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ACTS 20:9-12 | EUTYCHUS AND THE VIEW FROM THE PULPIT

EUTYCHUS AND THE VIEW FROM THE PULPIT

ACTS 20:9-12

MAY 15, 2016

 

 

 

“SERMONETTES MAKE CHRISTIANETTES,” THE SAYING GOES, SO ST. PAUL KEPT PREACHING TILL MIDNIGHT TO MAKE SURE THEY ALL GOT THE WORD.

 

I’VE KNOWN PREACHERS LIKE THIS, WHO BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO PREACH EXTRA-LONG SERMONS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS; I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.

 

A SPEECH TEACHER I HAD ALL THE WAY BACK IN HIGH SCHOOL ONCE TOLD OUR CLASS IF YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR POINT IN 15-20 MINUTES, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO STOP LISTENING.

 

PAUL PREACHED ON ALL NIGHT; AND WHEN HE STOPPED TO CATCH HIS BREATH, HE THOUGHT OF A FEW MORE THINGS HE WANTED TO SAY, AND WENT ON A WHILE LONGER.

 

EVIDENTLY HE WAS SO CAUGHT UP IN HIS ELOQUENCE, OR GIVING HIM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, SO CAUGHT UP IN THE HOLY SPRIT, THAT HE BARELY NOTICED THE SNORING COMING FROM EUTYCHUS, WHO WAS, UNFORTUNATELY, SITTING IN A NEARBY OPEN WINDOW.

 

IN THE 35 YEARS OR SO THAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS, I’VE HEARD SOME OCCASIONAL SNORING DURING MY SERMONS.

 

USUALLY, THANKFULLY, SOME SHARP ELBOWED WIFE HAS PUT A QUICK STOP TO THEIR HUSBAND’S SNORING DURING THE SERVICE BY GIVING HIM A SHOT TO THE RIBS.

 

BUT THEN THERE HAVE BEEN THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP DURING THE SERVICE THAT DIDN’T HAVE A VIGILANT SPOUSE KEEPING WATCH, AND SLEPT RIGHT UP UNTIL THE ORGANIST STARTED THE NEXT HYMN.

 

I’VE ALWAYS ATTRIBUTED PEOPLE SLEEPING DURING MY SERMONS TO THEIR RATHER OBVIOUS BATTLE WITH NARCOLEPSY, RATHER THAN PINNING IT ON A SERMON THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN SOMEHOW LESS THAN STIMULATING.

 

THE VIEW FROM THE PULPIT OVER THE LAST 35 YEARS HAS BEEN INTERESTING AT TIMES, TO SAY THE LEAST.

 

IN ADDITION TO THE OCCASIONAL SNORER THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER SCENES PLAYED OUT AMONG THOSE IN THE PEWS WHO NEVER KNEW I WAS WATCHING.

 

THERE WAS THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN WHOSE HEARING AID USED TO SQUEAL WHENEVER THE VOLUME OF THE SERVICE GOT TOO HIGH – HE OBLIVIOUS TO THE RINGING NOT ONLY IN HIS EAR, BUT THROUGHOUT THE SANCTUARY, UNTIL, AGAIN, HIS VIGILANT SPOUSE REACHED OVER AND ADJUSTED IT BEHIND HIS EAR.

 

THERE WAS THE MAN ON THE VERY BACK PEW WHO ONE SUNDAY REALIZED THAT IN HIS HASTE TO GET TO CHURCH THAT MORNING HAD MIS-BUTTONED HIS SHIRT, BUT RATHER THAN SIMPLY LETTING IT GO – HE COMPLETELY UNBUTTONED HIS SHIRT – EXPOSING HIS BARE CHEST…

 

AND AS IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH, HE STOOD UP, RE-BUTTONING HIS SHIRT, AND THEN OPENING HIS PANTS, SO HE COULD MAKE SURE HE GOT IT TUCKED BACK IN CORRECTLY.

 

THERE WAS THE YOUNG COUPLE, ALSO TOWARD THE BACK OF THE SANCTUARY, AND EVIDENTLY VERY MUCH IN LOVE WHOSE RATHER AMOROUS PDA (PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION) NEARLY GOT OUT OF HAND ONE SUNDAY.

 

THEN THERE WAS THE WOMAN WHO USED TO SIT RIGHT UP FRONT WHO ON OCCASION WOULD TAKE A LITTLE NIP FROM THE BROWN BOTTLE SHE KEPT IN HER PURSE – COUGH SYRUP I’M ASSUMING;

 

BUT THE WAY SHE’D THROW HER HEAD BACK AT TIMES, SHE LOOKED AS IF SHE WAS DOING AN ILL-ADVISED LATE NIGHT SHOT OF SOMETHING.

