Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK FOUR
ORBIT – DAY SIXTEEN
Hello and welcome to another week of Orbit – the daily devotional from St Mary’s Reigate. Each weekday we look together at a little bit of the Bible, and ask how we might be able to apply it to today. At the moment we’re looking at the story of Paul – a man who knew what it was to follow Jesus and tell others about him in tough and uncertain times.
BIBLE READING – Acts 20: 7-12
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. 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 story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around 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. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
If you enjoy dark comedy, then today’s passage is probably for you. Paul is talking to the Ephesians, and – with his head full of all the things he wants to teach before he leaves the city the next day – he just doesn’t stop. The writer – Luke – actually says that Paul went “on and on”. If you’ve ever sat in a sermon and wondered if the preacher has lost all sense of time, then you’ll be familiar with the scene: sometimes less is more, after all.
And if we’re really honest, most of us have experienced that awkward feeling of heavy eyelids in such a moment. We want to keep listening; we want to stay awake, and most of all we’re terrified that we might start snoring if we don’t. So in this story, we can probably all identify with poor Eutychus.
He has made the somewhat unwise decision to listen to Paul’s long sermon on that hot evening while sitting in the window. This is the first century, so of course there’s no glass, and he’s on the third floor. Eventually, Paul’s words act as a sort of lullaby, and Eutychus falls – first into a deep sleep, and then out of the window to his death. His last thoughts, as he woke up plummeting to the ground, were probably something like: “why couldn’t he have just done a TED talk?” Alright, probably not.
Paul could have been offended – instead he ran to the body and performed a miraculous resurrection. Eutychus is saved – and will never have forgotten the moment. But this didn’t happen for the sake of comic relief or to warn long-winded preachers – to ancient readers of this passage, the story of Eutychus is one of spiritual failure. The fact that he fell asleep during Paul’s final sermon was like ignoring the vital safety instructions before a plane takes off. Eutychus should have been in better spiritual shape than this; he should have treated Paul’s sermon with much more respect.
Following Jesus is easy in some ways, but it also requires commitment – or rather, he deserves our commitment. It’s not good enough to blame the Bible for being too hard to read – because it deserves some proper effort. Similarly it’s lazy to blame a preacher for speaking for too long – listening to her sermon should probably be one of the most important investments of our time in the whole week. Eutychus is a recipient of God’s grace in this story – but as with all stories of grace, he certainly didn’t deserve it.
Oh, and here’s the kicker: guess what Eutychus means in ancient greek. Lucky…
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
Lord help me to make you first priority in my life. I aim to give you the best of my attention and my commitment; help me to build up spiritual muscles that enable me to focus on you. Forgive me for when I don’t give you much of my time; I want to do better. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
Today we’re thinking about giving God the best of our attention. So, choose a moment which you might consider ‘prime time’ in your day; not the very end when you’re putting off going to sleep; select a bit of time when you might otherwise be doing something you really enjoy. In that time, spend ten minutes or so either praying or reading a bit of the Bible. You may find that God really speaks to you when you give him the best of your time.
If you want to get in touch, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!