Worship at Your Own Risk - Part 2: Eutychus
Worship can be risky. Just ask Eutychus.
Eutychus was a young man at Troas on Paul’s missionary journey. In Acts 20 beginning in verse 7 we read the story of how Paul was preaching late into the night, there were many lamps lit, and Eutychus slipped into a deep sleep and fell to his death from a third-story window. Of course, this occurrence was shocking and devastating to those assembled who knew and loved Eutychus.
The likely inclusion of this story recorded by the prophet Luke is for us to understand God being with Paul and Paul being a man of God, a prophet, a true Apostle of Jesus Christ as Paul would go on to raise Eutychus from the dead. (Acts 20:10&12) This story is similar to the great old testament prophet Elijah raising a young man from the dead to which the boy’s mother would ultimately proclaim, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:24) If any assembled in Troas doubted the authenticity of Paul’s apostleship, or the word he was proclaiming as the truth of the Lord, all doubt should’ve been removed when he performed this extraordinary miracle.
At the same time, how could we imagine such a natural tragedy befalling someone when they assemble to worship God? An article in the Washington Post on May 16th, 2016 noted from a study published in the American Medical Association Journal that those who regularly attend worship assembly actually have a 33% less chance of dying than those who don’t attend regularly. The odds of dying at a worship assembly are extremely low, and if one were to perish at an assembly, it most likely would not be because of the assembly; but rather, some other underlying condition such as a heart attack or sleeping on a 3rd story window sill. Assembling with the saints is one of the safest places you can be, and it’s good for your soul and your overall health!
And yet, there is the possibility of dying at/from a worship assembly. We see it with Eutychus and we see it in our modern times as well. Last year, some brethren were gunned down during worship assembly up near Dallas. A man I know of once fell over out of the pew during a prayer and died of a heart attack. No matter how slight the possibility is, there is still the possibility of dying at a “church service”.
But so what? That possibility exists every moment of life. It is one of the most ever-present facts of life itself - that at any moment in time you could perish, “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) You are more likely to die at home than you are at a worship assembly, but you go home. You are more likely to die at work than you are at a worship assembly, but you go to work. Ironically, with COVID-19 most people are staying home rather than “going to school”, or “to the office”, or “to church”. Does that mean less people will get sick and/or ultimately die someday? No. It just means more people will get sick and/or die at home. The truth is, one of the least likely places we are to perish is worshipping God “at church”.
But it can happen. Yes. It has happened before. We know this to be true. And so, like with all of life, we measure that risk and decide to take it or not; for ourselves, for our children, for our family, for others. COVID-19 has heightened our awareness of these possibilities, but the truth is, the possibility of death (or contagion of disease that can lead to death) has always been here. Always. Nothing much has changed in that respect besides our awareness. But with that awareness has also come many precautionary measures and changes of protocols to help compensate for any increased risk. At O’Connor Road, you can see those are in abundance. Protections in place for assembling together in person beyond any time in the history of your lifetime.
It is safe. It is safe to assemble if we are taking precautions. It is safe to assemble if we are all doing our part. By any reasonable standard of measuring risk; it is safe. The risk at assembly is minimal. The blessings are abundant. Just ask Eutychus.