Order of Worship and Discipleship:


Part 1 – This reading and reflection should prepare us for the Lord’s Supper. It should gather us around the table and proclaim encouragement and hope! What is proclaimed in the bread and the wine? What is preached? What do we believe?

Reading and Reflection: Acts 20:1-12

Luke takes up the account of their journeys after a riot in Ephesus ...
      When it was all over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia. Along the way, he encouraged the believers in all the towns he passed through. Then he traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia. Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus; Aristarchus and Secundus, from Thessalonica; Gaius, from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus, who were from the province of Asia. They went ahead and waited for us at Troas. As soon as the Passover season ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later arrived in Troas, where we stayed a week.
      On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's Supper. Paul was preaching; and since he was leaving the next day, he talked until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the window sill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. "Don't worry," he said, "he's alive!" Then they all went back upstairs and ate the Lord's Supper together. And Paul continued talking to them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and unhurt, and everyone was not just a little encouraged.

For many of us, verse 7 of this chapter is quite familiar – "On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's Supper." It is an important scripture that we have used to verify why we observe the communion supper weekly. But do we anticipate our gathering on the first day of the week to break bread? I am glad we have this story, not only to give us a glimpse into how important the first day of the week was for the early church, but also so we can anticipate that day as they did. I am glad we have this story, not only to show us how the gathering to break bread was something the early church did frequently, but also so we can anticipate the eating and drinking of the Lord’s Supper together, just as they did. Luke does not end with a simple instruction in verse 7; he records an event of special significance. I believe the sharing of this story should help with more than knowledge of what to do, it also builds our anticipation of what we do.

Don’t misunderstand, anticipation cannot be manufactured. It is not something we can produce with a crafty build up or emotional pep rally. Anticipation is the experience of waiting for something that is truly special. In Troas, the anticipation of the Sunday gathering is there because the church gathers together to be encouraged. These spiritually hungry souls long for the common meal that sustains their faith in the harsh environment where they live. Stories will be told around the Lord’s Supper table. Not idle talk, but experiences of how the living Lord has challenged and blessed them during the week. For many of the believers in Troas, this is the first honest and sincere talk they have encountered all week. They will share, along with the bread and wine, confession of weaknesses and need for help – sometimes real material needs. This is a new kind of family and in their eating and drinking together, in their honest talk they enact and embody the gospel. And they encounter the spirit of Christ in their midst.

As much as they anticipated every Sunday, on the Sunday Paul spoke at Troas they were reminded that communion is a matter of life and death – not just Christ’s but their own! The atmosphere of worship changes when someone falls out of a window to their death. Death has invaded the environment of encouragement. Like a sniper’s bullet that tears through a schoolyard or a holiday parade, death sneaks into the church house and makes its presence known. All hope would seem to be lost. A special Sunday is ruined. No pep rally can sustain artificial joy and enthusiasm at that point. But the gathering in Troas is not artificial. The real presence and spirit of Jesus Christ is there. They speak his words and eat his meal. Not even death can interrupt or distract a worship that is focused on the living Christ.

After his miraculous resuscitation, every eye must have been on Eutychus as he ate the bread and drank from the cup. He became a symbol of the meal and a very real participant in the significance of the meal too. His revived life was a testimony to the gospel of Christ and the power of the resurrection. Sunday after Sunday in Troas they must have told this story – and here we are telling it this Sunday! How has the power of the gospel and the presence of Christ revived you? How can he revive you? Death is all around us and it does more than yank us out of three story windows to our death. It can poison us slowly with fear, lies, guilt, and sin. Our worries and anxieties cause us to fall asleep and grow deaf to the truth, so much so that death creeps into our lives as a paralysis and we are dead long before our funeral. But, into our immobility and deadness comes a reviving embrace. It is the love of God. In Christ, there is life and hope – and that hope can grow Sunday after Sunday. Our meal witnesses that death does not hold a monopoly on the future. In Christ there is life and the worst things are never the last things!
Let us also be revived as we gather to hear the truth, to remember the promises, to eat and drink. Let’s anticipate new life and also anticipate the hope of eating and drinking in the kingdom that is to come.
"On the First Day of the Week, we gathered to break bread. – "as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we preach – we proclaim - the Lord’s death ... until he comes!"


Part 2 – This sermon should call us to respond to the word of the gospel. What have we just proclaimed? What encouragement do we need? How have we grown weary, tired? How have we fallen? How have we been mortally wounded? What forces conspire against us? We can be encouraged – "not a little comforted."
Eutychus went home alive and unhurt (see NLT). How will you go home today? The Lord is risen.

