Great Cloud of Witnesses

landscape shot of white cross during daytime
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
“Our churches teach that the remembrance of the saints is to be commended in order that we may imitate their faith and good works according to our calling.”   Augsburg Confession Art. 21
While many Christian churches, including Lutheran churches, have such names as St. John, St. Luke, St. Paul, etc., it is not especially common for Lutherans to talk much about or consider the lives of the saints. Yet as the reformers of Luther’s day recognized, there is much we can learn from the saints in how they lived their lives. Many of them lived in cultures that were very hostile to the Christian message, not unlike our own.
In the opening pages of the Lutheran Service Book (the new hymnal) you can find a list of commemorations that include many saints. These men and women often gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel and now are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” described by the writer to the Hebrews.
Later this week is the commemoration of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos. If you’ve read the book of Acts, the names are probably familiar to you. Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, worked with the apostle Paul in Corinth after fleeing persecution in Rome. Like Paul, they worked as tentmakers in the city. They became so committed to the faith that their lives were changed and they joined Paul on his missionary journey to Ephesus where they established a home that was welcoming to new Christians in the area and travelers through the region.
Apollos was also a student of the faith who served with Paul. He traveled to Corinth bearing witness to Christ. An eloquent man, filled with the Spirit, some have even speculated that perhaps Apollos might be the unnamed writer of the book of Hebrews. Whether he is or is not, his love for the Lord remains a shining example for us today.
Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos, as well as the apostle Paul, were all sinners in need of a Savior, just like us. By God’s grace, they were called out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel, just like us. May God grant us the boldness to share our faith with others, just like them.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the men and women who have gone before us in faith and have shown us what it is to fully dedicate our lives to you. Deepen our faith, increase our trust, and embolden us to give witness to your saving grace for the sake of Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.

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