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Friday, February 25, 2022

Lancaster County sunrise 2/24/22
Yesterday's sunrise in Lancaster County.
Quite a contrast to the icy morning we awakened to this morning.
Click on photo to enlarge

"A Lesson From Eutychus"

Message summary: A lesson for those who get sleepy in church.
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“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9).

A Sunday School teacher asked her young children, "Why is it important to be quiet in church?” Upon contemplating the question, one little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping.”

Church services and sermons have gotten shorter during our lifetime and far shorter than some of the recorded sermons in the Bible and church history. For example many consider the book of Deuteronomy to be a single sermon! Or consider Ezra’s message in Nehemiah 6. He read “from early morning until midday” and the people were “attentive” (v.3). I believe I speak for preachers everywhere of the blessing they receive when they are preaching to attentive people!

Depending on where we live we're accustomed to various lengths of services in our churches. When we pastored in St. Marys, PA many of our Catholic friends attended the mass that was well known as being the quickest mass. Presently here in the USA church services are generally 60-90 minutes long but we know this varies in our country and in others as well.

These days it seems most people don’t want the preaching to be more than half an hour in much of the western church and the pastor sure better have some bells and whistles to keep the people’s attention; like PowerPoint, props and video supplements. But people still fall asleep in church!

Pilgrims of the 1600’s would sit on backless log benches for the hour long opening prayer, followed by a two hour sermon each Sunday. If a parishioner fell asleep he was quickly awakened by a large bone fastened to a string lowered to the head of the offender by an assigned deacon who kept watch in the back of the congregation. Perhaps we should reinstate this practice by assigning ushers to this exercise!

We have been invited to attend an Amish church service on March 6. The service lasts three hours and is in German. Years ago we attended one and appreciated the cultural experience but since we don't know German could not understand the sermon or the music that was sung. We found ourselves observing attendees more than we should but when you can't understand the language you tend to look around rather than fall asleep.

What I did observe is the tendency for attendees to get sleepy is not limited to English churches (the Amish refer to the non-Amish as English). We saw the bobbing of the heads of a few adults fighting sleep (more men than women), and we also observed a number of young boys (perhaps an entire row) who contorted their bodies in a somewhat twisted fashion to comfortably rest their heads in their laps as they fell into a sound sleep.

Sleeping in church

Brooksyne has a rather humorous church story regarding her father, a hard-working farmer/ truck-driver who was prone to falling asleep in a church service. Brooksyne shares:

Daddy would fall asleep in most any setting if he wasn’t in conversation or physically laboring. As we grew older my siblings and I would sit a few rows in front of my parents, but we’d know when Daddy fell asleep. There’d be a deep, masculine snore and then it would suddenly stop. Mom kept Dad’s snoring under control by kicking her foot against his ankle. He’d wake up momentarily but fall back to sleep in a short time.

One Sunday evening Daddy fell asleep in the front pew of the little country church we attended. Even in the “resting of his eyes” he could often follow the order of the service. But this particular evening in his sleepy stupor he mistakenly thought the pastor said, “Brother Sherrell (Sherrell was my maiden name), would you close our service in prayer?” He suddenly awoke, stood up and began to pray out a dismissal prayer...…..only to be informed by the pastor that he was still in the middle of his sermon! Imagine how mortified my family was at his mistake!

Acts 20 has an interesting “sleeping in church” story. The apostle Paul was traveling and stopped by Troas, where he stayed for seven days. On the last day he was with them they gathered to break bread and Paul spoke to the people. He kept talking till midnight in an upstairs room with many lamps when a most unusual event took place.

Eutychus on window ledge“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on.”
  I can imagine that lengthy service as I’ve sat through a few of those, myself, and I’m pretty tired by midnight. Lamps of their time surely would not have provided the type of light conducive to wakefulness. Rather than Eutychus sitting near a lamp he sat in an upstairs window that darkened by the hour; definitely a recipe for disaster as "Paul talked on and on". Luke would have been the chronicler of this service. I wonder how Paul felt when he read this description!

Eutychus“When he (Eutychus) was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” Now I’ve experienced some interesting disruptions in church services. I recall, as a boy, someone dropping the offering plate off the balcony with a loud clanging of change spilling out in all directions on the tile floor (thankfully it didn’t hit anybody below.)  Or when a child was playing with a speaking toy and the entire congregation got to hear the space ranger, Buzz Lightyear, call out to Sheriff Woody of Toy Story fame, “To infinity and beyond.”

A common disruption in churches today are cell phones that don’t get turned off.  It’s one thing for parishioners to forget to turn off the ringer; quite another annoyance when they have one of those blasting quirky ring tones and even worse when they feel obligated to take the call right in their pew, which has actually happened when I was preaching!

But Eutychus’ story really takes the cake! If the internet were available in the New Testament period this would have gone viral, been a top news story, hitting every public and cable network and major newspaper. Reporters would have been on the scene with their interpretation of the situation. It would likely lead politicians to introduce legislation to limit the length of a sermon. See below for a link to the entire Scripture text and “the rest of the story!”

Only God knows the full meaning of the story, but clearly this is an account of human weakness and divine intervention. The next time you get sleepy in church perhaps Eutychus’ story will come to mind and it just might prompt you to sit a little taller and lean forward as you listen more intently to what God has to say through His appointed messenger. Discipline yourself and pray that you pay special attention, even if the preacher does seem to be talking "on and on". I am pretty sure Paul was not just rambling (of writing or speech - lengthy and confused or inconsequential). But one practical lesson we will end with: Don’t sit on the window ledge in church, especially if you’re sleepy and particularly if it's in an upstairs building!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for Godly messengers who faithfully feed Your children by diligently teaching the whole counsel of Your Holy Word. Some attend church with an intense spiritual hunger, while others may come out of a sense of duty and still some to be seen by others. Give us a hungry heart that yearns for more of You so that our lives are set apart to honor and glorify Jesus Christ in all that we do. May we be attentive to Your life-transforming truths as You impart them to our hearts in our personal devotions and through Your anointed messengers. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Asleep In The Light"  Video  Keith Green

Here's the full context of today's message “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (Acts 20:7-12).

Prayer for Ukraine: We are praying for the turmoil in our world as we again are reminded of the truth of Christ's statement, "you will hear of wars and rumors of wars" (Matthew 24:6). Join us in praying for the Eurasia region as we pray for peace in Ukraine. Let us pray for the church, for the believers, and all the citizens of Ukraine during this crucial time.

Lancaster County traffic 2/24/22
Back roads in Lancaster County!
Click on photo to enlarge

Shady Maple breakfast 2/24/22
Yesterday we had breakfast with our friends Jesse and Anna Ruth, along with their youngest child, Stephen, at the famous Shady Maple.

Finally today:

Ice storm
We awoke this morning to freezing rain with thick ice on our windshields and the ice weighing down our oak tree, which is very slow to drop its leaves. We were delayed several hours from getting out but the temps are rising and the ice will soon melt off.

Icy leaves
I examined the oak tree and one of the limbs snapped due to the weight of the ice but overall we appear to have very little damage.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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