The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Acts 20:7-12 gives us the narrative of Eutychus, whose name means “fortunate.” This passage is often used in a careless way to speak of long sermons which would lull someone to sleep. Granted, it does describe Paul speaking through the night, which is quite a long time. Yet I think we need to notice a few other details about the passage.
First, we see that the meeting, in Troas, was on the first day of the week. The Christians had adopted a Jewish calendar. Even though they were under Roman government, which divided a month into three irregular portions, and even though they were in Greek territory, which basically recognized just a new moon, the Christians are observing a seven day week. There is considerable consistency here with Jewish culture.
Second, we note the significance of the first day of the week. The Christians are gathered, according to their normal pattern, to break bread on the first day of the week. After the resurrection, the breaking of bread is consistently used to refer to communion, not a normal meal. Christians assembled on the day of resurrection to celebrate the risen Lord through partaking of his body broken for them and his blood shed for them. The elements of a communion celebration, though they are not found entirely codified in writing until the late second century, can be noted in first century documents as well. There is a very very long history of Christians receiving communion every Sunday.
Third, we notice that the Christians meet in the evening. Because of the culture in which they lived, the first day of the week was not observed as a day off from work. The people assembled here in the evening after a full day’s work. This explains the “many lamps.” In this meeting, they are going to stay up through the night, hearing from God’s Word through the apostle. Then, no doubt, they will return to work, though they are probably hoping to take a nap at some point.
God’s Word and Sacrament are worth staying up late. They are of primary importance to Christians. They bring life. The fortunate young man was restored to life through prayers. Then all together ate, as Jesus discusses in John 6, food which nourishes for eternity. This is a tremendous gift of God.
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