(A) Introduction (Read the references.)

The early part of the chapter provides few details of Paul's travels or his ministry. Luke tells us that he arrived in Greece and stopped three months but does not even mention that during this time he wrote the epistle to the Romans. Yet Luke devotes six verses to a church service at Troas. By doing so he helps us to capture the atmosphere of a special meeting led by Paul.

(B) The church at Troas was alive and well.

(1) The Troas Christians were eager to meet together in spite of difficulties.

Most of the congregation had been at work for much of the day. Many were slaves and it was only at night that they were free to worship. Sunday was not a day of rest and relaxation but a day of fellowship. I think legalistic Christians make too much of Sunday as a day of rest. It is not the Sabbath! Instead it should be the day Christians meet together around God's word. In China during the years of Communist oppression many house groups met at 3am - the only time it was safe to gather.

The Christians in Troas met together as soon as they could which meant they came before the main meal of the day. So they bought it with them and the food was shared out. It was what we call a potluck supper. I think it is a pity we don't have more meals together. Whenever we do it is very jolly and good humoured. At some point in the meal, probably at the end, bread was eaten and wine drunk in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus. One of the saddest things about my own fellowship is that half the congregation do not take communion. It is a bad sign.

There was limited space in the upper room in which the believers gathered. People sat on the floor surrounded by many burning lamps. It must have been very stuffy and uncomfortable. However no one made that an excuse for not turning up!

I am sure that Christians in my church spend much less time together now than they did 50 years ago. Most only attend chapel for an hour a week. When I was a teenager I attended two services on Sunday, the Tuesday prayer meeting, the Wednesday choir practice and Bible Class on Thursday.

I think there is a trend for people generally to spend more time at home. We are becoming more unsociable. Last week I took an old friend of mine, Freda Webb, out to lunch. The pub was full and so I asked a couple if we could sit next to them. They agreed and we chatted happily as we ate. When I went to pay the bill the pretty little waitress asked, "Did you know the people you sat with?" She was amazed that we didn't! It shows that it is not a common occurrence for strangers to sit together for a pub meal and talk to one another.

A church where Christians spend little time together is unhealthy. It is getting infected by a worldly trend. It is suffering, in the words of one American pastor, from divers diseases; some dive for the countryside, some dive for the beach and some dive for the door.

(2) The Troas Christians had a passion for God's word.

Paul taught from dusk till dawn! This seems to me a little excessive. However we have to bear in mind:

    (a) The people took a siesta in the middle of the day
    (b) The service was very informal. Paul would have taken and answered questions. There may have been some discussion. People ate as they listened.
    (c) It was the apostle's last visit. The believers in Troas would never again have the opportunity of listening to the greatest of all Christian teachers.

Nevertheless the brethren at Troas were keen to listen to Paul from dusk till dawn. I wonder how many of us would attend a teaching session conducted by an eminent Bible scholar from 9pm to 4am. I think if I announced it to my church they would conclude I had gone off my trolley.

The fires are burning low in many parts of Britain and Christians have lost their enthusiasm for the word of God. I attend a men's meeting in a neighbouring church. I am amazed at how few of the men associated with that church are there. The speakers are excellent, the fellowship is warm - so why don't all the men come?

Christians have lost their hunger for the Word. Enthusiasm for meeting together has waned.

A year or so ago I attended a course at our local college of further education on how to design a website. There were plenty on the course. Each session lasted two hours. At the end of the two hours the poor lecturer was still being badgered with questions. He found it difficult to get away! We wanted to find out all we could about the subject. We were keen!

This is not how Christians are about the word of God. Their interest in acquiring knowledge is at best limited.

I am indebted to Alan Carr, the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lenoir, North Carolina for this anecdote:

One night, the meeting place of a small, ineffective church caught fire and burned to the ground. Several from the community, as well as the church, had gathered to combat the blaze, but to no avail! It was a total loss. Looking around the gathered faces, one church member saw a local man who had always been opposed to the work of the church and who refused to attend it. The church member said to him, "Well, I never saw you come near this church before." "No," said the man, "but then, I have never seen this church on fire before either."

In some parts of the world the churches are on fire and there is a great hunger for the word. I was speaking recently to a friend just back from visiting his son in South Korea. He went to a prayer meeting at his son's church and was asked to speak for 45 minutes. The congregation then engaged in prayer for an hour and a half and would have gone on longer but for the fact the pastor brought the meeting to a close.

How we need God's Spirit to fan the dying embers of our enthusiasm.

(C) A Tragic Accident.

The freak accident to Eutychus reminds us that:

(1) Sometimes no-one is to blame.
I don't think we can blame the lad for falling asleep. He was probably not older than 12 or 13. He had been at work all day, it was getting late and the room was stuffy. The lad moved to an open window in an attempt to keep him self awake. He fought against sleep but it overwhelmed him.

I have some sympathy with elderly folk who fall asleep during long sermons. The last time I preached at Bardwell the old organist fell asleep. When I announced the last hymn his wife got to her feet, marched to the organ and gave her husband such a dig in the ribs! I am more tolerant than one of our visiting preachers who described how he felt when conducting a service with only three people in the congregation. At the onset of the sermon one of the three folds his arms, shuts his eyes and goes to sleep. Our itinerant preacher roared, "I'd like to throw my hymnbook at him." That made me laugh!

