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Paul and Eutychus

By the time we get to chapter 20 of Acts, Paul will undertake no new missions.  He is destined for Rome, after a visit to Macedonia and Greece, followed by one more trip to Jerusalem.  Chapter 20:3 reminds us that Paul’s Jewish enemies, so far unsuccessful, have not given up.  His plans must change.  Surrounded by seven companions, Paul sets out for the holy city.  He stops in Troas on the road to his destiny and accomplishes pastoral work there.

On Sunday he offered communion and preached to a community gathered on the third floor story of a house in the city.  But this was no occasion for a few brief remarks by a visiting celebrity.  No, Paul spoke on and on, even until midnight.  Lamps were required to bring lights, heat, smoke, and perhaps a little symbolism.

There was an unfortunate young man who was named Eutychus, which ironically means “Lucky.”  He was perched on the windowsill of the third floor because of the dense crowd, or in order to see and hear all the better, or perhaps to catch a bit of fresh air.  Because Paul continued to preach until midnight, Eutychus grew drowsy and fell asleep (Anyone who has ever dosed off during a long sermon will understand his plight!).  Well, windowsills are not good places for sleeping, so Eutychus fell down to the street to an untimely death.

Not even Paul could preach through that incident. Going down the stairs, he embraced the body and spoke some reassuring words. Then, as if this were all in a night’s work, Paul returned upstairs and resumed his sermon.  The service went on until dawn.  After worship, a meal, and conversation Paul left.  Only after this does the narrator think to tell us that Eutychus was alive after all.

This understatement is quite effective.  As had Jesus (Luke 7:11-17) and Peter (Acts 9:38-41), Paul has brought someone back from the dead.  The power of the Resurrection, fully unleashed at Pentecost, proclaims the defeat of death.  We, too, are fortunate that though we may have drifted off during a few sermons in our lifetime, we have also, like “Lucky” Eutychus, been raised to new life.  And that is good news for congregations and for us preacher types as well!

Posted by Ron Glover

Faith in Action: An Unhindered Gospel

An Unhindered Gospel

Throughout history, we have always distrusted the stranger, the outsider, the one who isn’t a part of our group.  Even though the human family shares the same Creator, we live lives of estrangement.

This antagonism toward the stranger has often made its way into the life of the church.  That is why the early church in Acts needed a lot of help from the Holy Spirit in learning how to make room for the person who seemed strange or different to them.  As we have seen so far in our readings from the book of Acts, one of the first struggles of the Jewish church in Jerusalem was to accept Hellenist Jews who were not originally from Israel.  And just about the time they figured out how to do that, the Hellenist Jewish Christian Philip went to Samaria to preach the gospel.  You will recall that Jews despised Samaritans and would typically would not even walk through their land, their animosity was so great.

Well, while Philip was in Samaria, crowds of Samaritans believed, were baptized and joined the church.  So now the body of believers in Jesus included not only the Hellenists, but Samaritans as well.  As Philip was trying to decide how to break this news to the apostles back in Jerusalem, an angel of the Lord told him to get on the road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza.  While he was traveling, he saw an Ethiopian eunuch in a chariot.  The Bible never gives us this man’s name.  We only see him as Philip saw him – he is black, he is a foreigner, and he is a eunuch.  In other words, he is not close to being an Israelite.

The eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah.  Philip got into the chariot and began to share the good news of Jesus with him.  He had to wonder if the gospel would reach someone as different from the apostles as the eunuch was.  But it did; and the eunuch professed faith in Jesus and was baptized.  Now, Philip just had to figure out how to explain to the Christians back in Jerusalem that yet another outsider had become a believer.

All of this reminds me of a story the late Fred Craddock, preacher and teacher of preachers, told of his very first failure as a pastor.  It occurred when he was still a seminary student serving a small church in east Tennessee, twenty miles from Oak Ridge.  This is what he said:

Oak Ridge had gotten into place, the atomic energy thing was booming, and folk were coming and constructing that little town into a city.

