I have always been fascinated by the story of young Eutychus in Acts 20:7-12. This passage is often overlooked in the larger Acts narrative but a quick study of the passage and you will find so much to learn from:
- The young man in the passage named Eutychus is a Greek which name means “Lucky” – yet is seems by all accounts he is unlucky as to die from falling asleep when Paul couldn’t stop talking; but then is so “lucky” to happen to have an apostle handy to raise him from the dead.
- Personally I have been known to have an unusual sense of humor – so I chuckle a bit when I realize no matter how bad or how long my sermons have been over the last 20 years unlike Paul’s preaching to my knowledge I have never caused anyone to die (maybe get sick!) – admittedly neither have I raised anyone from the dead!
- Historically it is believed this is the first recorded worship meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) – on Sunday. At first, Christians worshipped on the Jewish Sabbath, which is sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Christians increasingly began to worship on Sun
- But what I am most fascinated by in this particular passage of scripture is that it is both: profoundly human and eerily divine. It has the limitations of our natural (world) and the faith filled expectations found only in the supernatural.
Background: The Apostle Paul is on a world wind tour to strengthen the new and emerging churches. And in Acts 20 he finds himself on the last day of a week of teaching/preaching in a third-floor meeting room in Troas. People had come to “break bread” together – “lovefeast” and after eating together Paul teaches/speaks on past midnight to a packed house. And a young man named Eutychus goes over to sit on the window opening presumably to get some cool/fresh air in order to try to stay awake – remember unlike today this young man like all those gathered he would have worked all day (sun up to sun down) before coming to this evening service to eat together and hear the Apostle Paul speak. And it is now getting late/past midnight or so. And as anyone who has ever attend an extended long church service, a math or business law class like I did in college be it very early in the morning or late in the evening can empathize that indeed there are those times in which despite how much we try, indeed sometimes the
“Spirit is willing but truly ….the flesh is weak.”
Young Eutychus succumbs to his body and to the atmosphere, and falls from the window. Sadly
- Eutychus was trying to be obedient and listen to God’s word spoken by Paul.
- Eutychus was doing the right thing – at the right place, at the right time but he was too tired to stay awake.
But he fell asleep, and ultimately fell to his death. And I believe we all can empathize with Eutychus in that he was trying to do the right thing, trying to be obedient to God, seeking to love God and neighbour but yet and still (Youtickus) Eutychus would lose the battle to his tired eyelids, and the Bible tells us tragically he tumbles out the window to his untimely death.
And then the apostle Paul either seeing or hearing the fall hurries down the stairs and similar to the prophets of the Old Testament:
- Elijah and The widow of Zarephath son I Kings 17:17-24. Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath son from the dead.
- Elisha and The Shunammite woman’s son 2 Kings 4:18-37. Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead.
Paul in this OT tradition throws himself onto the corpse of (Youtickus) Eutychus and then – I am sure to the shock of everyone present Paul pronounces (Youtickus) Eutychus living saying to the crowd:
“Don’t be alarmed… he’s alive!” Vs10
- Eutychus who had fallen down to his death was now told by God through Paul to get up!
- Eutychus Who had been declared dead was now told by God through Paul he was alive amongst living again! Surely a Drop the Mic moment in scripture – amen!
Then rather surprisingly to me and perhaps to you as well is that after Eutychus gets up, after what has been declared dead has now been declared alive, what had fallen had been told to get up – they do what? According to our text this morning – they do 4 things:
- go back inside and upstairs
- And again have something to eat (the first was the lovefeast – this was communion)
- Paul continues teaching until dawn
- And everyone including (Youtickus) Eutychus eventually goes home “greatly comforted”
Once restored – they keep going until the break of dawn. How many know that:
“ain’t no party like a holy ghost because a Holy Ghost party – don’t stop!”!
What a strange story about Paul’s “killer’s sermon” ;0) Is it suppose to be a warning against sleeping during church? Or against preaching too long (Ernie)? Or is it supposed to be a note of comfort to boring preachers that the Spirit will come to the rescue even if you kill one of your flock? My sense is that this passage as is much of the book of Acts – is a testimony to the fact that no matter how, or when, or even where we have or feel as though we have fallen down – we serve a God that desires for you and I, for each us to get back up. Eutychus fell down but Eutychus got to experience the miracle of – getting back up! Amen? Scripture talks a lot about the miracle of getting back up – in Proverbs 24:16
“for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again/they get back up, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes (stay down).”