It is all about encouragement. That’s the beginning and end of this text. Paul starts off on a journey to encourage the churches. Encouragement is not secondary to evangelism. It is a vital part of the evangelistic mission. Christians are not simply birthed, they must also be nurtured. (Let us never forget that the Great Commission involves "making disciples" which includes baptizing them and teaching them.) This is why God has given us not only baptism, but also preaching of the Word and the Lord’s Supper – the word and the meal sustains and nurtures those who have been baptized. It shapes our faith and our life together. It encourages us.

Paul and his associates came to Troas from Greece via Macedonia. That is like going from Texas to Florida by way of Ohio. Why? Because Paul was a wanted man. There were plots against him and his life was in danger. The Christians Paul meets with live in hostile environments. The encouragement they need is found through encountering Jesus Christ in the preaching and the common meal. They are strengthened spiritually and sustained. Paul does not preach for a long, long time because he cannot get to his point. Paul preaches until midnight because these Christians who live in unfriendly territory desperately need this encouragement. They are not concerned about how late it is - - persecuted churches don’t watch the clock, they watch the door.

It is ironic and tragic that the gathering for Sunday worship is sometimes viewed as (at worst) a necessary intrusion into "our time" and (at best) an obligation. When our persecuted brothers and sisters gather in their various meeting places around the world, many of them in secret, I suspect that they long for the fellowship. They welcome the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief, or to gain encouragement for as long as possible. I suspect they linger in the place where they meet for nothing is better than what they are doing now.

We are not persecuted by the government in our own nation, but here in our own community, there are some of us who feel that way. For some of us, the places we reside during the week, the places we work in during the week are not places of encouragement. At best they may be stale and neutral environments. They are a network of uninspiring connections in which we fit like a cog in a machine or a worker bee. We plod through the aimless chores and responsibilities without much encouragement. At worst, our connections are sources of discouragement. We are filled daily with anxieties about the future. We are distressed by the inappropriate and unsettling behavior of others. We may even feel threatened or alienated. We come away from these connections wounded and hurt.

Remember that I said that this is how some of us feel. Praise God if you are blessed to dwell within an environment in which you are often inspired, encouraged, and given purpose. Perhaps what you have experienced is the result of God working in your situation to revive and resurrect. Perhaps you know the joy of having God transform your connections with your family, your work, your neighbors, even your brothers and sisters in the church. This is the encouragement of Lord. Do not feel guilty. Only give thanks and seek to extend and share the blessings and the word of encouragement that you have with those who are still dying for hope and meaning.

When Eutychus falls out the window to his death, everyone is ready to give up on him. But not Paul, he knows his Bible. He’s heard the stories of a widow in Zarapheth and a prophet named Elijah. He has heard the stories of a Shunnamite woman and a prophet named Elisha. He knows the story of a woman from Nain and a Messiah named Jesus. He has heard of Mary, Martha and how Jesus wept when they told him Lazarus died. Paul was surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They all received back their dead – now are these just myths? Are these just wishful thinking or does the gospel really have power over death? Paul knows his gospel. He knows that death’s top agent – the cross – has defected to the other side. Paul knows that the purpose of gathering to break bread is about more than keeping a duty. It is about sustaining life and restoring health. This is why he is bold in his proclamation (really just a continuation of his sermon) that "The boy is alive." I love it that people don’t just get up and walk out after this – they eat the Lord’s Supper together. What better things do they have to do? And the result of the gathering for worship in Troas is encouragement. Luke is the master of understatement when he says, "they were not just a little encouraged."

Eutychus went home alive and unhurt. The disciples were encouraged. Perhaps you have fallen. Perhaps you’ve been hurt. Perhaps you dwell in an uninspiring or hostile environment. Maybe you have some connections with others that are hurting you. Did you know that you can leave here today alive and unhurt? You can find here the spirit that revived Eutychus. We preach and proclaim the story and the faith that Paul preached. We eat the same spiritual food that sustained the churches in Troas. None of have to leave here today dead, dying or wounded.

Discussion Guide
  1. Read 1 Kings 17:21-24 and 2 Kings 4:34. How are these stories like the story in Acts 20:1-12? What other stories follow this similar theme?
  2. What role does encouragement play in the nurturing of disciples? How do you define encouragement? Is it just complimenting people or is there much more to it?
  3. The verb for "encourage" in vss. 1-2 of Acts 20 is the same verb used in v. 12 (comforted, relieved). What do these have to do with one another? How could the reviving of Eutychus "encourage" the Christians in a hostile environment? How can it encourage us?
  4. Does this text increase your understanding or appreciation of the Lord's Supper? How can we prevent it from becoming a meaningless routine?
  5. Why would Paul preach until midnight? What was so important that he had to speak for so long? How does preaching and the proclamation of the word of God encourage the church?
  6. Who encourages you? How do they do so? What is "godly" about it? Who do you encourage? What is "godly" about that?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 March 2005

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