HOPE WALKS FORWARD - Acts 20
A Lent Reflection for Monday, March 27th
By Rev. Julie Anderson Challingsworth
Lectionary reading: Psalm 143; 1 Kings 17:17-24; Acts 20:7-12
Selected Passage: Acts 20:7- 12 (CEB)
Acts 20:7- 12 (CEB)
7 On the first day of the week, as we gathered together for a meal, Paul was holding a discussion with them. Since he was leaving the next day, he continued talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we had gathered. 9 A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell from the third floor and died. 10 Paul went down, fell on him and embraced him, then said, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive!” 11 Then Paul went back upstairs and ate. He talked for a long time—right up until daybreak—then he left. 12 They took the young man away alive, and they were greatly comforted.
I was sitting in a room in December 2017 really excited to breeze through a follow-up doctor's appointment and go have lunch with my friend Denise. Instead, the wind was knocked right out of my chest. Hearing but not really comprehending I heard my doctor say the surgery didn’t work, cancer has spread to my lymph nodes, and I will need to start chemotherapy and radiation immediately. I remember everything just slowing down. Fear, shock, and confusion all just came to me at once.
In the weeks to follow I would undergo my first chemotherapy session and one day I went to brush my hair and all my hair fell out in massive clumps. I called my girlfriends, and they came over to my house on New Year's Day to shave my head. These dear friends wrote a liturgy for the evening, we prayed, we read scripture, we cried, we laughed, and we lamented. I pulled a chair into my kitchen and my three friends placed their hands on my head and prayed for me. One friend shaved the left side of my head, one friend shaved the right side of my head while the third friend stood right in front of me, and just reminded me that I was okay and I was going to be okay. I was still me. I am alive. I am loved. I am seen.
This to me, is the church Christ has welcomed us into. It is a church that runs towards the scariest moments and people who are in pain and offers love, kindness, empathy, and hope. Our scripture today shows this exactly.
This young man Eutychus is in fellowship with his friends, listening to Paul, and while reclining in the window falls to his death. It is a gruesome scene. I can only imagine the fear, confusion, and shock felt by those in the room. It was terrifying. And yet Paul, with great faith, sees this and begins speaking words of life, truth, power, and resurrection. He doesn’t run away when this young man falls, he runs toward him and Eutychus is restored and renewed.
There are times in all our lives when life is drained from our faces, the wind is knocked out of our lungs, and we are in a deep, dark place. But this is not the end of the story. There is hope we can find in the stories and kindness of our communities and friends. There is a peace that passes all understanding, even in the darkest moment. When the rest of the world throws up its hands and walks away Jesus and his church walks in and gives new life.
In this season of Lent, where are the places where you feel you have lost hope, had the wind knocked out of you, or can no longer see life anymore? Take a moment to cup your hands together, and imagine offering this suffering or pain to Jesus, asking him to take it from you and restore it with life anew- the way only he can do for you.
God of life and resurrection, In times of fear and worry, I pray I would come to you for strength, hope, and the new and abundant life you alone can give. And when I see others who are suffering, in pain, lost, or without hope- would you point me in their direction, so that I may speak words of love and comfort to them? Thank you, Jesus, for a love so immense that nothing, not even death, can separate us from your love and mercy. Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Julie Anderson Challingsworth is the Pastor of Youth and Worship Ministry at First Covenant Church in Jamestown NY. She and her husband Dan enjoy traveling and golf, which is tricky since it snows 6 months a year here. She is now 5 years cancer free and still has a pretty impressive wig collection.