heads.
do you have heroes? i do. first of all, i LOVE the tv show Heroes but that's not what this is about. this is about Hebrews 11 and 12.
the writer of the book of Hebrews (whoever she was) spends all of Chapter 11 talking about saints gone by who shone as bright lights of faith for those of us still around. she writes that Abel was commended as a righteous man, Enoch was taken up by God, Noah became an heir of faith, Abraham obeyed and made himself and his sons heirs of that same faith, Isaac blessed Esau and Jacob by faith, Jacob blessed his sons, Moses' parents hid him because he was no ordinary child and by faith Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter. by faith walls fell and Rahab welcomed spies ... and what more can be said? she (the writer of Hebrews) hadn't even gotten into Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets who ...
"33 through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched 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. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground."
it's at this point that i get a bit stoked. we come upon a curious phrase in Hebrews 12:1.
"therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses"
contextually she's talking about the heroes of chapter 11 and she's talking about how they surround us like a cloud. she may only be talking about how their example of faith surrounds us to show us how it's done but i prefer to think of it in a more blessed Saint approach. i picture warriors of faith who surround us, who see us and cheer us on in the race. they yell that they're at the finish line and they can see us nearing the end of the race.
that to me is cool. very cool.
my grandfather lived in a very simple and conservative religious tradition. their community didn't believe in much of anything that was outside their tradition in fact. they didn't even have a musical instrument in their worship space (and still don't) because the most holy part of worship would be accapella voices lifted in song.
i get that. i respect that.
and yet, my grandfather did some pretty amazing things in light of that tradition. you see, his eldest son (my father) became a music teacher for his entire career. he played numerous musical instruments and taught lessons to people over the course of his entire career. imagine the grief my grandfather got on the day that he brought an old pump organ into his home so that his eldest son could play and sing in the familial home. imagine the grief, because there was a LOT of it.
this wasn't in their tradition. this was wrong. dare i say it but wasn't this sinful?
my grandfather is one of my heroes of faith. he taught his son that it's ok to dream and in turn his son taught his grandson to dream in his own right. i once heard that he was worried about my theology since i chose a Bible College that leaned in a different direction than one that leaned toward his theology. he never mentioned it to me though. he was always supportive. he cheered.
he's been gone for about a decade now, and he's still cheering. he's a good man. a man of faith. a man who takes chances. a man who dreams. i can still hear him.
that is a hero.