A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.–Acts 20.9
“Be A Lert! The World Needs More Lerts!”
Funny stuff, no? That was a poster in my bedroom as a kid. It was from the back of a Mad Magazine. And it’s amazing how little my sense of humor has developed since that age. I still think it’s hilarious.
I feel sorry for Eutychus, though. There was no Alfred E. Newman around back then to teach him these important concepts, and it burned him. Twice.
The first time Eutychus failed to be alert was when Paul was speaking to those gathered there. Paul was leaving the next morning, and he had a lot he wanted to share. It was a lot of material, and long about midnight, Eutychus just drifted off to sleep.
Hey, it happens to the best of us. As a pastor I’m always aware when someone in the congregation drifts off in the middle of a sermon. Most of the time, I let them sleep, unless they’re snoring! I do wonder what it is that’s caused them to be not-so-alert. Did they not sleep well? Did they have a big night last night? Is my sermon painfully boring? It may be a variety of things–and Lord knows I’ve drifted off at my share of sermons, lectures, and presentations as well. I wanted to be alert, but I wasn’t up to the challenge.
The second time Eutychus failed to be alert, it almost cost him his life. It was a crowded room where Paul was speaking, and the young man found an open spot to sit–on the ledge of a window. He didn’t just fall asleep. He fell three stories down. The good news is that he didn’t die after all. Paul ran down and checked him out and said, “There’s still life in him!” I can picture his mom scolding him later…”what were you thinking, sitting in an open window?”
Unfortunately, that happens to the best of us, too. We put ourselves behind the wheel of a car when what we really need is 40 winks. We find ourselves in tense work situations we can’t navigate because we’re distracted by a thousand other things. We want to make good choices, but we’re not clear-headed enough to do so. When you’re not alert to the world around you, life can become a constant worry.
Being A Lert is a challenge in this world. Too much coming at us, too much to process easily. The truth is, God needs Lerts, for the world. That’s not something Alfred E. Newman reminds us, but something Paul and Jesus were very clear about. God needs people who take care of themselves and focus themselves and are prepared to give God and the world everything they’ve got.
Being A Lert means being up for the task of discipleship. It means that if you find yourself in a precarious place — even perched on a third story window, you can say, wide awake:
“What, me worry?”
Have a great week,