Fellow Passengers: Today’s Pastoral Passage* (Ephesians 5:11-14) transports me to early morning on school days there at the corner of School Road and Wentworth, when my folks usually had a difficult time waking me up to go to school. The standard call of time to wake up! always generated a standard response: five more minutes! I’m not sure how many of these five more minutes replies it took before I actually got up and hit the shower and made it to the breakfast table for my bowl of Froot Loops. My dad had a good sense of humor, though, because he would on occasion irritate my five-minute sleep pattern by flipping the light on and crank up on of his favorite eight-tracks while I was trying to get that last snooze in, belting along in his bass voice a favorite old Inspirations quartet gospel song: What a glad thought some wonderful morning, I shall hear Gabriel’s trumpet sound when I wake up, to sleep no more. Rising to meet my blessed Redeemer, with a glad shout I’ll leave the ground, when I wake up to sleep no more. Maybe it was my dad’s sense of humor that inspired me to wake Kim up early on our anniversary (and her birthday) a few years ago, by taking my laptop into the bedroom and loudly playing the DVD I had bought for her, one of our favorite tv shows from our first year of marriage – see if you can name the show with this theme song – Get outta bed, there’ll be no more nappin’! (Wake up!) ‘Cause you’ve landed in a place where anything can happen – Now we’ve given you fair warnin’! It’s gonna be that kind of mornin’ – For bein’ wacky! For getting nutty! Golly, it’s cuckoo!
Paul wrote about a land where God’s sense of humor causes him to flip on a Light that shines in dark corners and boom a wake-up call powerful enough to wake the dead. It’s interesting that Paul quotes the great gettin’ up morning wake-up resurrection text in the context of a call to live a transparently ethical life. There are apparently no secret or hidden passages to the eternal playhouse; they are all fully exposed to the light of day. It seems like a non sequitor, though, the way he goes from talking about the importance of walking the lighted way, to saying, Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead. Hmmm. Maybe he’s saying that the dark corners of the world – what he has described in terms of bitterness, malice, slander, greed, promiscuity, idolatry, obscenity – are hypnotic; they are like a pocketwatch being waved in front of our spirits, with a soothing voice repeating the mantra, you are getting sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, you are asleep! Or maybe they are like that voice that responds to the gospel call with a moan of five more minutes. The light of Christ beckons us out of this five minute hypnotic trance; it awakens us to a life of forgiveness and compassion that will reflect that light of the world.
Maybe Paul is telling us that this hopeful (even if sometimes irritating at six in the morning) song of the Inspirations doesn’t have to apply only to the end time rapture – it could be an everyday experience of living our lives fully in the Light of day. It’s what the poet Wendell Berry meant when he said practice resurrection. Every day of our lives can be a practice for the rapture, a practice of being called from the dark, dead trances of this world into a life animated by the Spirit of Light. If I can get it on my ITunes, maybe I’ll have a new wake-up song for tomorrow. . . glory to God I’ll have a new body, changed in the twinkling of an eye, when I wake up, to sleep no more. Maybe I could even imagine that song sung with a crazy rhythm coming from Puppetland, courtesy of Dirty Dog, Cool Cat, and Chicky Baby. Now that would be some gospel harmony.
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Waking and Sleeping.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith