48. Falling Asleep in Church

God loves the people who fall asleep in church.

This comes as a relief to me, since my thoughts sometimes wander to the ends of Earth during sermons. To borrow a phrase inadvertently coined by an acquaintance of mine, I tend to daze off during services—to slip into a blank state of mind somewhere between a daze and a doze in which I’m only vaguely aware of the message being preached.

I suspect the reason some churches serve coffee is to keep churchgoers awake during the sermon. Other churches, not quite so shrewd, make the mistake of serving real wine during communion services—there’s nothing like alcohol to make churchgoers drowsy.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible concerns a young man who fell asleep during church. Paul, the missionary who wrote about half of the books in the New Testament, was preaching in an upstairs room late at night. As Paul droned on and on, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep, plummeted from a third-story window and died.

It would have been awful if the story had ended there. The moral of the story would have been You fall asleep in church, you die. The story continues, however, and we learn two great things about God. First, he loves the people who fall asleep in church. Second, he has a sense of humor.

After Eutychus fell out the window, Paul rushed down to the street and put his arms around his dead body. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Eutychus revived, much to the delight of the people. Paul went upstairs, had something to eat—and kept preaching.

If I had been God, I might have considered not restoring Eutychus to life. “Let his death stand as a warning to all future sleepers in churches,” I might have said. Fortunately for churchgoers everywhere, the Lord is very merciful. Eutychus was revived and God’s love for all people—even people who fall asleep during church—was demonstrated.

(The story of Eutychus can be found in Acts 20:7-12.)

There are quite a number of funny things like that in the Bible.

There’s the poetic passage in which God described the stupidity of ostriches (Job 39:13-17).

There’s the tragicomic story of how King David’s murderous son Absalom was killed by soldiers after he rode beneath an oak tree, got his head caught in a branch and dangled helplessly in midair as his mule went on without him (2 Samuel 18:9-15).

There’s the account of how, during a contest between God and the false god Baal, the prophet Elijah taunted rival prophets with snarky remarks (1 Kings 18:22-29).

For all its seriousness—and it can certainly be serious—the Bible is sometimes pretty funny.

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