Hymn #551 – Awake, O Sleeper, Rise from Death
On Sunday, January 24, we will be learning how Christians love one another across economic divides. Certainly, social and economic class is one of the most visible ways we differ from others. In our everyday lives, we often associate in homogeneous groups of people much like us. It can be jarring to interact with people from different life circumstances. In Matthew 25:31-40, however, Jesus teaches us that the differences we see between people in different economic stations is no excuse for how we treat them. As believers, we are called to give charitably to those in need, as if we were offering the service to Christ himself.
As with all the other divides we have discussed in this sermon series, the true cause of economic division is sin, and the only true solution is unity in Christ. In the Gospels, we hear about Jesus’ encounters with both rich and poor people. It’s often said that Jesus welcomed the poor and was at odds with the upper crest of society. But, it’s important to remember that both rich and poor people sin. And, both rich and poor people were received by Jesus.
(As an aside, I am currently listening to an interesting evangelical take on Jesus’ economic views, The Maker versus The Takers by Jerry Bowyer. It gives some great insights into commonly misunderstood economic conditions in Galilee and Judea, if you are interested in this topic.)
At Messiah, and at all Christian churches, we can joyfully sing that despite our differences, we have unity in Christ! Our hymn for Sunday (another new one) #551 Awake, O Sleeper, Rise from Death, is a beautiful text about everything that brings believers together in community. When we are united under Christ, our earthly differences don’t matter. We are all forgiven and made new. And, we are all called to the same mission – to love God and serve our neighbor.
The author starts this hymn with a quotation from one of the most ancient Christian hymns, found in Ephesians 5:14. I’ve included verse 13 here for some context:
But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Then, the author uses other verses from Ephesians to “fill out” the rest of the hymn. In my video devotion (above), the Scripture passages are alongside the text so that you can compare the two. If you’d like to study it on your own, here are the Scripture passages that correspond to each verse:
Stanza 1 – Ephesians 3:18-19: Here, the “sleeper” is depicting someone dead in their sins. When we are forgiven and made new in Christ, our light, we will fully understand the scope of his love.
Stanza 3 – Ephesians 4:4-6: Here the author repeats the word “one” to emphasize all the way Christians are united: one body, one hope, one Spirit, one call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father of us all!
Stanza 4 – Ephesians 4:32: The primary way we show love is the way Christ showed it – forgiving our neighbor.
I hope we can use this great hymn from the Book of Ephesians to remind us where true unity is found. Christ has overcome all human divisions – racial, cultural, economic, and beyond. He brings us together in His body, the church. Thank you, Lord, for giving us “the Spirit’s unity – the very bond of peace”! (stanza 2).
Each week Dr. Katie Moss, Organist and Director of Handbells, provides us with a short devotion and closer look at a hymn we’ll sing at the Traditions Worship at 8:45 am.
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