“Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, 1975” by Martin Parr. National Museums of Liverpool.
Eutychus By Rosemary Dobson (1920-2012)
The first day of the week he spoke to them In Troas when they met to break their bread, And preached till midnight. Eutychus afterward Could not remember anything he said.
This was an irony not easily faced: Indeed, he kept it largely unconfessed That after travelling many days and nights In dangers often, and by hardships pressed,
To hear the words of Paulus and receive Some healing comfort for his troubled mind He could not fix his thoughts, was sorely vexed By others pushing in the crowd behind,
Till, smarting with discomfiture and grief, He reached a window not above his height And climbed on the sill and looking out Breathed in the soporific airs of night.
To saints who have received the word of God One lifetime is too short for telling all The joyful news. And certainly an hour Did not suffice in Troas for Saint Paul.
His discourse lengthened. Eutychus’s head Sank on his chest (and for his sake we weep), The saint in words that none who heard forgot Spoke of Damascus. Eutychus was asleep.
Now they were gathered in an upper room That rose three lofts above, as it is said, And from his window Eutychus fell down And those that took him up pronounced him dead.
Saint Paul went straightway to the youth and held His body in his arms, and cried to those Who stood about, ‘Be troubled not. For see His life is in him.’ And the young man rose,
His troubled mind at peace, his body healed. And others there were saved that else were lost. And in the morning Paul went on afoot To reach Jerusalem by Pentecost.
I like this story of young Eutychus For I, like him, am troubled too, and weak, And may, like him, be too preoccupied To listen if a saint should come to speak.
And yet, I think, if some event befall To bring me face to face with holiness, I should not fail to recognize the truth And spring to life again, like Eutychus.
I have a strong memory of my father falling asleep during church most Sundays. While I was growing up, he was a dairy farmer and full-time factory worker, so sleep was generally in short supply. By the time we made it to Sunday morning services, he had already been up for six hours, milking cows, doing chores, and wrangling us kids to get out the door on time.
Whenever the dozing involved the occasional snore, my mother would gently nudge his arm, and he would wake back up, at least for a while.
I expected that this new life of "Stay Home, Stay Safe" would be a bit slower. There would be less running around, managing schedules, and more time enjoying the comforts of home. Instead, Leah and I have noticed that our bodies are sore. We are tired by the end of each day. We are trying to fit work, our children's education, chores, sugaring, garden planning, and family time into every day. Adding a new batch of chicks, turkey poults and baby goats (we got three goats last week – reflection to come), and having our water pressure tank conk out this weekend (something failing under pressure is probably another upcoming reflection!) has only added to the daily work. This new way of working, playing, creating, raising, and fixing are using new sets of muscles. Having to think through how to hold this all together keeps our minds engaged all day.
The story of Eutychus (U-TÍ-KUS) is one of my favorite stories in the book of Acts. It tells the story of a young man who falls asleep during one of the Apostle Paul's excessively long sermons. Because he has perched himself in the window sill, he falls out, apparently to his death. But the story does not end grimly. Either through misdiagnosis or resurrection (scholars are split on the specifics of this story), Eutychus can make it home with the help of his friends.
I also enjoy Rosemary Dobson's poem about Eutychus because she provides an imaginative context for the story. The kid was tired from traveling all day to hear this wandering holy man speak. He desires to be present, but the body can only handle so much, and even the most eloquent and moving of speeches cannot hold the attention of tired people.
Think of all the new muscles we are using these days. Think of all the new neural pathways we are creating in our brains right now. We are having to move and think in new ways all day long. There's a good reason for being tired these days.
Soreness, tiredness, and a little exhaustion means we are getting stronger. But let us be patient with ourselves. Gracious too. It looks more and more like we are training for a long-distance race than a sprint. So, we should take time to rest our bodies and minds when we need it and not feel guilty when the house remains messy and the laundry piles up.
I need this as well, so I've decided to forgo these reflections on Saturdays. Taking one day off a week will give my body and mind a chance to rest and recover. Besides, taking time for rest every week sounds pretty religious too! Moving forward, UCH Reflections will go out Sunday-Friday by noon.