Rev. Dr. Kelvin Calloway (Courtesy photo)

Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:1-11

The phrase stay woke has been present in African American Vernacular English (Ebonics) since the 1930s. It is referred to as an awareness of social and political issues affecting African Americans. The phrase was uttered in recordings from the mid-century by my wife’s great uncle, folk singer Huddie Leadbetter (Lead Belly).

He used the phrase as part of a spoken afterword to his 1938 recording of his song “Scottsboro Boys,” which tells the story of nine teenagers falsely accused, convicted and jailed of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931.

Erykah Badu admonished her post millennial generation to “stay woke” of the human and racial injustices inhibiting a beautiful world.

The term woke gained further popularity in the 2010s. It has become increasingly connected to matters beyond race such as gender and other marginalized identities. It has come to encompass a broader awareness of social inequities such; as police militarization and the killing of Black and Brown people, sexism, voting disenfranchisement, women reproductive rights, and LBGTQ rights.

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The “Stop Woke Act” in Florida has been an effort led by the governor, Ron DeSantis to prohibit educational institutions and businesses from teaching students, and employees anything that would cause anyone to “feel guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress due to their race, color, sex, or national origin.”

To exacerbate matters even further, last week he said that slavery benefited slaves by providing them skills they would not otherwise have had. Sisters and brothers, as descendants of slaves, we know firsthand that there were no benefits to slaves from slavery.

Historians consider North American Chattel Slavery the worst institution in the history of human civilization. The justification and ramifications of North American Chattel Slavery still linger in America today. The justification to bring Africans to America as free labor to bolster the agrarian economy of the South is what the German theologian, Paul Tillich, refers to as “thingafication.”

When you “thingify” a person, that person cease to be a person, and therefore does not have to be treated like a person. That person becomes an object and no longer has to be treated like a “neighbor” worthy of the same love as yourself.

Thingafication denies the image of God in a person and debases the redemptive value (soul) of a person; thus the debate in mainline Protestantism over whether or not slaves had souls. Thingafication as Dr. Martin Luther King would say disrespects the dignity and worth of human personality.

If there was no image of God in Africans, and they were not human worthy of neighborly love, and had no souls, then they could be brutalized, and terrorized, and maimed, and mutilated, and raped because they were property and not people.

If there was an image of God in Africans and their descendants, and they were humans worthy of neighborly love, and they had souls with redemptive value and were brutalized, and terrorized, and maimed, and mutilated, and raped that could cause guilt, anguish, and forms of psychological distress due to their race and privilege for generations following.

Stay Woke, Scottsboro, Scottsboro, Scottsboro Boys. Stay Woke, Dread Scott, Dred Scott, Dred Scott Decision. Stay Woke, George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Stay Woke; John Lewis, John Lewis, John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Stay Woke: Thomas Dobbs, Thomas Dobbs, Thomas E. Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Stay Woke; Stonewall, Stonewall, Stonewall Riots for LBGTQ Rights. We must stay woke if we are to find the beautiful world that we are looking for.

That’s what Paul tells those at Thessalonica who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in his first letter to them, they must stay woke. Be on your guard he tells them in Verse 6 and not asleep (V.6). The beautiful world they were trying to find with the hope of resurrection was the day of the Lord’s return.

The day of the Lord’s return Paul tells them, will come like a thief in the night. It will come when nobody expects it to come. It will come when everything is peaceful and secure (VV.1-3). But disaster will suddenly fall as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin and there will be no escape (V.3b). If they stay woke, Paul tells them they won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes because they are children of light and of the day and they don’t belong to darkness (VV.4-5).

Paul tells them to stay woke; and be on their guard (V.6). He tells them to stay woke; and not asleep like others (V.6b). Stay woke; and be alert (V.6c). Stay woke; and be clearheaded (V.6d). Stay woke; by putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation (V.8).

Stay woke; because the Lord has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us whether we are woke or not, that we should live together in that beautiful world with him (VV.9-10).

Stay woke; and tell everybody about Him. Stay woke; and comfort one another with these words. Stay woke; and edify one another with these words. Stay woke; and build up each other with these words (V.11).

The chronicler in 2 Chronicles 20:15 said it like this; the battle is not yours it is the Lord’s. Yolanda Adams says it like this:

There is no pain, Jesus can’t feel, There is no hurt, that He can’t heal. For all things work according to the Master’s plan and His holy will. No matter what you are going through. Remember that God only want to use you. For the battle is not yours it’s the Lord.

Let’s stay woke today and let Him use us to usher in the beautiful world that we are trying to find that His kingdom my come, on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus Name. Amen!