Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

May 24, 2010

Sleeping in Church

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Remember the story of  Eutychus in the Bible?  In  Acts 20, Paul is preaching.  He plans to leave the city the next day and it appears he gave them more than a double sermon!  He preached until midnight!  A young man attending the service was sitting in the window.  He fell asleep which resulted in his falling out of the window!

Probably none of us have fallen out of the window, but we have fallen asleep in church!  Agreed?  Every regular churchgoer would confess there has been a time when you just couldn’t stay awake.  Remember the nods?  The jerking of the neck when you realized you were dozing?  Recall the misery of fighting the sleep?  Yes, I believe we can all identify.

In the case of Eutychus, it was obviously a very, very long sermon.  It was very late at night.  And with all the oil lamps burning, it was probably very warm.  All those contributed to his difficulty staying awake.  But perhaps there were other circumstances.  Perhaps he had worked long hours that day.  Or perhaps he was not feeling well.  Or perhaps he was not interested in the sermon and his mind began to wonder.  Again, can you identify?  I can!

My most embarrassing time of falling asleep occurred when I was sitting on the platform as the associate pastor!  That’s right!  I fell asleep, sitting behind the pastor who was preaching.   And, of course, everyone could see me!  Now I am up one on you!  Not many people can identify with that!

In the early 60’s, we relocated from Florida to Atlanta for me to attend graduate school (For more background to this story, see Blog for February 26,2010 entitled The VW Bus and Blog for April 10, 2010 entitled Is God Dead?).  Although I received a scholarship, we had to dispose of possessions, pay off bills,  and borrow money.  We found a small basement apartment.  Judy managed well with what we had and cared for Jennifer under these conditions.  I secured a night time job and we were happy!

After a few months, one of the influential churches in the Atlanta area asked me to be their associate pastor.  They asked very little of my time, and they offered the large, two story pastorium across the street from the church.  It was becoming a transitional area of Atlanta, and the pastor had purchased a home some distance away.  This church was an instrument of God in providing for us.  I have often said that they adopted us.  They had no real expectations of me.  It was truly an act of caring, providing, loving, and being a part of a minister’s preparation.

As we moved into this large home, various furniture was given to us and some was purchased at salvage stores.  We secured enough to adequately furnish the downstairs.  Judy began to refinish furniture and truly made this home a credit to the church.  Because of their kindness and love, we wanted to give an expression of our love to them.  We planned an open house so they could see ‘their’ home.  As a result, they would make it a house-warming occasion also.

We worked long hours to prepare.  The Saturday before the Sunday afternoon reception, we worked rigorously, well into the early hours of Sunday morning.  It was that Sunday morning that my “Eutychus” experience happened!  I had made the usual announcements and welcome.  I sat on the platform with other staff.  At some point, after the pastor began to preach, I did not just nod.  I fell sound asleep.  But I did keep my head rather erect, I believe.  I only can report what was told to me, of course.  Everyone was noticing.  Were they also listening to the sermon?  I doubt it!  They were focused on me and whether I would fall out of the chair.

And you can imagine what Judy was doing.  She was trying her best between praying and using that unexplained mental telepathy between a husband and wife to wake me up!  But to no avail!  I slept soundly until the organ began the invitation at the end of the service!

I will confess that this was not the only time I have fallen asleep in church . . . or at least strongly fought off the closing of my eyes.  There have been other times.  But I will not tell of them in order to protect the innocent preachers!

As one in the pulpit, I have seen many nods from those sitting in the pews.  There have been a few people in our churches through the years that slept every week.  For those, I knew it had nothing to do with the sermon!  But for all those others who fought the sleep . . . I got the message!

This is not a permit to fall asleep if the sermon is a little boring, but it is notice to those of us who are in the pulpit, and for all those who come to church physically tired and would fall asleep even fishing!



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