You know, Paul wrote a loooooooong letter to the Romans. I imagine Tertius, who took Paul’s dictation, dealt with some pretty crazy hand cramps after all was said and done. There’s plenty of good stuff in Romans, and at the end Paul puts a nice little cherry on top of the sundae. In chapter 16, after Paul says about all he needs to say, he jumps into a series of shout outs to the leading lights in the church at Rome:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.
2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.
Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my relative.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.
16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
This is Paul’s Academy Award acceptance speech, the credits in his album liner notes, the acknowledgments page in his new bestseller. It’s his chance to let the others who are struggling alongside him in the early church to shine. And what’s the point of it? Why do we have to read through a list of names like Epenetus, Phlegon, and Tryphena and Tryphosa (I imagine these last two were twins)?
I think Paul makes a big deal out of these friends among the believers in Rome — as well as the brave men serving with him — to show that we’re not alone. As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re surrounded by what the writer of Hebrews called “a great cloud of witnesses,” including people far away from us, whom we’ve never met. It’s staggering to think that we’re part of something that’s worldwide and has lasted for thousands of years. I also love the idea that Paul is giving credit where credit is due. These men and women were contending bravely for their faith, and Paul shines a spotlight on them.
We all have people in our lives that we should publicly acknowledge for the work they do in the Kingdom. Who’s on your Romans 16 list? Who should you give a shout out to for their faith and hard work? My challenge to you today is to think about those people and find some way to thank them and acknowledge what they do. But I’d skip the whole “holy kiss” thing…there are too many bugs going around.