 

OVER THE YEARS THERE HAVE BEEN THE YAWNERS, THE WATCH-TAPPERS, THOSE WITH THEIR HEAD ON A SWIVEL LOOKING EVERYWHERE BUT WHERE WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE SERVICE WAS GOING ON…

 

THERE HAVE BEEN THE RAMBUNCTIOUS CHILDREN, THE DEADLY PARENTAL STARES – TURNING THEIR KIDS INTO STONE – EVEN FROM MOMS IN THE CHOIR DIRECTED AT THEIR CHILDREN SITTING ALONE IN THE PEW.

 

AND I’VE TOLD YOU ABOUT THE CHURCH IN WHICH I ONCE GUEST-PREACHED THAT HAD THE BIGGEST CLOCK I’VE EVER SEEN HANGING ON THE FASCIA OF THE BALCONY – IT WAS ONE OF THOSE OLD SCHOOL CLOCKS WHERE EACH MINUTE CLICKS OFF – THE HANDS WERE ABOUT AS LONG AS MY ARMS – AND BECAUSE THE MINISTER WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD SEE IT – THERE WAS NO DOUBT ABOUT WHO IT WAS THERE FOR, AND WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE CLOCK AS IT NEARED 12 NOON.

 

I DO WANT TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THANK THOSE OF YOU WHO SMILE WHEN I’M PREACHING; OR NOD IN AGREEMENT AND UNDERSTANDING;

 

AND THOSE OF YOU WHO LAUGH AT MY JOKES, OR AT LEAST PUT UP WITH THEM;

 

AND I EVEN WANT TO THANK YOU FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU GET A RATHER PUZZLED LOOK ON YOUR FACE THAT LET’S ME KNOW MY POINT ISN’T GETTING THROUGH;

 

WHEN I SEE THAT, I KNOW I NEED TO SAY SOMETHING OVER AGAIN, OR SAY IT INA DIFFERENT WAY, SO AS TO MAKE MYSELF UNDERSTOOD.

 

I’M SURE THE VIEW FROM THE PEW HAS BEEN EVERY BIT AS ENTERTAINING AT TIMES, BUT JUST A WORD OF WARNING:

 

LIKE WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE DOING THINGS IN CARS AS THEY DRIVE BY THAT DON’T THINK ANYONE CAN SEE WHAT THEY ARE DOING; SIMILARLY, YOU AND I ARE NOT INVISIBLE WHEN SITTING IN CHURCH!

 

PAUL PREACHED ON AND ON – WELL PAST MIDNIGHT – AND EUTYCHUS – WHO I’M ASSUMING IS NOT ONE OF THE BETTER KNOWN CHARACTERS OF THE BIBLE TO MANY OF YOU – SLEPT WHILE PAUL DRONED ON.

 

EUTYCHUS SLEPT RIGHT UP TO THE POINT WHEN HE FELL OUT OF THE THIRD STORY WINDOW, AND HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE WOMAN WHO SCREAMED, PAUL MIGHT NOT EVEN HAVE NOTICED.

 

BY THE TIME THEY GOT TO POOR EUTYCHUS IN THE STREET BELOW, HE WAS DEADER THAN A DOORNAIL…

 

WHICH REMINDS ME OF AN OLD PREACHER JOKE: A YOUNG BOY WAS ONCE STANDING IN THE HALL OUTSIDE THE SANCTUARY, STUDYING A PLAQUE ON THE WALL.

 

ON THE PLAQUE WERE LISTED THE NAMES OF THE MEN WHO HAD BEEN MEMBERS OF THAT PARTICULAR CHURCH WHO HAD DIED IN WORLD WAR II.

 

COMING UP BEHIND HIM, HIS MOTHER EXPLAINED TO THE YOUNG BOY THAT THE NAMES OF THOSE ON THE PLAQUE WERE THOSE WHO HAD DIED IN THE SERVICE.

 

“WHICH SERVICE,” THE YOUNG BOY ASKED, “THE EARLY SERVICE OR THE LATE SERVICE.”

 

PAUL WAS NOT GOING TO LET EUTYCHUS DIE ON HIS WATCH – DEATH BY PREACHING – SO PAUL TOOK HIM UP IN HIS ARMS AND SAID, “DO NOT BE ALARMED, FOR HIS LIFE IS IN HIM.”

