by Stan Mitchell
“And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead” (Acts 20:9, ESV).
You have heard the joke. A man falls asleep during the sermon. The preacher spies him, and addresses his neighbor. “Can you reach over and wake brother so-and-so up?”
The punch line follows: “Preacher, you put him to sleep. You wake him up!”
I’m sorry. I never liked that joke.
And I don’t think it’s because I lack a sense of humor. I think Jesus used humor to get his points across, and as long as it’s appropriate, I think a preacher can do it effectively today, too.
Can you imagine a man attempting eye surgery with a beam in his own eye? Can you imagine a punctilious housewife straining a gnat out of her soup…and swallowing a camel?
What I don’t like about the joke is that it blames the wrong person. It’s like saying that an assaulted woman was guilty because she was running at night or the victim of a robbery was guilty because he left his car window open. Perhaps he was unwise, but the thief was the guilty one!
And I don’t really mind (much) if someone is having a hard time staying awake on a given Sunday morning. You know what I mean — when he dozes for a moment, then wakes up guiltily, and does his best to stay the course. Get more sleep next Saturday night, but trust me, I understand.
But what I don’t understand is the person who outright “crashes” in worship, making no pretence that he despises proceedings. It’s not just a rebuke to the preacher, it demonstrates a lack of respect for God himself.
If you are a child of God, ask yourself, is this the way you should act in God’s very presence? What if the Lord were to come and speak to us directly, would we pay attention? If the preacher uses God’s word, is there a difference?
Parents, I ask it in all kindness, observe your child in worship. If he or she is not demonstrating proper respect for the Lord, it’s your responsibility to teach them, by word and example how to do it properly.
Your leadership might also be needed with regard to bedtime on Saturday nights. If need be, cancel other activities in order to carry out the most important thing you will do all week — worship God!
I say this in love. If we do not show proper respect for God, worse things than falling out a window may happen to us!