If you were in first service yesterday, I don't need to tell you how different the sermon turned out to be. If you came to second service you had no idea and this blog will be news to you. Before, I go any further, let me assure you that the man involved in this story is at home tonight recuperating and being monitored for blood pressure and other medical indications and is doing "fine". I'm not revealing his name because he is a new member at our church and I don't want to draw undo attention to him. He is "embarrassed and sorry for being a distraction". We assured him that aside from scaring us to death, we are just glad he is o.k. Which leads to what happened.
I was midway through my sermon kind of turned to the right side of the auditorium when I caught a woman motioning frantically in my peripheral to the left and in the front row! She was trying to be discreet, but was obviously panicked. One look at her husband beside her, let me know why! I have seen people pass out and I have seen seizures...this was neither. I saw a middle-aged man slump back in his seat, eyes roll back in his head, very pale coloration and a gasping for breath that can only be described as choking. My honest first thought was I think a man has just had a major stroke or heart attack in the front row. So I reverted to what they taught me to do in my Bible college training - then I remember they never said anything about this!
So, I stopped and said, we obviously have a medical emergency right now, any medical professionals or doctors who can help please come down here and help and someone call 911 for an ambulance. Mind you, a million things are swirling through my mind at this point in a split second: what was I just saying in my sermon, is this guy gonna be all right, do we have the equipment to shock this guy's heart, do we have an emergency plan for something like this, is everyone staring at me right now, what is the best thing I can do as a pastor. After a few seconds I suggested that we all start praying for this man...and I led the congregation in about a five minute prayer (maybe longer or shorter, I don't really know). Everyone was freaked, and the so was I and the only thing i knew to do was pray...so we did. I don't know if God did a miracle or not, but I think he did because when we were done praying, the man was talking to the gathering of 25 medical professionals, two of which were doctors (again I'm not sure about this) and there was a medical kit of somekind nearby. I asked the congregation to remain in prayer and in a matter of minutes the man was sitting up, in a wheel chair and out the back of the auditorium to the waiting ambulance. I learned later that we did have a medical emergency plan and that everyone involved acted exactly as they should have with professionalism and compassion. This all took about 12-15 minutes. And now 1300 people are looking at me and I realize that I need to lead us to what's next. There was about 25 minutes left in our service...again many thoughts swirled through my mind: have Matt come and lead some musical worship (but who felt like singing), finish the sermon, dismiss the service, lead into communion, talk about the uncertainty of life, etc... Finally, the Spirit led me to say, "I always pray for God to take out the parts of the sermon that he doesn't want me to say..apparently he didn't like the second half of my sermon." The laughter eased the tension.
I briefly summarized what I was going to say in my sermon and by that time everyone's heartbeats had gotten back to near normal. So we went on with the rest of our service as planned. It was pretty wild. The irony is that by the time people started arriving for our second service around 10:30, the ambulance was gone and the rest of the day went on "as usual". But most of us will not forget that first service for a long time.