And when we look a little deeper at our passage this morning we find that it is broken up into two parts – the natural and then the supernatural.
The natural part of the passage is Paul preaching, people coming, Eutychus being sleepy, falling asleep, falling out of the window, tragically dying…Eutychus was gone, he was dead though tragic the narrative makes sense – when die you stay that way:
“9 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.”
But then in verses 10 there is a shift in the narrative from the natural – to the supernatural. A shift from what we know and can make sense of/measure with our natural eyes to the unknown which requires of us to put on the lens of faith because according to verse 10 when:
“10 Paul went down, (he) threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed (calm down),” he said. “He’s alive!”
MKnow imagine with me for a moment if you will how the crowd who were only moments earlier experiencing the joy of having Paul preach/teach and then suddenly all that changed to despair when the crowd saw the young man lying on the ground. And then Paul comes beside the body of the young man presumably to extend his priestly duties of perhaps a benediction/or a blessing of some kind over this deceased young man. …. My point is that Paul’s function was assumed to provide words of comfort to friends and family – offer up:
- A prayer/benediction,
- Prepare the body for burial,
- begin a homegoing service
- But one thing is certain NO ONE and I mean no one expected anything good, Godly or supernatural was about to occur!
But friends out of chaos came the supernatural creativity of God in Christ! We read in our text this morning that in the face of death, God in Christ through Paul supernaturally breathed new life into him bringing about a new beginning declaring “he lives” – “Eutychus lives”! Amen? No one saw this coming…. And that’s not all – because through Paul God also gave the entire community of Troas a new life/beginning, a new perspective of the unsurpassing love, supernatural power and creativity of God, a God who who is still on the mission of creating new beginnings out of people, places, who thought all hope was lost… Our God is .
- Creating new beginning when we fall down,
- Breathing new life – when death/destruction is certain
- creating new beginnings/ideas/possibilities – enabling a people/a community belonging to God to declare for all the world to hear:
“ somehow, someway – He’s alive!”
Proclaiming to us today to get up!
The prophet Isaiah speaking to his generation declared even though at the time his people were broken, had fallen down, he said don’t get it twisted – God is NOT finished with us yet….so God told him to tell the people:
“Forget the former things Do not dwell on the past See,I am doing a new thing Do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43 18:19
(Central theme) OCMC “do you not perceive it” as well this morning? Because in the midst of our season of transition/my season of transition – I want you to know this morning that there is a new beginning that is emerging – God is breathing new life/vision into you/OCMC. Amen? Our God recognizes when we have fallen down, fallen short of the mark/goal/race, or some may believe things are coming to an end – yet God desires and is calling/breathing the breath of life through HIS spirit – for you and I, for each us like Eutychus to get back up. Amen? For those of us who have fallen down, have been thought dead – Are you ready to get back up?
OCMC family and friends I am humbled to see so many old faces, new faces, friends and family here this morning and I don’t know what you expected when you came today. Perhaps me simply reminding you about the “good ol days”? Nor do I profess to know what your current mindset or if your Spirit is heavy right now – some perhaps are feeling like Eutychus and are wondering if OCMC will survive after the “fall” of my transition. Sell I want to make it perfectly clear this morning, if you didn’t already know by now. Today is not my benediction, nor is it benediction of OCMC! This is not a “wake/funeral” – rather it is our “wake up call” because OCMC is NOT dead or dying – we are alive and today is our NEW beginning! A new season has come upon us and remember it will be a blessed time but it will be for our God’s glory! Amen? And friends what I am sharing with this morning is affirmed throughout scripture. That when we fall, when it seems like death is upon us, when it seems all hope is lost – we often can see and hear from scripture how God individually and corporately invites us to take a breath in and embrace new beginnings – if we get up after falling down. The prophet..Micah 7:8 warned:
“Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”
- In I Corinthians 4:7 Paul writes to a community who had fallen on difficult times. He encouraged him as I am encouraging you today to remember:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
And the same reason we are not destroyed is the same reason Eutychius wasn’t destroyed that day – because:
“OCMC we carry around in this body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in this body but also in OC, Philadelphia in our world…
Friends there is work to be done:
- In the current culture so busy on being right yet not doing right – where polarization/tribalism reign supreme… now is our season for healing to happen amongst one another right here in our diverse body as we administer the “ministry of reconciliation” to one another. Dr. John Perkins is right when he says:
“A gospel that does not reconcile us to God and to each other is not at all good news.”
