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"Is the world a safe place?"
by Jim from B.C.
Mark 1: 12-13 (Temptation of Jesus) 

We can never insulate ourselves from danger. Whether we travel by plane, boat, car— any mode of transportation is unsafe. Even if we merely walk, there's always the danger of falling, breaking a bone, or even being hit by a car. People have been known to be walking nonchalantly down a sidewalk, and a car has gone out of control, jumped the curb, and killed them.

If we stay at home, thinking we'll avoid the dangers of the outdoors, there are all kinds of accidents that can happen in the home. Falling down stairs, electric shock, eating tainted foods, choking while eating. There was an item on the news the other night about some kind of deadly black mold in damp climates that's been killing people in the United States.

I remember someone once showing me, using a powerful microscope, all the living things in a drop of tap-water. For a month after, whenever I drank water, I would think of those squiggly little microbes going down my gullet. But I've come to accept that's the way nature is! It's alive and it's dangerous.

There are many reasons why Jesus used wine when he instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. A minor reason may be that wine is dangerous. It reminds us that everything in God's creation has power, and is therefore dangerous. Wine, too, though it's the most common drink in the world (next to water) can be misused. It can be turned into an idol. It can KILL, or it can be used for GREAT GOOD, as it is in the Eucharist.

By the way, there's another argument for drinking from the common cup! It's an affirmation that we can live with danger, as the early disciples did, when they drank from the common cup. And it's an expression of our faith, our trust in the One who keeps us safe in a dangerous world; and it's an expression of our trust in God's Word, in First Corinthians, where Paul says that the Eucharist has healing properties, not death-dealing properties.

Think of Jesus as a sacrament. God can use anything in his creation, even the human body of Jesus of Nazareth, to contain HIMSELF. And so he did! God entered our dangerous world, and it killed him. Yet God used EVEN THAT for his good purpose: to atone for all of our sins, to show us how to live by faith, and to show us how die, and also to blaze the trail to resurrection and everlasting life for us.

So life is dangerous. Everything we touch, every breath of air, our entire bodies, are full of all kinds of bacteria and germs and microbes. If we saw, under a microscope, the little critters that live at the base of our eyelashes, we'd probably go: "Eeeyyww, gross!" It's a good thing that our immune systems are constantly winning the war, and keeping us healthy. But of course, behind all of our strength is God's Spirit within us, the Deity in whom we live and move and have our being.

Health experts talk about "safe sex", as if there were such a thing, as if condoms or medications could somehow provide it. God gave the Israelites the Sixth Commandment— which says no sex outside of marriage— for a good reason. Sex has always been dangerous, sometimes deadly, and it always will be. The early Christians even asked St. Paul, "well maybe it's better not to touch a woman", but Paul referred them back to the commandments, and the principle behind the commandments, which is love.

And God's GOOD commandments, which he gave to the Israelites because he loved them, are still in force in the year 2000.

I read somewhere that AIDS got transmitted to humans from monkeys, which indicates that even the most seemingly harmless animals are dangerous.

Notice in our Gospel Lesson, when the HOLY SPIRIT drove Jesus out into the wilderness, into the DANGER ZONE, the territory of Satan, it says, Jesus "was with the wild beasts". Reminds me of Daniel in the lion's den, who was also in great danger, and also protected by God. So here it says: "angels came and ministered to him".

I remember reading an article in the newspaper a number of years ago, that at some zoo or other, a five-year-old boy had climbed into the polar bear area, and was sitting on the painted concrete wall at the edge of the pit, with his legs dangling down, and the polar bear down below looking up and smiling. When his mother finally saw what was happening, she acted pretty fast, to get him out of there, out of a dangerous situation.

Why would God the Father expose his beloved Son to such great danger in the wilderness? Not just to show his power to save and protect, but to show his LOVE— FOR US! Everything God did in Jesus was FOR US. God was contained in Jesus of Nazareth FOR US, to be our REPRESENTATIVE (not just our substitute, but our Representative, that is, to be Everyman; or as St. Paul calls him, the Second Adam). Therefore Jesus had to be tested. He had to be exposed to every possible danger human beings are exposed to, so that his victory and his success could be credited to your account and my account and to everyone who ever lived. Jesus' conquest was not for himself at all, but to blaze a trail (albeit a narrow one) for us who are following him— for those of us who are baptized into him and married to him— so that we could ALL WIN, through the conquest of our World Champion human being.

That is what Jesus' Messiahship is all about; THAT is the good news (as it says at the end of today's text) that even Jesus HIMSELF went about preaching (the Kingdom of God has come near in Jesus).

We could even say that, in Jesus Christ, God baptized the whole world, and turned a dangerous place into a safe place, turned a secular world into a sacred world, so that now everything in the world is sacred, even the wild animals. This was prefigured already, in Noah's time, in the covenant God made with the animals, which we read about in today's Old Testament Lesson. The rainbow was a sign (and it still is a sign of this): that all nature and all the animals are sacred.

We can say the same thing about worship spaces. When Moses met God in the burning bush, he took of his shoes, because he was standing on holy ground. Since Christ, there is no longer such a thing as separate sacred spaces. As Jesus said to the woman at Jacob's Well, "From now on, it doesn't matter whether you worship God on this holy mountain or in Jerusalem. The only thing that matters is that we worship God in spirit and in truth."

So, since Christ, all nature is now sacred. The whole earth is now sacred; it's blessed by God and protected by God. This is no longer Satan's domain, but this is (as the hymn says) our Father's world, and "I rest me in [that] thought".

We ought always to keep that in mind, especially if and as this world becomes a more dangerous place. St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that the "man of lawlessness" (whatever that means) is yet to be revealed.

When good comes into the world (and take an "o" out of the word good and you have God) — when good comes into the world, the devil is not going to take it lying down. There will inevitably be greater and greater resistance, greater and greater danger, as God marches on to victory. And if we are to march with him, we will need to take greater risks than ever before, always remembering that WE ARE SAFE, because we are SAVED.

That means that no matter what happens, God will guide us through, and, as Paul said, "we will be be forever with the Lord." Indeed, we are ALREADY NOW forever with the Lord. Praise God, we are already saved. Amen.