Eutychus & Friends

By Stan Michell

“The English, not being a particularly religious people, were given the game of cricket to provide them with a concept of eternity.”

Now you don’t have to understand the particulars of this unique English game to see what the saying means. A hundred thousand spectators will watch in hushed silence in Sydney, Australia, or London (yes, the one in England) to watch five days of a “test” match between England and Australia.

Perhaps God gave churches sermons for the same reason—to give them a concept of eternity! Is the term “long winded preacher” redundant? Or, perhaps the term “short sermon” an oxymoron?

Society has changed, there is no doubt. In college we had to read Jonathan Edward’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It took me an hour and twenty minutes! Alexander Campbell used to preach regularly beyond an hour. In contrast, in our day, we are impatient with any explanation that takes longer than a Pepsi Cola advert. “Get to the point!” is the primeval scream of the modern listener.

I have heard preachers who had imposed on their audience; they hadn’t studied, and their speech was as aimless as a puppy dog on a walk. But I fear that our understanding has become shallow. One theologian said, “American Evangelical religion is a thousand miles wide and an inch deep.” I think we can attribute it to our sheet cake thin Bible classes, our “Thought for the Day” sermons, and our non-existent private Bible reading.

“Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20.7, ESV).

Professional football games, including half time festivities, will last more than four hours. The same goes for a baseball game. Is your time better used there than when you hear God’s word preached?

Don’t worry; this Sunday, if I preach till midnight, it will be because the song leader got me up there at 11:35 p.m.! But I can assure you that eternity will seem a lot longer in hell than it does in heaven!