I don't think we can blame Paul. Some would! Luke does tell us that Eutychus fell into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. v9. I think certain members of the Brockley congregation would have some sympathy with the fellow who got up to leave in the middle of a long sermon. When a steward asked him where he was going the man replied, "To get a haircut." "Why didn't you get a haircut before you came?" asked the steward. "I did!" replied the man.

I don't blame Paul because the people of Troas were eager to listen. They loved Paul, admired and respected him and had a passion for the word. He didn't want to disappoint any of them.

I don't preach at many churches but there are a few small fellowships that I have gone to for nearly 40 years. They have grown used to my style! The Christians at these small causes are very, very appreciative. I enjoy a good rapport with them and it is lovely to address their spiritual needs. I know how Paul felt as he spoke to warm, responsive hearts.

We certainly cannot blame God. A lot of folk blame God when things go wrong. "Why did God allow it?" is their cry. Two good things killed Eutychus - sleep and gravity. We would be in a very bad way without either. There is a price to be paid for the universe being the way it is and for us being the way we are. There would be no earthquakes if there were no mountains; but who would do without mountains to be without earthquakes? A host of other problems would follow from the absence of mountains.

When we complain and blame God he is entitled to ask, "Could you do better?" The smallest change in the way things are would have repercussions of which we have no knowledge. Far better to say or sing:

            Though I cannot His goings see,
            Nor all his footsteps find;
            Too wise to be mistaken, He
            Too good to be unkind.

Accidents happen and no-one is to blame. This is hard for our increasingly litigious society to accept. It is a sad world where lawyers are known as ambulance chasers. I find it sickening that insurance companies set so many conditions before insuring slightly risky events like a pancake race or school trip. In the end the organisers of these events will give up in disgust. If Eutychus fell out of a window to day someone would be sued!

(2) Life is uncertain.
James writes in his epistle: Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James4v14.

No-one ever dreamed that Eutychus, a young man, would die during the course the service. I preached this sermon at my own church because the previous week the speaker who was booked to come, Hugh Bishop, died suddenly of an heart attack. He was only 56. His death was unexpected and a great shock. I can still hardly believe it.

We never know when the grim reaper will arrive. I read a short news item in the Daily Telegraph a few years ago. A man in America got up at the end of breakfast and because it was such a fine morning decided to finish his coffee on the patio. On the patio he tripped and fell. His cup smashed and he cut his throat on it's jagged edge and bled to death. It did not seem possible that as the man rejoiced in the glorious morning sunshine but a few moments later he would be dead.

Are we prepared for death? Is there anything we would do today if we knew we would die tomorrow? Some folk prepare for an unexpected accident by changing their underclothes before embarking on a journey. They don't want to be pulled out of a car crash and taken to hospital wearing soiled undergarments. Clean underclothes should be the least of our worries! Have we clean hearts?

(3) Sudden, unexpected death is upsetting.
The Sunday I preached this sermon I explained to the congregation that our speaker had died suddenly. Most knew, but our organist did not. The news upset her badly and she was hardly able to play the first hymn. I can remember my previous headmaster coming to the staff room to announce the unexpected death of a much loved colleague, Cedric Stanton. The lady teachers burst into tears.

As Christian belief declines death is accompanied by ever-greater expressions of grief and sorrow. This happened after Princess Diane's tragic car accident. I attended a funeral recently where the mourners sobbed loudly. This is very uncommon at the funeral service of a Christian.

Christians believe in the Providence of God albeit sometimes with difficulty. My fellow elder Edward often quotes a short verse in his prayers:

            Plagues and deaths around me fly,
            Till he bids, I cannot die;
            Not a single shaft can hit
            Till the God of love sees fit.

Sentiments like these help the believer to come to terms with sudden death.

(D) A wonderful miracle.

(1) Life is precious.
Paul rushed down to the young man spread-eagled in the courtyard below. He threw himself upon him and cried out: "Don't be alarmed. He's alive."

It is wonderful when anyone survives a life threatening disease. There is a commercial currently on TV for cancer research. It shows a man who has been treated for cancer returning home after his latest check up and saying, "All clear." His family respond to the good news with great joy - hugs, kisses and tears.

Paul's action and the miracle that followed remind us that life is precious.

(2) Miracles still happen.

Greater miracles than the restoration of Eutychus have occurred even in my little chapel. Yes they have! I have seen men and women dead to God and his Word born again - given new life as surely as Eutychus was. I have witnessed lives changed through submission and commitment to Jesus. Peter Chaffey became a new creature through the preaching of my dear old father, Will White was brought to life through the testimony of our pastor's wife, Belinda Ladd and Pauline Stone's eyes were opened one morning as I myself proclaimed the gospel. What joy there is when the church can say, "He's alive, He's alive. At last, at last he's alive." How I yearn that some who attend my church week after week will finally be quickened by God's spirit and through faith in Christ come out of darkness into his most glorious light.

(3) A day is coming.
A day will dawn, perhaps after our lives have ended, when Jesus will return to this earth. On that gladsome day when Jesus raises his own to eternal life there will be a great shout, "We're alive! We're alive! We're alive for evermore!"

            Thou art coming, Thou art coming;
            We shall meet Thee on Thy way,
            We shall see Thee, we shall know Thee,
            We shall bless Thee, we shall show Thee
            All our hearts could never say.
            What an anthem that will be,
            Ringing out our love for Thee,
            Pouring out our rapture sweet
            At Thine own all-glorious feet!