 

PUTTING HIM TO BED, PAUL STOPPED FOR A BITE TO EAT, BEFORE RESUMING HIS PREACHING, AND THE BOOK OF ACTS TELLS US THAT PAUL PREACHED ON UNTIL DAWN, AND THEN LEFT.

BY THE TIME PAUL LEFT, EUTYCHUS WAS SITTING UP IN BED, PERHAPS ASKING FOR EGGS OVER EASY AND RYE TOAST, AND LIKELY VOWING NEVER TO SIT IN AN UPSTAIRS WINDOW WHILE LISTENING TO A SERMON AGAIN!

 

“SERMONETTES MAKE CHRISTIANETTES.”

 

I UNDERSTAND WHEN SINGER, SONGWRITER LYLE LOVETT WAS IN TOWN A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO DOING A CONCERT WITH VINCE GILL AT THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS THEATRE, LOVETT SANG HIS SONG “CHURCH.”

 

THE SONG IS ABOUT A PREACHER WHO KEEPS PREACHING WELL BEYOND LUNCH TIME, AND ABOUT HOW THE PEOPLE WERE GETTING HUNGRY, AND HOW IT WAS TIME TO GO.  THE SONG ITSELF IS KIND OF LONG, BUT HERE ARE A FEW LYRICS:

 

 

WELL I WENT TO CHURCH LAST SUNDAY, SO I COULD SING AND PRAY
BUT SOMETHING QUITE UNUSUAL HAPPENED ON THAT DAY, THE CHURCH IT STARTED RIGHT ON TIME, JUST LIKE IT DOES WITHOUT A DOUBT AND EVERYTHING WAS ALL JUST FINE EXCEPT WHEN IT CAME TIME TO LET US OUT

YOU KNOW THE PREACHER, HE KEPT PREACHING HE TOLD US, “I HAVE ONE MORE THING TO SAY, CHILDREN BEFORE YOU THINK OF LEAVING
YOU BETTER THINK ABOUT THE JUDGMENT DAY”

AND NOW EVERYONE GOT NERVOUS BECAUSE EVERYONE WAS HUNGRY TOO, AND EVERYONE WAS WONDERING WHAT WAS THE NEXT THING HE WOULD DO

AND THE PREACHER, HE KEPT PREACHING
HE SAID, “NOW I’LL REMIND YOU IF I MAY
YOU ALL BETTER PAY ATTENTION
AND I MIGHT DECIDE TO PREACH ALL DAY”

AND NOW EVERYONE WAS GETTING SO HUNGRY
THAT THE OLD ONES STARTED FEELING ILL
AND THE WEAK ONES STARTED PASSING OUT
AND THE YOUNG ONES, THEY COULD NOT SIT STILL

AND THE PREACHER’S VOICE ROSE HIGHER
I SNUCK UP ON THE BALCONY
AND I CREPT INTO THE CHOIR AND I BEGGED THEM
BROTHERS, SISTERS, HELP ME PLEASE

I SAID, “WHEN I GIVE YOU A SIGNAL “
I SAID, “WHEN I RAISE UP MY HAND
WON’T YOU PLEASE JOIN WITH ME?
TOGETHER AND PRAISE THE LORD, I HAVE A PLAN”
AND THE PREACHER HE KEPT PREACHING
LONG IS THE STRUGGLE, HARD THE FIGHT
AND I PRAYED, FATHER PLEASE FORGIVE ME
I STOOD UP AND WITH ALL MY MIGHT I SANG

SO TO THE LORD LET PRAISES BE

 IT’S TIME FOR DINNER NOW LET’S GO EAT
WE’VE GOT SOME BEANS AND SOME GOOD CORNBREAD
I LISTENED TO WHAT THE PREACHER SAID,

NOW IT’S TO THE LORD LET PRAISES BE

IT’S TIME FOR DINNER, NOW, LET’S GO EAT

 

 

THE TRUTH IS “SERMONETTES DO NOT MAKE CHRISTIANETTES” ANY MORE THAN LONG, DRAWN OUT SERMONS MAKE PEOPLE MORE RIGHTEOUS.

 

WHAT’S SAID FROM THE PULPIT, AND WHAT’S HEARD IN THE PEW, IS IMPORTANT, BUT IT IS NOT WHAT MAKES US CHRISTIANS.

 

AS SOMEONE HAS SAID, “SITTING IN CHURCH NO MORE MAKES US A CHRISTIAN, THAN STANDING IN OUR GARAGE MAKES US A CAR.”

