“The night is far gone,” Paul tells his Roman audience in the passage from his letter which we are contemplating today. “It is time to wake from sleep. The day is near.”
For two thousand years Christians have been reading Paul’s words. Generations of folk have come and gone. Nations have risen up and fallen. Political systems have decayed, and others have grown. The centers of power have shifted dramatically.
I wonder what Paul would have thought could he have looked two thousand years into the future to see us pondering strange translations of bits of his letter? He probably would have been completely astounded.
He would have been most astonished that there was a world at all. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When he was speaking of night being soon over and the day about to come, he wasn’t waxing metaphorical. He believed that the world would end.
After he would have gotten over his amazement that it had not ended, that there is this world 2,000 years in his future, he might have been awed by the world’s inventiveness – running water, electricity, automobiles and airplanes, and the internet. But I also think he would have been dumbfounded by the ways in which we have made no progress at all. What we fear, our struggles with ego, our love of power, our failure to take care of everyone in need, all these things are pretty much the same sorts of struggles that the people of his day faced.
I cast my imagination out into the future. What will things be like 2,000 years from now? This is a very unusual idea for me. LIke Paul, I have believed that the world is near its end. After all, we have the power to destroy it, through climate change or war, and it seems like we are getting perilously close to doing just that.
But it is God’s world, and God holds it, and us, very dear. How can I pretend to know what is in store for this planet of ours? Through pure grace disaster may be averted, and humanity may go on.
How will we grow and how will we remain the same, should this be the case? Looking into the future 2,000 years, will we have created untold inventions and yet failed to take care of the most important things: housing homeless people, caring for the suffering, caring for the poor? Will we develop spiritually at all?
With a shock, I realize that I have a part in the answer to that question. When I surrender, when I let go of what I want and listen for what God wants from me, I move the whole universe a little bit in the direction of connection and peace. We all do. Each of our tiny moments of love is a strand in the weaving of the change of consciousness that we need.
And so, whether the world ends or goes on, it is still true that the night is almost over. It’s time to wake up so that we can contribute to a new understanding, to the brand new day that is the reign of God.