The writer of the Gospel Mark is very fond of using the word, "immediately." There's a real sense of immediacy in Mark. Although Mark is not first in the order of the New Testament, it was actually written first. It's also the shortest of the four Gospels. Again, there is a
terseness to the Gospel which adds to the sense of immediacy.
In the Gospel of Mark, we are introduced to Jesus as an adult, as he begins his ministry.
The first thing we read is that he was Baptized-which is a whole sermon in itself. But this morning I want to focus on the immediacy.
Right after we hear the voice from heaven speaking, Mark tells us "And the Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness." In the wilderness, where he remained for 40 days, he was tempted by Satan.
Immediately. I know when I was growing up that when my mother used the words 'immediately' (like, get in this house immediately or else) she meant business. Well, we can see from our reading today that this was serious business that drove him into the wilderness.
This sense of immediacy is still relevant to us today. When we take a stand for the Gospel, we are IMMEDIATELY tempted. Satan will do his best to divert our attention from Jesus and will tempt us when we are weakest and most vulnerable. He will also use whatever part of us is the
weakest as the part of us to tempt.
No Christian is safe who doesn't hold Christ in his/her heart. Satan is having a hay-day right now in our world. He's preying on the Christians in this country because they are so weak. He has diverted the attention of Christians so that they are continually divided on matters
unrelated to the Gospel message and they neglect what Jesus asked us, what the Spirit compels us, to do.
We are a nation of weak Christians. We truly have no real comprehension of what it means to take a stand for the Gospel where our job or the safety of our family or even our life was at stake.
Back in the 1960's there was a book written entitled, "The Comfortable Pew." It made a lot of folks angry, but it 'hit the nail on the head.' Christians have grown to be very comfortable. They are no longer on the cutting edge of relevancy because they do not take Jesus' message to
heart-to love one another, to care for and about one another, to feed the hungry, help the poor, stand up against oppression, visit those in prison. The church has become a political machine.
Christians are outraged as they feel they are under attack. They feel that this is a Christian country, founded on Christian principles by forefathers who were Christian.
First of all, many of our forefathers and those who shaped the Constitution were Unitarians, Universalists, not your standard main-line denominations. They gave credit to God, not to Jesus as God or divine. The principles were more Judaic than Christian, but of course, the basics of
Christian theology are based in Judaism.
And we are not a Christian country today. There are more non-Christians than Christians. There are more people of other faiths or NO faith than Christians in this country.
Christians in this country whine all the time about how this or that symbol is being taken away. It isn't being TAKEN away, Christians GAVE it away. I sat at a table with 6 other folks all proclaiming to be Christian. In that group there was only one person who actually attended
church on any regular basis. The others, all brought up in Christian homes, do not go to church. Three of them not at all, not even on Christmas or Easter. Yet they all have LOTS to say about religious matters in our country. They were outraged at those who want to remove the phrase,
'under God,' from the pledge of allegiance. Not one of them knew it was added to the pledge back in the 1950's. They assumed it had been there all along. They were outraged that prayer can't be used in schools or at public events. Yet not one of them had a regular prayer life.
Not one of the seven, including the one who went to church regularly, read the Bible-not just daily, but didn't read it at all.
People have let the Christian Faith slip away from them. They don't take a stand for the Gospel. They don't do what Jesus asks them to do-especially that he asks us to forgive others-don't even really know what it IS that Jesus asks them to do. Christianity is slip sliding away
because Christians don't even know their own faith.
They are outraged that nativity scenes aren't allowed in public places, outraged that the Ten Commandments can't be displayed in certain public places. And yet, they couldn't tell you what the ten are, or if they're of the Lutheran denomination, that Martin Luther's division into
Ten Commandments is different than what is in the Bible. Do you think that God really cares whether they are displayed or not? Knowing them, obeying them, that's what's important. Do you really think Christianity is slipping away in the United States because the Ten Commandments can't
be posted in a public setting? Come on, get real. Christians are giving their faith away because their faith is empty. Their adherence to the Gospel and Jesus' message is weak because they don't even really know what it is.
Christians have let the youth slip away. Congregations don't go after the youth, they just let them go. Congregations don't care that certain members no longer attend worship or any function at the church. In fact, many folks don't even miss them; don't even know they aren't
But two, things Christians are really good at is whining and pointing a finger. It's the government, or the Supreme Court, or the teachers or the Muslims-anything where they don't have to take responsibility for their own actions or LACK of action.
Where are the youth in this congregation? Why aren't they at worship? We see lots of younger kids here, thank goodness, but where are the youth from grade six and above? There are a few who are at worship, but the majority aren't. Do you care? Do you even KNOW who are youth are? Do
the youth who come even know who the adults are?
There is an immediacy here folks. Christianity is only ever one generation away from extinction.
But why aren't the youth here? You get a range of answers, but chief among them is that church worship is boring. That's a trigger word for me. People who say this or that is boring are pretty generally boring folks themselves. They lead empty little lives centered on what makes
them feel good, centered on themselves. They aren't willing to commit to anything because they want to see if something better comes along.
Youth don't come because they really don't' have a relationship with Jesus. Many adults who come to worship don't have that either. You can tell because they complain (whine) about the music or hymns or the sermon, or using this or that hymnal, or the length of the service or the
announcements or whatever. The point being the reason to come here is none of those things. The reason to come here to worship is just that-to worship, to give thanks, to praise God for all the blessings in our lives as well as all the challenges and the strength given to us to cope.
There should be an immediacy to your worship. That immediacy is your relationship with Christ. We are a family-any Christian who worships here is part of a family. Out of our relationship with Christ, we as a family reach out.
Lent is a good time to get straight with God; to strengthen your relationship with Jesus; to let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Whether you recognize it or not, you are driven daily immediately into the desert of life and you are tempted daily and continually. Only Christians are not
standing up to Satan but caving in, letting their attention be diverted from Jesus' message and so they give their faith away, but not in a good or loving way, sharing it with others, but just letting it slip away.
God promises us forgiveness. But the immediacy here is that we need to forgive others. We need to know what Jesus asks of, expects of us. We need to be involved in our Christian faith. We need to care about our relationship with Jesus. If you don't care, then you are helping Satan
in his efforts to weaken Christianity because you are a weak Christian.
I have shared with you the vision I have for Trinity. It is a positive vision, one where the potential of this congregation is developed in the name of Jesus. Catch that vision and catch it now. Immediately recognize if you are working for or against the Gospel by how involved you
are in your faith-how well you know the basics of your faith, how well you know your Bible, how well you know what it is that Jesus asks of you and expects of you. Immediately. That's now; that's today, that's NOT when you find time to get around to it. Remember, you are daily being
tempted by Satan. Now is the time to recognize how much you need Jesus and his message. The message that is for YOU to know and to spread to others. That's what being evangelical is about. Knowing the message, sharing the message; living the message-and doing it immediately.