A Long Winded Sermon

Acts 20:1-12

Today, most of us consider a long sermon to be somewhere from 35 to 40 minutes, but the Apostle Paul gives comfort to any modern day preacher who is hearing about long sermons from critics, for Paul in this passage went on past midnight, and then until dawn in Troas.

The first six verses of this passage give details about places visited and who was in Paul’s party, but beginning with verse seven we see the events surrounding this epic sermon. The most interesting thing here is that Luke never even tells us what Paul was talking about!

Paul went on so long that a young man named Eutychus, who was seated in the window, fell asleep and then fell three stories to his death sometime after midnight… and we complain after only a few minutes. Luke tells us that Paul ran outside and raised the young man back to life, and then returned to his sermon and went on several more hours. We know that Paul went a little long because he was leaving the next day, but my oh my I wonder if anyone was awake when he was finished.

I take three lessons from this text:

First, preachers should probably keep an eye on the clock.

Second, young men shouldn’t sit in third floor windows.

Third, the power of God can overcome any calamity.

Next time, Paul bids farewell to the elders of Ephesus, and Luke tells us what he told them; see you then!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to A Long Winded Sermon

  1. When I was in seminary we were told of a lecture by John Chrysostom that went on for 3 hours – on one word! As we were told, imagine what he could have done with the entire verse. But, things were different then, people did not work on Sundays, and frequently would spend the entire day in church. It was not uncommon for them to share two meals while there. I remember my grandparents saying how church services started with the priest walking around the town on Sunday calling everyone to worship, and how they would join the procession to the church; services started at 10, ended at noon, and everyone gathered in the hall for the rest of the day.

    I have been at churches where people leave after the homily, some stay as long as communion, but walk out immediately afterwards. Then there are summers, where sometimes you can count the people in church without having to remove your shoes. My, how times have changed. I remember one priest who called out during communion to those leaving, “what if Christ left after the trial with Pilate and said the rest just isn’t worth it?”

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yeah, I remember the old days too…

      My personal record for long sermons is 53 minutes, and the only one who complained was the regular preacher in that location. Maybe I got away with it because I’m irregular…

      As for lectures… well that’s quite another thing; I’ve never exceeded 4 hours in a lecture 🙂

  2. I wonder what happened with the boy after being raised to life. Hmmmm

  3. I researched this not long ago. I learned that being on a third floor meant the church apparently met in an insulae, and apartment building. Most people could not afford houses then, so most lived in such buildings. The story says there were many lamps where they were meeting. So, apparently everyone brought their own torch to walk the streets with at night. That would make a pretty hot and crowded apartment. It must have been stifling in there. I think I would have sat in their only window myself. As for getting sleepy, that’s what happens when it is late and hot and stuffy. No one ever condemned the young man. Just some thoughts. Good morning.

  4. That’s true……Most people can spend hours in cinemas, watching movies, even the ones they have watched before, but cannot spend an hour in church. They will complain when the message of the preacher is long as if it is as long as the hours spent on movies.

  5. I would think those who attended all-day sermons were certainly thirsty for the Good News Paul had to offer. And I always thought it was an interesting aside about the young man who fell out the window and was raised from the dead. Perhaps Paul was telling about Lazarus at the time?!? 🙂

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