People were coming from everywhere, in tents and trailers and little temporary carts, and all kinds of leanto’s, and they covered those beautiful little towns with temporary quarters, wash hanging out on the fences, and little kids crying through the muddy places where all these things were parked.  And my little church, aristocratic little church, white frame building, was nearby.

It was a nice little church with wonderful people, and I called the board together and said, “We need to reach out to those folk who are here.  They’ve just come in from everywhere, and they’re fairly close, and here’s our mission.”

And the chairman of the board said, “No, I don’t think so.”

And I said, “Why?”

“They won’t fit in, After all, they’re just here temporarily, living in those trailers and all.”

“Well, they’re here temporarily, but they need the gospel.  They need a church, now why don’t…”

     “Naw, I don’t think so.”

The upshot of it all was a resolution which said, “Members will be admitted to this church from families who own property in the county.”

It was unanimous, except for my vote, and I was reminded that I couldn’t vote.

     “They won’t fit in, they just won’t fit in.”

How many times have we heard that sentiment, spoken or just implied, in the church of Christ?  It had to be on Philip’s mind as he traveled back to Jerusalem.  The water of baptism had made the eunuch and him brothers in the family of Jesus, but would the people back home ever accept it?

By the way, years later Fred Craddock went back to Oak Ridge and drove by that little church.  As he came upon the parking lot, he saw it was full, BMW’s and pick-ups.  And going inside were white people and black people, poor people and rich people, landowners and folks from the trailer parks.  And over the door of the church a large sign: Barbeque Restaurant.  All You Can Eat, $6.99. Come On In.

You see, the eunuch, and you, and I all belong in the family of God.  Our names are written on the spiritual walls of the church.  It has nothing to do with our limitation, sins, and hurts.  It has nothing to do with the family we had, and it certainly has nothing to do with our own righteousness.  But it has everything to do with Jesus, the one who died and rose outside Jerusalem to make you and me and everyone who desires a part of the family of God. 

 Come on in.  All you can eat.  Everybody welcome.

Thanks be to God!

Posted by Ron Glover

Good Friday Meditation

Good Friday At-Home Devotional

Begin by lighting a candle in your worship area.

Reflect on the words of this Spiritual

            They crucified my Lord, and he never said a mumbalin’ word,

            They crucified my Lord, and he never said a mumbalin’ word,

            Not a word, not a word, not a word.

            They nailed him to a tree, and he never said a mumbalin’ word.

            Not a word, not a word, not a word.

            They pierced him in the side, and he never said a mumbalin’ word.

            Not a word, not a word, not a word.

            He bowed his head and died, and he never said a mumbalin’ word.

            Not a word, not a word, not a word.

Read this Reflection:

Silence can be underrated.  In today’s culture, words win the day.  Words on TV, coronavirus updates and press conferences, words in magazines, words on Twitter or Facebook, words on blogs, the war of words.  Who is the loudest with words is often heard, but in the pause and space between the words there is the break, the silence.  It is often overlooked and not heard, the music of silence.  Words come out of silence and return to silence.  If there was only noise, we wouldn’t know what silence was, nor could we distinguish it from noise and words.  Sometimes we need to be silent,

Jesus demonstrates this at such a tragic time.  He’s being nailed to a tree, pierced in his side, and he eventually died.  He could have said a lot of things to his oppressors, but “he never said a mumbalin’ word” to them.  Never.  “Like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).  Not a word, not a word, not a word.  Sometimes not saying a word is the best thing to say; words can be weapons, and as the saying goes, silence can be golden.  Jesus was just present to the moment.  He didn’t say it with his mouth but said it all with his body. “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke22:19).  That’s what was said in the silence.  You could see Jesus, the Living Word, speaking this without saying any word whatsoever.  Sometimes we may underestimate the role of silence in the spiritual life, but it can be constructive and helpful and the most appropriate response.  It was for Jesus.  How about you?

Adapted from Were You There?, Luke A. Powery

 Read together Psalm 39:1-4, 7-9

 Pray:  Lord Christ, Living Word of God, help me to know when to speak and when to stay silent before the mystery of your love.

 Extinguish your candle and observe some moments of silence in your home.

Posted by Ron Glover