Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys
As our very own Bishop Carter of the Florida Conference of the UMC has said, "A bridge can be a beautiful thing. Jesus is the bridge between God and humanity.” And Florida is full of them. Our gospel text this week, Matthew 9:35-10:23, speaks to this, and encourages followers of Christ to build bridges to the community, where the people God loves are. Jesus encourages us to go into the world, spreading the love of God through acts of compassion, mercy, and justice. He calls us to be a bridge.
Bishop Carter explains that in some places there are bridges, we just need to use them. In other locations, there is an old bridge that needs repair. In others, there is no bridge at all. We may be called to build a new bridge, to repair an old bridge, or to simply use an existing bridge.
This imagery is great! Bridges are available to us, and in Florida there are PLENTY, to help us get to where we need to go, to help us cross terrain that would be impossible (or at least very inconvenient) to cross otherwise, and oftentimes provide beautiful views.
We are called to be these bridges. We are called to connect God to the world. Of course God could arbitrarily do this alone, but God is in the business of building relationships and connection with God and each other. Bridges are needed to do this.
Bridges connect gaps; where there is a gap in your community, you are called by God to bridge it! Where you see a need, God is with you to help you attend to it. Building bridges seems like a difficult thing to do, and it is (think of all the planning, designing, and labor it takes), but it starts with identifying the gap or the need. Here at Gray Memorial UMC, we identified a need to connect some of the elderly population in our community. It has taken a network of people calling, visiting, and providing for some of their needs. It began by seeing a disconnect, and knowing that God has called us to repair an old bridge.
In the gospel text, Jesus promises us that this will not be easy. It would be easier not to build the bridge. To stay where you are. Discomfort and fear are prerequisites for fulfilling the mission of God, who does not call us to do the comfortable, but to the "new thing" that God is doing (Isaiah 43).
Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways,
showing to wandering souls the path of light,
walk thou beside us lest the tempting byways
lure us away from thee to endless night.
*Hope of the World, United Methodist Hymnal, 178.