Linked Activity – Cloud of Witnesses
This is a fun way to think about the great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on in our race.
You will need:
- Glue sticks
- (optional) Pictures of famous heroes of the faith, past and present
What to Do:
You will need a list of heroes of the faith, preferably with small (3cm) pictures of them.
As well as the list in Hebrews 11, here are some suggestions:
Bear Grylls, Billy Graham, Blaise Pascal, C. S. Lewis, Cliff Richard, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Liddell, Fred Rodgers, Galileo Galilei, Georges Lemaître, Hildegard of Bingen, Isaac Newton, J. S. Bach, John and Charles Wesley, Justin Welby, King David, Lewis Carroll, M. C. Hammer, Martha, Martin Luther King, Michael Curry, Michael Faraday, Mother Theresa, Naaman’s servant girl, Nick Jonas, Novak Djokovic, Perpetua, Peter, Pope Francis, Richard Rohr, Ruth, Saint Francis of Assisi, Stormzy, William Booth.
Older children and adults can research their favourite Bible characters, saints or other Christians, and find pictures for themselves (several copies if possible). For younger children, you can offer suggestions with a couple of sentences about each. You can have people of faith you know and admire as well – they do not have to be famous (or dead!)
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Remember that these heroes of the faith are not perfect or made from different stuff from the rest of we poor mortals. They are all real people with flaws and difficulties, same as us. Paul told us about some of his struggles in 2 Corinthians 12.
Cut ten circles of paper, about 3cm across (you can draw round a 2p coin). Choose your ten favourite heroes of faith and either glue or draw a picture of each hero on each circle. You can write their names on as well if you like. (Useful, because my stick-man Mother Theresa looks worryingly similar to my stick-man Bear Grylls!)
When you have all ten pictures, glue one to the tip of each finger. (Hint – glue them to your dominant hand first.) Then hold your hands facing each other in front of your face and look down the lines of people cheering you on in your race. Wiggle your fingers to make them jump and clap as you run through the cloud of witnesses towards your goal. (Cue music: Chariots of Fire)
If you have a group, form two lines opposite each other and have people hold up their hands at face height, facing in. One person from the group can do a slow-mo run between the lines, being cheered on by the rest of the group and the cloud of witnesses. When they get to the end, they can join one of the lines and another person from the start of a line can do the run. Continue until everyone has been cheered on.
There’s a verse in here that was important to me when I was diagnosed with cancer last year. (It’s OK, I have no intention of dying anytime soon.) “Let us throw off everything that hinders”. Why that verse? Because the ‘thing that hinders’ is ονκος (onkos), a burden, a weight, a lump – and the medical word for a tumour.
Now cancer is not something that is easily thrown off. Even when (hopefully) eradicated there are scars left behind and the ever-present threat of resurgence. But it’s also something that is common to humanity and when you’re going through the treatment there are crowds of folks around you, helping, supporting and wishing you well. I remember waiting for radiotherapy and some random person brought me tea and biscuits. How nice. And boy, did friends give me a lot of chocolate!
It’s quite a good metaphor for the Christian life, when I come to think about it.
We all of us stumble in the race. We all have the burdens, the weights, the lumps that slow us down and trip us up. Paul called his a ‘a thorn in the flesh’; John Bunyan likened it to a heavy backpack.
But we’re not alone.
God gives us crowds of people cheering us on, encouraging us to keep going. Those who have run the race before us, who have faced the doubts, struggled with not being how they should be, who know the grinding weight of failure and the relief of forgiveness. Real people with real lives and real problems, who know what we’re going through because they’ve been there, done that, and they’re wearing the same t-shirt as me.
These are not plaster saints with perfect lives. They are chipped and broken, with parts missing and some bits glued back on wonky. Ordinary, flawed, failing humans – loved, forgiven, accepted humans. Just like us.
These are the people applauding us. This is the great cloud of witnesses. Give them a wave as you jog by.
Hebrews 11:29-12:2 New International Version
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
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. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.