Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)
So far in 2018 most of the gospel passages in the lectionary have come from the Gospel of Mark. If you were to go back and listen to the sermons I have given this year you would notice I have pointed out Mark's use of the word immediately many times. There is an urgency to what is going on in Mark. What are we going to do with this Jesus that we are hearing about in this book? He is more than an ordinary man. He is on a mission from God. The immediacy we see in Mark tells us how important this message is!
The immediacy of the message of the gospel has caused me to stop and think about our modern lives. We live in a world that believes that most everything is immediate. For example, while I have been writing this my phone has buzzed and beeped three times and this is only the second paragraph. We live in a connected world. We are programmed by our devices to check them constantly.
Nothing makes me more aware of this than when I go to the prison for worship services. Bringing a phone into a facility such as that is forbidden. Before we go in, we remind each other to leave our wallets, keys, and devices behind. While sitting there at the worship service I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. That's right, I feel notifications that aren't even there. The effect is even more exaggerated when I am there for more than the usual 90 minutes. Occasionally, I play guitar to help lead singing. This has me making my way up to the chapel about an hour earlier. While I am there rehearsing, I will reach for my phone. I want to use the guitar tuner app or take a picture of something even though I know my phone isn't there.
These glowing rectangles that we carry with us have us convinced that everything is immediate. Text messages, phone calls, and emails come to us without delay. They give us notifications that we must deal with. It isn't limited to communication though. To-do list apps tell us everything that needs to be done. Restaurant and shopping apps make sure we don't miss any of the amazing deals they have for us. We take pictures of everything because we want to believe it is all pressing and important. Even something as frivolous as games want us to feel this sense of immediacy. Play now they tell us or you will miss out. Apparently, it is vital that you don't get behind in any of your important games.
In a world ripe with distractions is it any wonder that we so easily lose sight of the immediacy and importance of the gospel. When everything is immediate and important it dulls us to the things that should truly demand our attention. The word gospel means good news. It is an announcement of what God has done for us in Christ. It interrupts everything that we know and points us to what really matters. A blip on my phone is of no value compared to the exceeding value of knowing Christ. A notification telling me I have more lives available to me in a game is silly in comparison to the confidence we have in eternal life in Christ.
We have a vital issue before us in our time. Do we feel the immediacy and necessity of the gospel in an age where everything is immediate? Have we replaced the comfort of the gospel with the comfort of feeling like we are always busy and needed in our modern lives? All the distractions in the world do not change the fact that we were born dead in trespasses and sins and are desperately in need of the grace of God. While constant distractions can make us oblivious to the fact of our mortality, it doesn't change this state of affairs.
Regardless of when we live and what technology we possess, the gospel needs to be primary. It calls us outside of ourselves to the mercy and grace of God. We need persistent notifications that we have been forgiven and declared righteous on account of Christ. Nothing is more relevant and immediate to our daily lives than the good news of the gospel. This is the notification we need.
As Paul says "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Do we feel this immediacy or are we drawn to the things of the world? May we not be distracted by the noise of the world that we may hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ.