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
May I say something about sermons? They don’t always end when the preacher quits talking. The best ones keep going for a while after. Some stick in your gizzard for a lifetime. (Or whatever body part you stick them in – since humans do not use their gizzards for human life functions, I find mine to be great for storage.)
May I say something about retiring pastors? Sometimes, pastors just hang up their spurs and walk away, but our pastor gave us 5-6 months warning. That gives the church a warning to set up things for the new pastor search, but it also gives him a 5-6 month sermon series, something that he may have planned for a long time. (His parting shots? Maybe.)
The sermon yesterday (upon posting) was on Eutychus, the young man who fell asleep about midnight and fell out a third-story window during the Apostle Paul’s long-winded sermon. Eutychus died. He was mourned, but then the Apostle Paul did something strange. He threw himself on the man, put his arms around him, and declared that Eutychus was not dead. Eutychus had been revived! (The first church revival?!) Paul got so excited that he went back upstairs and preached until dawn.
The pastor gave the sermon as a first-person sermon. He knows that I have difficulty with that method, so he warned me about it ahead of time. I buried myself in my notebook, taking a page full of notes on a fairly short sermon. Odd, a fairly short sermon that talked about the Apostle Paul preaching a very long sermon. Curious!
The pastor talked about Eutychus being the first church drop out, literally. Then he talked about reasons why people drop out: weariness, loss of perspective, people getting on your nerves, etc. But then he talked about how the power of God works through the people of God for revival.
The pastor ended with speaking about Spirit power and people power. With people power, he made it clear, at least to me, that the power was really God working through people. Too many people in churches think that they must earn their way into heaven, doing, doing, doing. Maybe that’s why they get weary and need revival or they drop out.
But what the pastor did, in first person, was to begin his sermon by moaning and groaning, having memory lapses about what had happened the night before, and where were these pains coming from? This could be a marvelous philosophical discussion. When you are healed by God, is it a complete healing? Eutychus was dead. When he came back to life, were there bruises to attest the ordeal? Were there dislocations of body parts? Were there broken bones? We think of healing as being healed to the point of no pain at all. The pastor did not portray it that way.
Some theologians contend that the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7) was cataracts or some form of imperfect eyesight. Ananias (the one in Acts 9, not the liar of Acts 5), with Spirit power (to stick to the sermon theme) cured Saul’s eyesight (before he was named Paul). Was God’s healing imperfect? Before that sends a shockwave through you, remember that Jesus healed a blind man in two stages in Mark 8:22-26. The blind man could only see people as if they were trees after the first stage. His vision cleared after the second attempt.
This moaning and groaning got my mind on a sidetrack. As I shook the pastor’s hand on the way out, I told him about a funny song, written by Pat Cooksey, and made famous by Sean Cannon of the Dubliners. I had performed The Sick Note a few times myself, for scouting meetings and industrial safety meetings. It seems that Sean Cannon has a German audience in the following video.
It just dawned on me that two of my favorite songs are known by alternate names. “The Sick Note” is often referred to as “Why Paddy’s not at work today.” I just mentioned Jesus healing a blind man, but many think the song is called “The Blind Man Song” when it is really titled, “He Saw It All.”
Yet, the idea that God leaves that little ache or pain should not be a foreign concept. We often need to be reminded that the people power that the pastor referred to is not possible without the Spirit power.
Could it be that Eutychus, ten years later is trying to use his own power to get something done for God and it doesn’t seem to work? Maybe Eutychus shoves a little harder and an old pain in his shoulder reminds him of a past injury. Eutychus stops. He looks skyward, and says, “Lord, thank you for bringing me back to life through Your power. Anything that I have done since then is a miracle, because I should not be here. Anything that I do, I only do it through Your power and Your power within me. And, Lord, let it be so that I always do it for You.”
But, while I was in a playful mood, the pastor glowed and asked a rhetorical question about revival. “Would it not be great to have an all-night revival?” I agreed.
Then, as the sermon, and his question, percolated during the next few hours, I realized that I had already been involved in one of those all-night revivals. I wrote about the aftermath in an old post, Brushes with Death. But what led to my falling asleep at the wheel of a car on my way home was a very wild weekend.
I was called by my Lay Witness Team leader during an early year of college (freshman or sophomore). He told me that we were going to have a revival meeting at a church camp close to the university where I attended. Since I was a student there, I ‘must’ attend the revival. I argued against it. The revival was going to be Friday through Sunday. I had a Physics exam on Saturday morning. It was going to be a very tough exam, since the course was rated as a graduate school level course. He told me that I had given a testimony once that included the fact that I slept before a test and never learned how to study, so telling him that I was studying wasn’t going to work. I thought, ‘Rats, people listen when you say something!’
Only one problem, that Friday night, we had a few testimonies at the camp meeting pavilion (roof with only one wall on a concrete slab). Some went to the creek for an impromptu baptism. A game of HORSE broke out at the basketball court afterwards, but I bowed out early to sleep. But, since I was a ‘leader’ at this event, everyone followed me to the boy’s bunk house. As I slipped into my sleeping bag on my cot, someone grabbed a guitar. The ‘revival’ went until dawn. We sang. We shared our faith with one another. And after breakfast, I went to the university to take one of the toughest exams that I had taken to that point – with no sleep at all the night before. (I passed. I think I got a “B” that semester.) I was back at the camp by noon.
You would think that when you have not slept for about 41 consecutive hours that you could sleep like a log the next night. No. The cot was not comfortable. I ached in places that I did not know that I had, and then the snoring started, about twenty grown men snoring – off key. I was toast. I could not sleep. So, after the Sunday morning service, we all said farewell and went our different directions. I lived only 38 miles away, but I had not slept, by this point for 55 straight hours (5:00am Friday until noon Sunday).
I slept on the way home, while driving. I was awakened by an odd sounding car horn. It did not fit into the dream that I was having. It took a while before the sound became real. When I awoke, I barely had time to whip the steering wheel to get back on my own side of the road. Praise the Lord, I was alive. Praise the Lord, I was revived. (And did God have something to do with the fact that the road was absolutely straight, hilly, but straight, for over ten miles? If not, I would have been in a ditch long before that.)
So, was the rhetorical question, posed by the pastor, a question of pondering (having already done it himself or heard about similar events) or wondering (looking forward to doing it some day)? For my answer, now that I have thought about it, I have done it and it was great. But I needed God’s Spirit power, or I would not have survived.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.