Monday, January 12, 2009

This week's sermon: Don't leave anything unsaid

Acts 20.

What would you say if you knew it would be the last time you would talk to someone dear? Most of us have things we want to say or things we think we will have time to say later, to those people we hold dear. I know that I have had people pass out of my life and wondered later if I had said everything important. I can't remember, for example if I told my grandmother that I loved her the last time I saw her before she died. I showed her sonogram pictures of Kathrina, and we talked about her first great-grandchild. I visited her in her room at the nursing home, and she came to the family home for lunch. I had several opportunities to tell her that I loved her, and maybe I did, but I don't remember. It is so easy to leave things unsaid.

We all have people in our lives that we care about. We love them and we are always determined to tell them how much they mean to us, later. We want to spend more time with them, later. We have things we need to tell them, issues to clear up or fences to mend, but we think there is more time so we put it off.
This morning I want us to look at a story in Acts of how determined Paul was to not leave anything unsaid.
Paul was traveling and we get this whole list of places he visited and tidbits of who traveled with him and that in at least one instance there was some persecution and a plot to disrupt their preaching of the gospel, and then we come to this short account of an all night prayer meeting where Paul talked “on and on.” Those aren't my words, they are Luke's. He said Paul talked on and on. He preached from sometime before the sun went down until midnight. You think you have heard some long preaching! Who here has been in a seven hour church service with nothing but preaching? Wow, Paul had a lot to say! We have no idea what he said, but it must have been important.

Paul had visited Troas on his journeys, and in his letter to the Corinthians, he tells them that when he came to Troas the first time the door was opened for him to preach the gospel. So this is one of the centers of Christianity in that region. There were many people there who were following Jesus, and here Paul had a brief opportunity to tell them all the things that were important and useful, all the things he wanted them to know about grace and following Christ: all of the pitfalls to avoid and all the beneficial practices and teachings he had to offer.

I love this little story thrown in there about Eutychus. The room was hot because of the lamps and it was the middle of the night. He was sleepy and probably sat in the window so that he could get some fresh air and stay awake. In spite of all his efforts, though, he fell asleep and fell out of the third story window! This is a big deal, I don't know how many preachers can claim to have not only preached people to sleep, but preached them to death! Paul runs downstairs, throws himself on the boy, who returns to life, and then Paul goes back upstairs, has a snack and continues preaching until dawn. He is so determined that what he is saying is vital to these believers that not even a death and resurrection in the middle of the service is enough to distract him from his goal. But why on this occasion did he preach all night? Why on this trip did he choose to unload all of his apostolic wisdom? What was so important that not even a boy falling out a window could stop him from imparting this knowledge?

We read in the next few verses that Paul is so intense about his message because he knows that he will never see these people again. He is so passionate about saying everything now, because he knows he will never have the chance to say it again. So he has told them everything that would be helpful to them. He has preached from house to house and in the public places. He has persevered and done the work to which God has called him. And it is important now for Paul to say all of this because he knows his time is almost up.

It is easy for us to say the things that need to be said when we know we have no time. It was easy for Paul to preach all night and into the morning because he knew that he wouldn't have the chance to tell them later. It is easy if we are dying or if someone we know is on their death bed to tell them all the things we ever wanted to say. But sometimes we don't have that time.

A friend of mine recently lost his father. They had talked the day before about building a greenhouse for the spring. They had made a list of supplies and lumber. They had a good conversation and they were on good terms looking forward to the future. The next morning, the father was gone. If they had had unresolved issues, they would have stayed unresolved. If there had been things unsaid, they would have remained unsaid. By the grace of God, my friend had left nothing unsaid.

I tell you that this morning, because we are all dying. Some of us more quickly than we realize. We don't know the day or the hour that Christ will come back, and we don't know the day or the hour that he may call us home. It is so important not to leave anything unsaid. So stay up all night if you have to. Talk on and on if that is what it takes. Don't worry if they drop off to sleep in the middle of what you are saying, wake them up and keep talking until you get it out. You may not get another chance. And once it is said, think of the peace that would cover our relationships.

If we stopped putting off talking about those issues, and forgiving those past hurts. If we stopped waiting for the right time to talk to that friend or loved one about Christ, think of the peace we would have. Those things would stop being worry points and become peace points. So go out there. Ruffle some feathers if you have to. Forgive what needs forgiving. Offer grace to those who need it. Tell people that you love them. Don't wait, and don't leave anything unsaid.

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