Robert Lewis writes, “In 1851, many of the most accomplished engineers in the country thought James Roebling was out of his mind. That year, he began to work on the unthinkable: building a bridge over the Niagara River Gorge. Disaster was nearly universally predicted. There was the sheer mathematics of the thing: 825 feet across and more terrifyingly 200 feet straight down. But the distance across the river paled in comparison to the sheer power and rage of the waters below. Niagara River Gorge was just upriver from Niagara Falls, where up to 37.4 million gallons of water per minute fell into the Gorge. From there the waters had cut a deep abyss with the series of ravage rapids before ending in a terrifying whirlpool. Across such a chasm, Roebling believed a train could cross. History was not his ally. Although greater spans had already been bridged, including Roebling’s own bridge across the Ohio River, the Niagara was far more difficult. No girders or bridge supports would ever survive the raging currents. The only possible solution was a suspension bridge. And that’s what had people worried. At the time suspension bridges were not highly regarded. They were considered disasters in the making. They shook in the wind and after a few years twisted and crumbled into the waters they were designed to span. In England and France suspension bridges had collapsed under the mere weight of crossing humans, killing hundreds. In America, a number of small suspension bridges had collapsed, mostly from moving livestock. So when Roebling proposed the suspension bridge, it came as no surprise that most people were putting their money on the gorge, not the bridge. As Roebling’s bridge was less than a year from completion, a smaller suspension bridge collapsed a few miles away just five years after it was opened. Yet construction continued and Roebling’s bridge opened in 1855. The bottom level was for carriage and pedestrian traffic and the top was reserved for the Great Western Canada Railroad. On Friday March 16, the first train rolled over twice the weight of regular trains to test the bridge. Just a few days later, a passenger train packed to capacity made the journey from Canada to the United States. Because of his efforts, two countries which had been separated from each other were now connected.
And then Robert Lewis writes, “Jesus Christ was a daring bridge builder of another kind. Against his own overwhelming odds, he imagined a bridge of unprecedented spiritual influence- one that could span a chasm roaring with skepticism, indifference, and hostility, even persecution. He imagined a bridge able to connect his people- “my church,” he called them- to a disbelieving, disinterested world. That’s why Jesus loved to talk about his church, especially the power it could unleash and exercise in the world…..By exhibiting through everyday humanity, his life and love to the world, Jesus expected the church to supernaturally attract all (people) to God.” The church, you and I, must rediscover our essential role and craft as bridge builder, for the world’s sake, for the church’s sake and for God’s sake. We can no longer afford to stand on the sidelines. We can’t just be good citizens and bystanders of this world and our city, we must connect and we must influence, otherwise the life, love, death and resurrection is all for naught. Jesus died for our sins to change us that we might then be able to change the world with his love and grace.
Related Sermon Illustrations
Contributed by Christian Cheong on May 4, 2004
George W. Truett, a well-known Texas preacher, was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy oilman. After the meal, the host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area. Pointing to the oil wells and punctuating the landscape, he boasted, "Twenty-five ...read more