Acts 20: 7-12: On the first day of the week…
“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. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 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. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms round him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”NIV UK
From early on in the life of the church, Christians began to worship on ‘’the first day of the week’’ (7), the day Jesus rose from the dead. This is the first mention in the New Testament of God’s people holding services on a Sunday (rather than a Saturday, the Jewish sacred day). This short story, resonant with eye-witness detail, gives a vivid insight into one such gathering of believers at Troas. I don’t imagine that every ‘primitive’ congregation was identical. There would no doubt be differences of style and culture from region to region, and from place to place. However, I do believe that the foundational characteristics recorded in (2:42-47) would be found everywhere. Here at Troas there was a major emphasis on the spoken word, and the breaking of bread (7, 11). They were not in a hurry. They gave leisurely time to the sharing of a fellowship meal, which embraced what we might call communion. David Pawson was surely correct when he observed that in the church now we have ‘too many meetings and not enough meeting.’
In this short story it appears that the Christians were meeting during the evening. Sunday would be a normal working day in the Roman Empire, and so God’s people would have to come together early (before work), or late (afterwards), and perhaps both. Here an evening meeting is described, and in this particular instance it stretched on through the night. There is also the indicator that young people were present in this lengthy gathering
No mention is made of music. Of course, there are indicators in other parts of the New Testament that hymn singing was part of the early worship of the church (e.g.1 Corinthians 14:26), but perhaps it didn’t figure as much as it does now. Speaking personally, I love music and I like to sing. But in the Western church we are in serious danger of worshipping ‘worship’ (i.e. What we call ‘worship’) and magnifying music and musicians out of all proportion. It seems to be generally agreed today that in order to be successful you need to have a band with a contemporary sound. That may indeed be one way to gather a crowd, but filling a hall is not the same thing as building up a church. Have we lost our confidence in the Word of God, simply and clearly preached in the power of the Spirit, to do its mighty work? Proportionally, music seems to play a much bigger part in today’s church than in the early church, and maybe we should question this trend?
It was a miracle that Eutychus lived following his fall. I love the understatement in (12): ‘’And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.’’
Preacher, take heart. Even the apostle Paul had someone nod off in a sermon!
PRAYER: Lord God, help us not to lose sight of the essentials of church life, and may we never feel that we have to entertain in order to draw people.