November 17, 2019: Jesus Is Not Debbie Downer!

Luke 21:5-19

A few weeks back, I read an article that rated the top 20 Saturday Night Live Characters.
In the top 10 was a character named Debbie Downer.
Debbie would frequently add bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them.

She even had a theme song that had lines like: “You’re enjoying your day, everything’s going your way, then along comes Debbie Downer. Always there to tell you ’bout a new disease, a car accident, or killer bees.”
You get the point.

I remember when Kristen and I found out we were heading to Arizona for Kristen’s internship and 99% of our friends were happy.
Not Mark: “You’re going to Arizona? You’ll BURN ALIVE!”
We all have Debbie Downers in our lives.
Someone who is really good at making us feel bad, especially when we are trying to enjoy life.

And you would think that the one person who would not be a Debbie Downer is Jesus.

But boy he does a pretty good job of it today in our Gospel.

One thing to keep in mind is the location of the Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem.
They are in the Temple, the CENTER of the Jewish world.
At that time, one of the most amazing pieces of architecture.
It was beautiful, and it was LARGE.
The outer court could hold 400,000 people.

To the Jewish people, The Temple was the perfect building for the perfect God.

While the people are captivated by the Temple, Jesus says it’s all coming to an end.
Not only does this kill the mood,
But it brings back bad memories.

The Temple had been destroyed before.
The first time it was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire.
That “death” of the Temple symbolized loss and exile.
The scars of that death never left.

I bet there are places, images, moments in time that no matter how much we try we just can’t get rid of them.
There are times I wish I could forget the night my dad died, but I can’t.
And if I think about it too much, it’s “bye bye” to Happiness and “hello” Sadness.

Something to keep in mind about the Jewish people.
They use a lot of “we” language.
When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
As we were going around this gigantic museum, the tour guide would reference the people who suffered & died in the collective “we.”
So instead of saying “they lost their homes, their dignities, their lives” the host would say “WE lost their homes, etc.”
That mindset is present in the Gospel lesson.
Now even though the people with Jesus were not around for the first Temple,
They have been told about it.
And they share in the pain.

And they are scared.
The word used in the Gospel is “terrified.”
Terrified goes beyond the normal word you find in the New Testament like when an angel or Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Quote from Danielle DeNise: Someone has said that “do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible. One for each day plus one extra if you count “Do not be terrified.”

This is not “afraid.”
To be “Terrified” is to have a deep fear.

So why does Jesus talk like this?
Here is what I believe:
Jesus’ goal is not to scare the people.
He is making them AWARE of the bad AND the good to come.
While he is making them aware of bad times ahead, Jesus makes an incredible promise:
Jesus does NOT say “The Bad Times are coming, and you are on your own.”

“Not one hair on our heads will perish.”
By saying that, God acknowledges the fear they have, but he also says, “I will be there with you.”
And he says, “by your endurance you will gain your souls.”

One other piece of good news in this lesson: We will “testify” and we won’t even have to prepare the sermon in advance. God will give us the words to say. I’m not sure that happened here today, however.

Jesus is not going to leave his people.
And Jesus will never leave us.

There is so much bad stuff around us.
I cannot turn on the TV or read the newspaper without reading how we as a human race are not getting along.
Too many people are happy to separate.

And I look at Paul and Maddie and wonder what world are they going to grow up in?

IN speaking to a lot of you, I know you have the same fear.
The same dread about the world we live in.
It feels inevitable that the world is going down the drain.

Even talking about it now doesn’t put me in a great mood.
Now I’m Debbie Downer!
But there is also much good news if we take the time to look for it,

But I believe we can find GOOD news in what Jesus says to his disciples.
We need something we can hold on to, that make those promises real to us.

And we do.
The Font.
The Altar.

Do you know why we invite you to remember your baptism?
Do you know why we have Communion every week?

Because we need to be reminded that as we live,
God lives with us and within us.
We are reminded of God’s love for us.
We are given the sign of God’s forgiveness.
These sacraments are like the Batteries we need to re-charge our lives and our hope.
Because God is not a god who waits until we are hurting to come to us.

God is there before
In the middle
And after.

And that means Jesus is not being a Debbie Downer.

He’s being our Savior. Thanks be to God.


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