“On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.” (Acts 20:7)
Acts 20:7-12 contains one of the most interesting stories recorded in the Bible. It involves a young man named Eutychus. He was sitting on a window sill as the Apostle Paul was preaching. Unfortunately for Eutychus, Paul went a little long that evening, and his sermon lasted until midnight. As Paul preached, Eutychus fell into a deep sleep and fell three stories down and died. That would’ve been tragic, but Paul goes down to see the young man, and he is then raised from the dead, but he had to endure Paul continuing to preach until dawn.
Now that should provide lots of comfort to preachers and listeners alike because preaching can sometimes go long, and that’s okay. And sermons can sometimes put you to sleep, and that’s okay. I say that in jest. But while that story sticks out to me, I want to highlight a few more essential takeaways from this short passage of Scripture that should inform our worship today.
The first is the importance of the regular worship gathering. The early church would meet to worship, hear the preaching of God’s Word, and break bread together. I know that going to church on a Sunday morning takes a lot of effort sometimes, especially if you’re trying to get your kids to church on time. But for us, at least in the U.S., our day of worship, Sunday, is on weekends when most people are off. When the early church was meeting for worship, they were doing this “on the first day of the week,” and it would have been a workday. But it says something about how much regular worship gathering meant to them.
The second thing is that there was deeper fellowship than just saying “hello” in passing. It says that they “assembled to break bread” (Acts 20:7). This undoubtedly would have included taking the Lord’s supper, but they also ate together. There’s something about eating together that fosters unity and community. I know we’ve missed having those due to COVID, but as soon as we can do so safely, I hope the church sees the importance of a habit of sharing meals.
The last thing I want to highlight is the importance of the preaching of God’s Word. Yes, Paul did put a guy to sleep with his sermon. But the preaching was so necessary to the people in the early church that they endured preaching until the sun came up the next day. And if the Apostles and their companions needed God’s Word that much and so hungered for God’s Word that they could endure that amount of preaching, then surely we need God’s Word preached to us. God’s preached Word is not something to endure; it’s something we need to do and be all that God has called us to do and be.