I often joke that God made me a preacher because he knew I couldn't sit through a sermon. There is a bit of truth to that. I recall when I was in college I was in church on Sunday morning trying with all the effort I could muster to stay awake. I was hunched over with my elbows on my knees cradling my head. I was trying to fight of my sudden urge to sleep when… before I knew it…Bam! My head landed smack on the top of the chair in front of me. Apart from a chair shaped bruise on my head that was hard to explain to the pastor, the sound got the attention of those around me.
I am reminded of this story while reading Acts 20 and the account of Eutychus. This is one of those little stories that Luke adds, where you’re not sure if it’s just there to be a funny story, or if it has a real purpose. Certainly, everything that is in the Bible is there for a reason, but God has a good sense of humor too. Eutychus was listening to Paul preach during the Easter season, on the day of the celebration of the resurrection, and Paul preaches for so long that Eutychus falls asleep and falls out the window. Not only does he die, but through the miracle of the Holy Spirit, he is raised from the dead. The guy was raised from the dead as the church celebrated the resurrection. In the midst of the evidently exhausting practice of church, a miracle happens that perfectly mirrors the resurrection of Christ. First, to be fair, the story is only really funny in hindsight, and second, Paul was preaching a really long time. I’m not sure we can blame Eutychus. I do feel bad for him. Maybe the only time he falls asleep in church, and his story is written down in history for everyone to see.
Certainly, there can be a measure of monotony in our practice of “doing church”. It is something that we can become accustomed to, and even do on something of an auto pilot mode. It becomes a habit. The irony of Eutychus’ story is that he fell asleep hearing Paul, who was likely talking about the resurrection, and became a symbol of the power of resurrection and the gospel as he himself was raised from his own death. It’s funny… sometimes we can become so accustomed to talking about and hearing the message of the gospel as “church people”, and we forget the true and real power that the message really has. We often and easily become accustomed to the holy and inured in the sacred, and lose our sense of wonder and of the power and meaning of the gospel. The longer we simply live in the immersion of the church, the greater possibility that we will lose our wonder at the mystery of God. The reason that we celebrate Easter and communion is that we might never lose that awe at the miracle of the gospel. I’m just guessing here, but I think most of us haven’t been resurrected. At least, not in the physical sense, but if we have been changed by the gospel, resurrection is not even the greatest miracle we can imagine. If you have been changed by the gospel, you have experienced a real power, a real miracle. Looking at our lives before and after the gospel often reminds us of the power that the message of the gospel has in our lives. This reminds us to live, not in monotony, but in awe of God. I am sure that the young Eutychus never lost that awe as he remembered not only our Lord’s resurrection, but also his own resurrection that was the greatest symbolic restoration of the gospel in his own life. I also like to think he probably never fell asleep in church again, but maybe that’s just the musing of an optimistic pastor. ;-)