Originally posted June 1, 2011, at Lutheran Grilled Cheese. Republished with permission of the author.
Admit it — you have fallen asleep in church before. I hope you don’t do it often but maybe one Saturday night you stayed up a little too late but decided before you went to bed that you were still going to get up early and go to church. That Sunday, maybe the air conditioning wasn’t turned on yet, maybe the pastor decided to preach extra long that day and between that and staying up late caused the perfect falling-asleep-in-church storm.
I am sure you tried to stay awake, you really did! But you feel the sleep coming on so you start to doodle on the bulletin to keep moving, but then you feel the pencil start to fall out of your hand. You realize that you are starting to fall asleep and you quickly wake yourself up. You look around to see if anyone is watching you — you are thankful because no one seemed to notice that you fell asleep for a quick second. You start to really listen to the sermon and you figure out what your pastor is talking about then all of a sudden you fall asleep — the next thing you know the sound of the organ playing the hymn of the day wakes you up. Embarrassed you look around again and this time Mr. and Mrs. Anderson are looking at you shaking their heads. You feel like you want to curl up in a ball and just die. Nothing could be worse.
Well actually, a young man named Eutychus did die in church from falling asleep.
It all starts as Paul is about to set out on the last leg of his journey to Jerusalem, sailing directly from Achaia to Syria, he encounters a plot of the Jews against him. Paul decides to change his plans and moves overland back through Achaia and Macedonia. This way he avoids possible harm, even death, as a passenger aboard a vessel crowded with Jewish pilgrims heading to Jerusalem for Passover.
At the end of a week’s stay in Troas, Paul continues his ministry of encouragement in the context of a worship service. It seems like this is one of the earliest references to early church practice concerning Sunday worship, Luke tells us that on the first day of the week they came together to break bread.
The service went past midnight which meant that it was late for Eutychus. The air in the room must have been thick with smoke from the lamps and Eutychus must have gone over to the window to catch his breath and perhaps to get some fresh air to stay awake. But no matter how hard he tries, he falls asleep. The lateness of the hour, the hypnotic effect of the flickering lights and Paul’s lengthy sermon all probably contribute to his drowsiness. He loses his balance, falls out the window and is picked up dead.
The crowd rushes down to see what has happened, including Paul. Feeling sad for the boy and sorry for the crowd, Paul does what he can to bring comfort to the people. Paul throws himself on the young man and puts his arms around him. The boy’s life returns, for Paul calls out, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive!” Then Paul returns to the upper room and continues worship. In fact, he continues his service until daybreak and then departs.
There are times when we may feel like we are too tired to go to church, or that we feel like we are going to fall asleep or we may even be daydreaming. But take comfort that you do not fall asleep, then out a window! Take comfort that even if the worst case happens, you are still loved by God. Paul did not have to bring that young man back to life, he did because he cared for him — he loved him and in that the gospel was proclaimed.
Find a link to Joe McGarry’s blog Lutheran Grilled Cheese at Lutheran Blogs.