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Friday, April 29, 2016

Eutychus (Who???): There is Life in You!


When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He travelled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.

Just how long Paul stayed in Macedonia we do not know. Luke's words seem to suggest a fairly prolonged period. One activity that especially concerned Paul at this time was collecting money for the relief of impoverished believers at Jerusalem. He instructed the churches in Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia about this. The collection was an act of love like that undertaken by the church at Syrian Antioch earlier. More than that, Paul viewed it as a symbol of unity that would help his Gentile converts realize their debt to the mother church in Jerusalem and give Jewish Christians
an appreciation of the vitality of faith in the Gentile churches.

After spending some time in Macedonia, Paul went to Corinth, where he stayed for three months, probably during the winter of 57-58. While there, and before his final trip to Jerusalem, Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome. The Greek world in the eastern part of the empire had been evangelized, and he desired to transfer his ministry to the Latin world, as far west as Spain. He anticipated using the Roman church as his base of operations, much as he had previously used the church at Antioch in Syria. But first he needed to go to Jerusalem if the collection from the Gentile Christians was to have the meaning he wanted it to have. So, instead of going to Rome at this time and in preparation for his future visit—and also to expound the righteousness of God—Paul sent a formal letter to the Christians at Rome (the longest and most systematic of his writings).

At the end of three months in Corinth, Paul sought to sail for Syria, doubtless intending to reach Jerusalem in time for the great pilgrim festival of Passover. But a plot to kill him at sea was uncovered, and he decided to travel overland through Macedonia. Robbery was common on the ancient roads, and with Paul carrying a substantial amount of money collected from the Gentile churches, he undoubtedly wanted to get to Jerusalem as quickly and safely as possible. Nevertheless, he felt it best to spend time on the longer land route, preferring its possible dangers to the known perils of the sea voyage; so he began to retrace his steps through Macedonia.

Having been unable to get to Jerusalem for Passover, Paul remained at Philippi to celebrate it and the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the missionaries went down to Neapolis, the port city of Philippi, and crossed the Aegean to Troas. It was evidently a difficult crossing because it took five days instead of two days as earlier.

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.
The mention of their meeting "on the first day of the week" is the earliest unambiguous evidence we have for Christians gathering together for worship on that day (cf. Jn 20:19, 26; 1Co 16:2; Rev 1:10). The Christians met in the evening, which was probably the most convenient time because of the necessity of working during the day. They met to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Paul "kept on talking" to the believers till 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 storey and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms round 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.
"As Paul talked on and on," Eutychus went to sleep and fell to his death. He may simply have been bored by Paul's long discussion, though Luke's reference to the many torch lamps in the room suggests that lack of oxygen and the hypnotic effect of flickering flames caused Eutychus's drowsiness. But whatever its cause, his fall brought the meeting to a sudden and shocking halt. They dashed down and found him dead. Of course, Paul also ran down. In an action reminiscent of Elijah and Elisha (cf. 1Ki 17:21; 2Ki 4:34-35), he "threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him," restoring Eutychus to life. Then they returned to their third-story room, and listened to Paul until dawn.

Eutychus: It's a Greek name and it means (ironically) fortunate. Other than that, we know little else about him, except that he was probably a teenager. He fell asleep during a sermon, so perhaps his story is meant to be a warning to young people to pay attention to the elders in the Church and to make sure not to fall asleep while they’re talking! But No, that's not his story.

Eutychus: I'm not sure anyone would ever name him as a character in the Bible ... they'd certainly name many others before him. I'd be very surprised if he is anyone's favourite Biblical character; and I think that's what I really like about him. He encapsulates how many of us feel in the big scheme of things, doesn't he; in the world, workplace, sometimes even in the church and perhaps even sometimes in the home? Just another name. A part of us dies when we feel nothing more than a name.

Eutychus: Perhaps he even encapsulates how many of us are made to feel ... when we fall out the window. What do I mean by that ... well, I'm speaking of when we fall, or fail, or don't succeed, or embarrass ourselves, or others close to us perhaps embarrass us by their behaviour; I'm speaking of those of us who for whatever reason feel, or are made to feel, marginalised. A part of us dies when this happens to us. It might interest you to know that as part of some leadership material we are using in our Elders meetings to develop our leadership abilities, we asked (and began to answer) the question this past Thursday: Who or what group might feel devalued at MWC? Who might not feel included?

Eutychus: The one on the edge of the room, on the edge of the crowd, squashed onto the window sill. Left to fend for himself perhaps while others who arrived were shown to the front of the room.

Eutychus: No his story wasn’t about the dangers of falling asleep during worship, and it wasn’t about the dangers of preaching sermons that are too long. His story isn’t really about cardiopulmonary or mouth to mouth resuscitation.

His story is about Paul rushing down to him, throwing himself upon him with no concern for dignity, and then lifting him up declaring “He’s alive! His life is in him!”

His story is about God’s ability to heal and restore whatever others might kill ... its perhaps about the Church admitting and recognizing that you matter ... That people who are on the 3rd story window ledge margins of Christianity (in and not yet in the church) matter ... That those just trying to get to know Jesus in their own time and way, matter!

I think many of us have been like Eutychus ... we have fallen out of the window in so many ways ... we've died in so many ways ... of course, we die, a part of us dies whenever we sin.

Eutychus died, but God’s healing power to restore him to life was stronger than whatever forced him to the edge and over the edge.

The good news is that the parts of us that have died, the parts of us that have crashed and burned – don’t have to remain dead heaps on the ground! The embrace of God reaches to the ground to which you've either fallen or being pushed.

The good news is that God uses broken vessels to bring forth wholeness, life and salvation– that’s the only way. In Eutychus we see that God can reach in and raise us up saying “There is life in him! There is life in her!”
In Eutychus we see that we get knocked down, but we see the truth that nothing need keep us down!
Is it a stretch to say that in Eutychus we see that God is at work outside the walls of the Church – right out on the streets, where people have crashed and burned, fallen and can’t get up, and are truly down in the dirt.

In Eutychus we see that no matter where we are on our journeys of faith, no matter if we’re part of a church or not, even if we have a hard time staying awake during a long sermon, or a gorgeous sunset, and no matter whether or not we even believe in God, God believes in us!

There is life in you ... there is life in you.

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