Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to higher authorities,” writes Paul.
Then he appears to write about folks like Pontius Pilate, King Herod, Emperor Nero, and the Antichrist… and yet they might not be the only “authorities,” to whom Paul is referring.
Romans 13:11, Paul suddenly writes, “For us, the hour is now, to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than we first believed. The night is gone; the day is at hand.”
Paul talks as if we’re not saved and won’t be saved until we wake up, which means that we’re asleep.
I’ve wondered if we’ve been asleep ever since Adam couldn’t find his helper, and so God put Adam into a “deep sleep.”
Scripture indicates that we (Jerusalem) won’t wake until, in the garden on Calvary and in the garden of our own heart, we witness the resurrection of Jesus, our Helper made fit for us in space and time.
We’re asleep, and yet we’re conscious, which means we’re dreaming.
Both Scripture and modern physics indicate that reality, including our experience of spacetime, is basically a dream.
When “I” dream, I imagine another “me,” so I’ve often woken from a dream that turned into a nightmare and thought, “Oh thank you, God! That wasn’t me; it was a false me!”
What if you woke right now, (we almost always think we’re awake when we’re dreaming)?
You might think, “Oh thank you, God! That wasn’t me, it was a false me! And now I’m the true me and you’re the true you!”
When “I” dream, I imagine another “me,” another “you,” another “Christ,” an antichrist, an imitation Christ whom I think is me—the sole authority; when “I” dream, I think I am a “self-made man.”
And that would explain a lot, including Romans.
Paul wrote, “From him and through him and to him are all things.” So, when I think I’m not from him, through him, and to him, I must be dreaming.
Paul wrote, “I am sure that… nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” So, when I believe that I have separated me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, I must be dreaming—a false me, false God, and false reality.
If only someone would speak a Word into my dreams to save me from myself!
My consciousness can exist in a reality where I have absolute control, where I am the sole authority… and yet in that reality, I am utterly alone. We call that “dreaming.”
And my consciousness can exist in a reality where I must surrender control to other authorities. We call that “waking up.”
“Dream, dream, dream . . . I can make you mine, taste your lips of wine, anytime night or day. The only trouble is—Gee Whiz—I’m dreaming my life away . . .”
We’re not so good at dreaming.
And it turns out that those who are most able to “make their dreams come true,” are often most likely to be miserable, lonely as hell, and most likely to go insane—people like Nebuchadnezzar, Pilate, Herod, Caligula, and Emperor Nero. You know: “The highest authorities.”
Last week we saw how the highest of all authority conquered all the authorities by subjecting himself to all the authorities. He didn’t do whatever they said to do, but he subjected himself to all their decisions and so changed all of their decisions. Do you remember how it happened? On a tree in a garden, he cried, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” And delivered up his Spirit.
When the Roman Centurion—the presence of Roman authority—saw this, he dropped to his knees and began to worship; he woke up.
And when Rabbi Saul—the presence of Jewish authority—saw this and the resurrected body of Christ his entire reality became worship; he woke up.
And when you—the highest authority in your dreams—see this, the body of Christ and Christ in all the members of his body, you will wake up, never cease to worship, and never feel lonely again.
In 1958, the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, had a vision in the shopping district at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville Kentucky. He writes, “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people… It was like waking from a dream of separateness… At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion… This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us… It is in everybody, and if only we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…”
In Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, Thomas Merton “put on Christ.”
To use John’s words, he had an “apocalypse,” actually the Apocalypse—“The Revelation of Jesus.”
And it destroyed the antichrist; it obliterated his arrogant ego (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 2:8).
He began to love his neighbor as himself, for he knew that his neighbor actually was himself. . . and he was not his old self, but his eternal self—“no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” And he was in Christ; he put on Christ.
Human words fail us at this point, but apparently, we are asleep, and “We still dream what Adam dreamt” (Victor Hugo).
So How do we wake up? You can’t wake yourself up with more dreaming.
Jesus is the Word that the father whispers in our ears; he is the seed of reality that has descended into every nightmare. In communion with that word, we can begin to choose to wake, by looking for that word in our neighbors—the authorities.
Neros, Pilates, Herods, beasts, harlots, and antichrists—the authorities who crucified the Messiah—are all around you. Subject yourself to them, be vulnerable to them, love them. . . and there you will witness our Lord rising from his tomb.
I have a picture of two people holding hands and jumping from the World Trade Center on 9-11.
The Apocalypse is not that planes would fly into the World Trade Center.
The Apocalypse is that these two people would choose to hold hands.
When you take communion, you must “discern the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29).
You are to see people and see what is placed within them.
Then look them in the eye and take them by the hand.
When you do, you invite the Apocalypse; You begin to wake up.
You are not your own dream; you are God’s dream.
And it turns out that God is a much better dreamer than you.