There’s a scene in the first Vacation movie (the original 1983 version with Chevy Chase, Beverly D’ Angelo, Randy Quaid, and John Candy) to which everybody with a drivers license can relate. The Griswolds are driving in the Family Truckster from Chicago to California to visit Wally World. They’re driving super late at night. It’s dark. Super quiet in the car. The moving shadows caused by the street lights and the glow from the dash board is about it. All you can hear is the Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue” on the car radio. The camera shows the kids in the back seat, sound asleep. Rusty: sound asleep. Audrey: sound asleep. Aunt Edna: sound asleep. Ellen in the passenger seat: sound asleep. The camera moves to the driver’s seat where we see Clark Griswold behind the wheel: sound asleep!
As God’s children and recipients of his eternal salvation, we have a divine purpose. We play a critical part in all of God’s new creation plans. We are his vital agents. But I think, sometimes, a lot of us are missing it. Some of us are dozing right through it. Sleeping. Maybe you’re in a full-on coma.
And we need a wake-up call.
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you!”
Paul says it’s time to wake up. Living at the level of the non-heavenly world around you, living like everybody else, is like being asleep. Or, worse, it’s like what sleep is the metaphor for: death. When our daily and hourly lives do not reflect the glory of God and his eternal purposes for his world, we’re sleepwalking. We’re just going through the motions. And we’re really missing out.
Paul says it’s time to wake up. Come alive to the real world, the world where Jesus is Lord, the world to which your baptism calls you, your new creation, the world you claim to belong to when you say Jesus is Lord and that, yes, God has raised him from the dead! What we all need from time to time is a friend, or even a stranger, somebody to remind us. We all need a sermon or a verse of Scripture, something to wake us up. You’ve been asleep long enough. We need to be told the sun is shining, it’s a wonderful day out there. Wake up and get involved in it!
If God really is fixing everything that’s broken, if he really is repairing everything and making everything new, then our purpose as his children is to live like it. To really live like it. To join him, even, in repairing and restoring and renewing. That’s the goal. That’s what God is doing.
So many of us, though, see the Church as the goal instead of as the means to the goal. So many of us, when we talk about fixing and repairing and restoring and renewing, we’re talking about fixing and repairing and restoring and renewing the Church. As if that’s the mission. We get so wrapped up in what happens inside our church walls, we spend so much of our time and energy and money and passion on what happens in the church, we don’t have any time or energy or money or passion for what God is doing out in the world!
Now, hear me clearly: God’s Church is important. It’s vital. Christ died for his Church. The Church of God is paramount to the mission of God — as a means to that mission end, never as the end itself. The Church is not Wally World. The Church is the Family Truckster. The Church is the imperfect, beat-up, unbeautiful, sputtering, backfiring vehicle God uses to take his creation to its intended destination. And a lot of us are asleep at the wheel!
The Church is not a retreat from the world. It’s not a safe place to hide from the world. No! Shades of reason, neighbor! The Church is a vehicle into the world. But we’re not supposed to be asleep while God buckles us in and takes us to our destination. God saves us, he redeems us, and he brings us together as a church in order to work through us to save others. Our purpose as a church is to live and give and sacrifice and serve for the sake of others.
“Be very careful how you live — not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” ~Ephesians 4:15-16.