Wake Up, Sleeper!

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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... It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Ephesians 5:11-14

I can't read Ephesians 5:14 without hearing echoes of my father standing at the foot of the stairs exhorting me to get out of bed. I don't think my dad ever quoted this verse, but he certainly might have done so. When I was a teenager, needing ample sleep I rarely got, waking me up in the morning was rather like raising the dead.

Ephesians 5:14 includes a quotation, but not from a father urging his son to get up. The introduction, "This is why it is said," can be used in the New Testament to introduce a quotation from the Old Testament (see 4:8; also James 4:6), but nothing exactly like this verse can be found in Scripture (though there are echoes of Num. 6:24-26; Isa. 9:2; 26:19; 60:1). Most scholars believe that the "Wake up, sleeper" quotation comes from an early Christian hymn, one that may well have been used in the context of baptism.

In Ephesians 5, this snippet from Christian worship serves two purposes. The first I'll examine today. I'll look at the second tomorrow.

As you may recall, verse 14 comes at the end of a passage that uses the imagery of light and darkness to exhort us to "live as children of light" by refraining from partnership with "the fruitless deeds of darkness." Instead, we are to expose them so that those who do them might be drawn to the light of Christ. In yesterday's reflection, we saw that the purpose of exposing dark deeds is not punitive, but redemptive. As the light shines upon the darkness, showing its true nature, those who traffic in darkness turn away from their evil deeds to the Lord and his light. They can become "light in the Lord" and "children of light," just like those of us who have already turned to God and been transformed by his light.

Our message to those who live in darkness resonates with the baptismal hymn: "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." This is the good news we share with those who live in darkness, those who, according to Ephesians 2:1, are "dead" in their "transgressions and sins," just as we once were. Through the light of our lives, we not only reveal the true nature of darkness, but also we invite its "sleepers" to rise from the dead and live in the light of Christ.

Thus, the hymn in verse 14 underscores the redemptive purpose of exposing the darkness. We are saying to others, in effect, what was once said to us: Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the deadness of sin and darkness. Turn to God and his grace, and Christ will shine on you. You too can become light in the Lord, light that shines into the darkness so that others might turn to the one true light, Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways, in word and in deed, do you invite others to live in the light of Christ? Do you see your life as an essential part of God's redemptive work in the world? How might this vision of life affect the way you work today? They way you treat your colleagues? The way you act in the world?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for waking me up from my slumber, for raising me from the deadness of sin. Thank you for shining on me with your light, transforming me so that I might be your child, a child of the light. Help me, Lord, to shine with your light into the world. May I be an agent of the good news of your redemptive love. May my words and deeds draw people to you. Use me, I pray, in your redemptive, renewing work. To you be all the glory! Amen.


Best Vacation Stories

While the stereotypical summer vacation usually involves a cabin or a beach, the vacations most of us take are much less nostalgic and far more varied than that. Or even if there is a beach or a cabin, it’s not the one we see in movies or read in books. Some of the best vacations, in fact, don’t involve packing or traveling at all; they happen in the backyard or on the front porch. At The High Calling, we’re telling some of our best vacation stories, the ones where things didn’t turn out as expected, where plans changed and so did we.

Featured image above by Vernon Swanepoel. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.