 

YES, WHAT HAPPENS IN HERE IS IMPORTANT, AND QUITE FRANKLY, I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE THAT;

 

BUT IT IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE; WHAT YOU SAY AND DO; HOW YOU LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH; HOW YOU CONDUCT BUSINESS; HOW YOU RAISE YOUR FAMILY; HOW YOU LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR – HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS – OUT THERE! – THAT REALLY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE.

 

WE COME HERE TO WORSHIP GOD – WE LEAVE HERE TO SERVE GOD.

 

WHICH REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER OF THOSE VIEWS FROM THE PULPIT:

 

IN A CHURCH I ONCE VISITED, AT THE BACK OF THE SANCTUARY, AS YOU WENT OUT THE DOOR, WERE THE WORDS WRITTEN ACROSS THE BACK WALL:

 

“OUR WORSHIP HAS ENDED, OUR SERVICE HAS JUST BEGUN.”

 

YOU SEE, WHAT HAPPENS IN HERE, AT WORSHIP, ON SUNDAY MORNINGS, IT’S NOT LIKE GOING TO A MOVIE, A PLAY, A CONCERT, OR SPORTING EVENT…

 

IT’S NOT THE EVENT ITSELF – NOT WHAT HAPPENS IN HERE – BUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE LEAVE HERE THAT IS TRULY IMPORTANT.

 

IF WE SPEND AN HOUR IN HERE TALKING ABOUT “LOVING GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES,” AND THEN RUN OVER SOMEONE IN THE PARKING LOT TRYING TO BEAT THE CROWD TO LUNCH;

 

OR CURSE OUT THE STUPID, SLOW DRIVER DRIVING IN THE FAST LANE OUT ON FLAGLER, LAYING ON OUR HORN…

 

OR TREAT OUR SERVER AT LUNCH LIKE A DOG RIGHT AFTER WE’VE JUST FINISHED SINGING, JESUS LOVES ME…

 

WE’VE MISSED THE POINT OF COMING HERE.

 

IF WE COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE, OR PASS THE ELEMENTS TO ONE ANOTHER IN THE PEW, OR PASS THE PEACE AT THE START OF THE SERVICE, AND THEN AS SOON AS IT IS OVER, GIVE SOMEONE THE STINK EYE…

 

OR TALK ABOUT THEM BEHIND THEIR BACK… HAVEN’T WE MISSED SOMETHING?

 

DOES WHAT WE READ IN HERE ABOUT THE LOVE, GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE OF GOD FOR US AND OTHERS, BECOME WHAT WE SHARE WITH THEM OUT THERE?

 

DOES WHAT WE SAY IN HERE, TRANSLATE INTO WHAT WE DO OUT THERE?

DOES WHAT WE SING IN HERE, GET LIVED OUT – OUT THERE?

 

DO THE PRAYERS WE PRAY IN HERE TURN INTO ACTS OF CARING AND SERVICE OUT THERE?

 

THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS MANY PEOPLE HAVE STOPPED COMING TO CHURCH; WHY CHURCH ATTENDANCE IS DOWN ACROSS THE COUNTRY; WHY MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE BECOMING INACTIVE;

 

NOT THE LEAST OF WHICH, I BELIEVE, IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE A HARD TIME SQUARING WHAT THEY READ AND HEAR AND SING AND SAY IN HERE, WITH WHAT THEY AND OTHERS DO OUT THERE.

 

MANY WOULD RATHER NOT BE BOTHERED WITH SELF-EXAMINATION OR WITH TRANSLATING FAITH INTO WORKS, AND BY NOT COMING IN HERE, THEY ARE FREER TO DO WHATEVER THEY WISH OUT THERE.

 

THIS IS CERTAINLY NOT THE CASE FOR EVERYONE, OR AT LEAST NOT ALL OF THE TIME, BUT WE KNOW IT CAN BE TRUE OF US, SO WE KNOW IT CAN BE TRUE OF OTHERS AS WELL.

 

THE AIM IS NOT, AND NEVER SHOULD BE, TO GUILT OURSELVES AND OTHERS INTO BELIEVING AND BEHAVING…

 

BUT OUR WORSHIP OF GOD IN HERE SHOULD BECOME OUR SERVICE TO GOD – AND TO GOD’S KINGDOM – AND TO GOD’S PEOPLE – OUT THERE!

 

SO TO THE LORD LET PRAISES BE
IT’S TIME FOR DINNER NOW LET’S GO EAT
WE’VE GOT SOME BEANS AND SOME GOOD CORNBREAD
I LISTENED TO WHAT THE PREACHER SAID
NOW IT’S TO THE LORD LET PRAISES BE
IT’S TIME FOR DINNER NOW, LET’S GO EAT

 

 

 

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