- There are 50-75 GED/ESL students who come to this building twice a week – more than most of us during the week… they are immigrant families, refugees, Muslim neighbors who live right here in OC who know about us but they haven’t met Christ in enough of us yet
- They are the 75 pre-school children and parents who drop off their children everyday at our new daycare, they are the 100 beautiful children we touch daily through our AFter-school program/Family Resource Center at Carnell and that number goes up to 150-175 during the summer months and they haven’t met Christ in enough of us yet
- There is work to be done… with “fierce urgency of now” (MLK)
And this is why the response to Eutychus resurrection speaks to us today because – how did the people respond to this new beginning provided by Eutychus?
“11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”
- They then go back upstairs and take a break for food and they do not dwell on what just happened.
- They most notably Paul continue on with what they were doing – preaching, listening, learning, praying and…
- Then they continue on their journey together the next morning rejoicing with the Eutychus the journey home – comforted/encouraged/
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. 10 If one falls, the other can help his friend get up.
I believe with Jesus, when he tells us very clearly that there will be trouble (knockdowns/falls) here on earth – but He also gives us a solution, how we can keep getting up:
- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I (we) have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV 1984)
When Paul laid upon Eutychus dead body that day – he breathed in him and it was the same breath of life that God provides all His children a – second wind. A second wind is needed to pick us up when we fall, dust us off, and sends us on our way. A second wind is needed when in the coming months/years you feel like you can not keep on, I want you to know that our God renews our spirit; thereby giving each of us “new life” allowing us to continue on our journey.
So my friends I want you to know that no matter if you have fallen this week, this year – you/we can get up…. Over the years as your pastor, I have seen first hand individuals, marriages, families or when we as a church fell down because we were unable to stay woke, to love, to be patient with one another – but I have also learned and seen how the Holy Spirit is there to put its arms around us and breath life into us once again, how the Holy Spirit has used others to breath life into this church or into a difficult situation.
OCMC when we get knocked down, we get up again, again and again …..
- 1998 – we lost a pastor of 25 years and we got knocked down, but by God’s grace we got back up with a core group of young inexperienced group who bonded on a common vision of loving Jesus and loving one another and our neighbors.
- 2008 – was a season of great loss,brokenness and death here at OCMC. A time of loss relationships, broken marriages and death, along with both a national and our own financial crisis. We fell down – but (say it with me) we got back up! By God’s grace relationships were restored, death didn’t destroy us rather united us and our response to our debt was so transformative it propelled us into taking on greater risk placing us where we are today.
- 2016-17 – And yes, 2016-17 has been a season of my transition and change in the larger politically/nationally differences has now seeped into the church and were no different, and so we have been taken a hit… amen? But I want you to know today we’re already getting back up being propelled to a new beginning!
How do I know this? We have a history! But even more to the point is our Lord Jesus did it! They couldn’t keep Him down and Christ now lives in me – in you in OCMC! . And just in case you’re tempted to worry, Paul reminds me of what to do in Philippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And therefore in my last sermon as your pastor, I am not anxious about anything- rather I’m filled with overwhelming peace as I transition out and so should each of you. Whatever comes your way – It may knock you down for a season. And it may even sometimes have the feeling of death (Eutychus) but hold on and take a breath and remember – now is the time to get back up…. amen? So let us together:
- take break bread together as they did in Acts 20 this communion Sunday
- continue to keep – preaching, listening, learning, praying loving and eating and gathering together…
- And continue on your journey together rejoicing like Eutychus – being comforted and encouraged that we got up again and again.