This sermon uses the story of Eutychus as an object lesson for the Lord's Supper.Illustration: Preachers have heard jokes about long-winded sermons for years. One of my favorites is of the stranger who entered the church while the sermon was in progress, and he took a seat on the back row.
After he'd been there for a while, he leaned forward, and tapped an elderly man in front of him. The older member looked back at the stranger.
"How long has he been preaching?" whispered the newcomer. "Oh, about 40 years, I think," said the member.
"Very well, I shall stay," said the stranger, "for by this time, he must be almost finished."
There's a passage in Acts that records a no-joking-around, extremely long sermon. In fact, it lasted past midnight, all the way to daybreak! It's not hard to imagine what was going through Luke's memory as he wrote the words, "Paul talked on and on ..." Since the early church traditionally celebrated the Lord's Supper each time they met, it's likely that the marathon sermon was also marked with the observance we celebrate today.
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 extended his message until midnight.
There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep he fell down from the third story, and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, threw himself on him, embraced him, and said, "Don't be alarmed, for his • life is in him!" After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, he conversed a considerable time until dawn. Then he left. They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted. Acts 20:7-12 (HCSB)
I. The Lord's Supper is a reminder: "He's alive!"
It was an object lesson no one wanted. Eutychus fell asleep, and then fell to his apparent death. Was he married? Was his mother in the room? Did he have children yet? If so, imagine the rush of emotions. Perhaps there was a scream. Surely there was a "thud!" People raced outside, and the long-winded preacher pushed past those who had proclaimed him dead. Miraculously, in a few moments, Paul was able to cry out, "He's alive!"
Can you hear the excited echoes? "He's alive!" "Eutychus is alive!" "He's OK!"
The real reminder of each Lord's Supper isn't of the second chance Eutychus got. The remembrance we have is of a Savior who died for us, and yet lived again.
Imagine the joy around Jerusalem, just minutes into Resurrection Sunday. "He's alive!" shouts Mary. "He's alive!" screams John. "He is alive," confirms Peter. "He's alive?" asks the governor. "He's alive!" screams the city. History was changed with just such a cry, and every time we take the bread and cup, we pick up the cry.
And what a powerful thought. All who have partaken of this bread, and this cup as believers and yet died ... are alive. Is there any greater joy of knowing that one you grieve for isn't dead at all, but alive? What a relief, what a joy inexpressible. What a life-changing truth. Today, as you partake of an incredibly symbolic meal, remember the truth: He is alive!
II. The Lord's Supper is an opportunity: Be comforted
What a beautiful ending to the scripture. After "breaking bread," "the people took the young man home alive, and were greatly comforted." They'd almost lost one they loved, but now he was alive.
Illustration: One of our young men recently returned from military duty in the Middle East. For several months, he had served in a place of great danger, in very unfamiliar and uncomfortable surroundings. When he talked about his joy upon being home, he talked of the simplest things. His recliner fit like a glove, and his bed was nothing short of luxurious comfort. He played ball with his son for an hour, and enjoyed his favorite meal across the table from his wife. The touch of her hand, he said, was beyond description. The greatest comfort he'd ever known wasn't anything elaborate. The greatest comfort was simply being home. It was the comfort of having familiar surroundings after a very dangerous journey.
The disciples and the close-knit circle around Jesus thought they had lost Jesus. They had called him Messiah, and life had been wonderful when Jesus was around. Suddenly, there was the cross, and it was all over. The grave sealed their hopes, and the comfort was shattered.
Then came the cry - "He's alive!" - and Jesus was in their midst. He came with open hands, standing among them, fixing their breakfast, walking with them, encouraging them, thrilling them, leaving them with the smiles of a man come home from war.
Wherever you've been, the Lord's Supper is an opportunity to come home. The battle might have been difficult, and you might not have won every fight. But here is forgiveness, and grace ... and the open arms of home.
III. The Lord's Supper is an invitation: Get started!
Perhaps someone is here at the very beginning of a spiritual journey. Trying to find your way with God is such an overwhelming task, it's quite possible you might not know where to start. There's so much to learn, so many steps of faith to take, so many things to do. Maybe you've seen someone in your family, or your circle of friends, or even in this church, who seems to be miles and miles ahead of you in a spiritual walk. Perhaps the whole idea of comfort and hope seems impossible, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances. If so, I have a story for you.
Illustration: In 1847, a boy named Homan Walsh went out to fly a kite. Homan was taking part in a kite-flying contest, so he brought his best kite, and plenty of string.
He stood on the Canadian bank of the Niagara River, letting more and more of that string go out, and his little-boy's kite kept going higher, and higher, and higher ... until it stretched nearly 1,000 feet. When a stranger on the American side of the Niagara Gorge grabbed Homan's string, the crowd that had gathered let up a mighty roar. For the first time in history, people on opposite sides of this great gorge were holding onto the same string. And Homan won $5, the top prize in the contest.
There was much more than $5 at stake, however. In short order, the string was tied to a tree on the American shoreline, and a light cord tied to the Canadian end of the string. The cord was then pulled across the 800-foot span. A rope was tied to the cord, and pulled safely across. To the rope was attached a wire cable, and to the cable, a thicker cable attached. It was the beginning of an engineering victory over one of the greatest natural barriers that had separated Americans and Canadians.
Fifty-foot towers were built on each side of the river, and more cables became a part of the picture. In time, people rode across the river in buckets, for $1 each, and then they walked on a foot bridge for a quarter. But less than a year after Homan's kite first flew across the river, people were safely riding their horse-drawn carriages across the Niagara, on a marvelous suspension bridge that hung 220 feet over the rushing water.
Eventually, there were 15 bridges that spanned the Niagara, six of which are in use today. The thousands of passengers that travel across the multi-lane, high-speed bridges today think nothing of the bridge, some of them so familiar with the path, they barely glance at the scenic view. More than likely, it has never occurred to most of those on the great bridges today that somewhere in the past, just to get this modern-day miracle under way, somebody had to fly a kite.
If great bridges can get their start with a boy's kite and string, then I'll tell you that great spiritual experiences can get their start with amazingly simple decisions.
The Lord's Supper is one of the world's simplest meals. From one vantage point, it might not seem much more significant than a boy flying a kite. It might seem little more than a string of a connection between you and God. Our offer to you today is ... make that connection. From the smallest beginnings can come great bridges of faith.