Bread – Downers

July 29, 2013


Readings for Monday, July 29, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 2:1-11; Acts 15:36-16:5; Mark 6:14-29; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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There is a television show called “Saturday Night Live” which has a comedic routine called “Debby Downer,” who, no matter where she is or she is with, will take the opportunity during every good time and celebration to bring up some disaster which has overtaken the nation, the city, the neighborhood, friends of the people she is with, or even herself if it comes to that. No matter the joy, there is always something wrong.

Like all comedy, it is built upon an aspect of our makeup. While we are having fun or enjoying ourselves, we don’t want to hear about problems. In fact, if we can maneuver it, we will never deal with problems.

Look at all of the effort we make to hide problems. We package food in nice little containers, and disguise behind closed doors the death of chickens, cows, and pigs required to have that food. We typically don’t talk about death at all. We trend toward dialogue through computers, even finding love on dating sites, so that we can avoid the face to face terror of having to deal with the down and dirty. We use drones to conduct wars, so that whatever killings there are become mere images on a television screen, which can be turned off with the push of a button. We even soft-pedal our Christianity, speaking of a God of love rather than, an equally true, God of wrath. We flock to churches which teach a “prosperity gospel,” where you can have everything you ever wanted if you believe in Jesus, rather than the good news of truth, where we are steeped in sin and degradation from our conception, saved by the mercy of a holy God who required Jesus to die for our sins so that we could even show up before Him without being destroyed.

But we don’t want to talk about sin, or death, or loss, or casualty, or storms, or disasters, because, “Man, what a downer!” We so much don’t want to be Debby Downer to our friends or family who live in La-La Land that we avoid the discussion altogether.

And when we behave this way, we substitute the joy of the gospel, of being stolen from the pits of hell by a gracious, forgiving God, for the hollow happiness of modern life in the world, sheltered by our technology, by our desire to be positive and upbeat, by our foolishness, and by the machinations of the enemy. In the comedy routine, the friends are living happily in the moment and, when interrupted by Debby Downer, just want to push her out of the way.

Every one of our readings today has aspects of downers. In Second Samuel, David has just been made king of Judah in an uplifting ceremony, and he immediately confronts a puppet king being established in Israel, with whom he must war in order to recover the land promised by God. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas get into a big fight over Mark which is so big that they go their separate ways. In Mark, John the Baptist is beheaded in order to fulfill an oath given in a drunken moment. Uplifting, right? No, these are downers which happened to God’s chosen people. These are the concrete results of a broken world. Yes, we know that God uses these for good … but in the moment, for the participants, there is little happiness.

But there can be joy. See, the gospel truth is that we are all downers, lost in sin, lifted up by the sovereign decision of a God who loves us into a relationship with Him, not earned by us but earned by Christ on the cross for us. And because, while we were still downers, God acted to save us, we can have joy in all circumstances, whether “down and out” or “up and away.”

Who are Christians? Debby Downers, saved by grace, transformed and transforming into people who, despite knowledge of the truth of themselves, rise in Christ to victory over the day. This is not a prosperity gospel; it is a reality gospel. But it is a gospel which does not shake in the earthquakes of life, which recognizes in both the negatives and positive of the world the same truth – we have victory in Christ.

It’s Monday, and so by definition we are probably acting like downers, or at least feeling like it. But we don’t need to hide or fear the problems. We know they are there. But we also know that, even if we die today, we live forever. Therefore, there are no downers but only opportunities to live life fully, completely, abounding in love, smiling, because we know that, in Christ, we have won.

Carpe diem! Seize the day!

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© 2013 GBF

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