February 24, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
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“Sleeping In Church”
Signaling for the children to be quiet with her index finger poised over puckered lips, a Sunday School teacher asked her young children, upon entering the sanctuary, “And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?” One observant little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping.”
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.
“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. And Eutychus sat in an upstairs window; surely a recipe for disaster as “Paul talked on and on.”
Sermons have gotten shorter during my lifetime and certainly some of the recorded sermons in the Bible and church history. For example many consider 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 find in preaching to attentive people!
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 bone fastened to a string lowered on the head of the offender by an assigned deacon. Perhaps we should reinstate this practice by assigning ushers to this exercise!
These days 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!
“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 actually happened one time 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 of the news story, hitting every public and cable network and major newspaper. Reporters surely would have been on the scene with their interpretation of the situation. Surely politicians would be introducing 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 will 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. But one practical lesson we will end with: Don’t sit on the window ledge in church, especially if you’re sleepy!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily 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.
“Fire and Ice”: This weekend our community (Mount Joy, Pennsylvania) is having a Main Street “Fire and Ice” Festival with ice carvings and a Chili Cookoff Challenge. Brooksyne will be making chili and we’ll be serving it, along with others, as part of an amateur contest on Saturday from 11:00-3:00 on Main Street in Mount Joy (at the Union Community Bank Portico.) It would be our pleasure to meet and serve chili to our local readers! For details visit www.msmj.org
The story of Eutychus is found in Acts 20:7-12
Many years ago Christianity Today had a humor column I enjoyed called “Eutychus and His Kin”.
Here is the text of Jonathan Edward’s final sermon preached at the First Church in Northampton, MA on July 1, 1750 after being voted out as the Pastor. Note especially the challenge to the youth.
C.H. Spurgeon’s messages stayed within 40-45 minutes. This was necessitated partly by the length required for the printed sermons. For the first six years of Spurgeon’s ministry, paper was heavily taxed, so individual printed sermons were formatted to use as little paper as possible. That is why the type is so small in the New Park Street Pulpit series, but it becomes more readable in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Spurgeon delivered the messages with ringing vocal tones and perfect articulation of each word. All observers testified that he had no difficulty whatsoever in making himself heard clearly in the furthest parts of the largest auditoriums!
One Sunday evening Daddy fell asleep in the front pew of the church. Even in the “resting of his eyes” he could often follow the order of the service. 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 that the pastor was in the middle of his sermon! Imagine how mortified my family was at Dad’s mistake!
Perhaps that extremely embarrassing experience kept him a bit more alert for, at least the following Sunday!
A man sobering up from the night before is sitting through the Sunday sermon, finding it long and boring. Still feeling hung over and tired, he finally nods off.
The preacher has been watching him all along, noticing his apparent hangover and is disgusted. At the end of the sermon, the preacher decides to make an example of him.
He says to his congregation, “All those wishing to have a place in heaven, please stand.” The whole room stands up except, of course, the sleeping man.
He has the people seated then the preacher says even more loudly, “And he who would like to find a place in hell please STAND UP!”
The weary man catching only the last part groggily stands up, only to find that he’s the only one standing.
Confused and embarrassed he says, “I don’t know what we’re voting on here, Preacher, but it sure seems like you and me are the only ones standing for it!”
Video Humor: Tim Hawkins – Church, Christians, & Sleeping in Church Video
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