Isaiah 55:1-9 & Luke 13:1-9
Take my words and speak through them, take our ears and hear through them, take our hearts & set them on fire with love for you.
As we and Jesus, journey through the six weeks of Lent, we are all heading to the cross of Jesus on Good Friday and ultimately to the empty cross/tomb of Easter Sunday.
The cross is an important symbol – not just as an instrument of torture but as a symbol of eternal life for Christ and his followers.
In the English language, ‘cross’ has been incorporated into many compound words, phrases and sayings. We are exploring some of these during these weeks and seeing how they relate to the Easter journey and the Lectionary readings as laid down for Lent and Easter.
On March 10th, the focus was ‘Jesus at the Crossroads’, on the 17th, it was about bearing one’s cross.
Today our focus is crossing the bridge, from one side to the other.
I don’t know about you, but when I am on a high bridge, whether it be a road bridge or a footbridge, I’m happy when I get to the other side. Particularly if there’s a river or rocks or road below. When I’m stopped on the bridge over the Shoalhaven River at Nowra, I’m happier when I’ve stopped near where the bridge ends and the solid land underneath.
For those of you who may have a phobia about swinging or suspension bridges, don’t ever be tempted to watch the rope bridge scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Nevertheless, crossing the bridge is important in order to continue the journey because other options are more difficult or not available, where speed via a direct route is important, where it is a means to the journey’s end, or where the other side represents something (a promise if you like) not on this side of the bridge.
In between is the gap, the in between space if you like, with its dangers, with its unforeseen and seen opportunities.
Many look down at the dangers (think of Peter when he tried to walk on water – when he looked away from Jesus and begins to sink).
Others look ahead to the other side, while enjoying the ride.
Consider the cross as a building platform – the long vertical shaft is founded in the ground at the bottom, while the bridge spans from one side of the chasm to the other, and the upward beam points to the heavens – a sturdy bridge structure indeed.
But a bridge is only of value if it is used, and people move along it rather than stand still on it or before it.
The passage in Isaiah brought to us this morning invoked us to travel the bridge and go to the other side where God and our renewal is to be found.
We hear God’s words resonate in the early verses with the word ‘Come’ spoken four times.
God says ‘Seek me’, ‘Call, ‘Turn towards the Lord’ and ‘My way’.
Movement is suggested, where we do the work in journeying rather than simply standing still.
When the third author of Isaiah was writing these words to the Israelites they were either still in captivity or had just returned to the country they had left 60 years earlier which now lay in ruins.
Much still had to be done, many bridges to be crossed before full restoration in the Promised Land.
The second passage from the gospel of Luke is a much more troublesome passage, with many nuances and ways to interpret and understand the message from Jesus, the Rock, the Way, the Deliverer, the Cornerstone, the Redeemer and the bridge between God and humankind.
What sticks out for me in this passage is that Jesus is reminding his people that life is both precious and precarious.
We never know when war will break out, when terror will attack (the day we prepared this we learnt of the attacks on mosques in Christchurch), when an accident will happen or simply, like an hourglass, when the last grain of sand will fall from the top to the bottom (show an hourglass).
What we can be certain of is this – when the glass is turned over on the day we were born, it begins to run out.
For some it is faster, for some slower. Some will have plenty of warning and some will have none.
Because time is running out and Jesus is calling, we are called to bear fruit – that fruit is called repentance.
An old fashioned word but one rich in its original Greek meaning.
Repentance is ‘metanoia’ – which literally means ‘Change’! Change your hearts, change your ways, change your direction – and move towards the maker of the new covenant – Jesus himself – who stands on the solid rock, on the solid cornerstone, on the other side of the bridge as well as being the bridge itself.
Bearing fruit is about changing our way, moving towards Jesus and not looking down.
It involves courage because none of this is easy and we will be tested and pruned along the way.
As C.S. Lewis once said:
‘Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.’
Without courage, every other virtue falters – love, hope, justice and trust when tested.
Think of the courage that was to be found on that Good Friday cross.
Life can be tough to navigate, God,
so much that is uncertain,
so much that is unpredictable;
so many detours,
so many uncharted paths;
And yet, amazingly, you do not leave us to find our way alone;
In your grace we find a path,
Your grace is a shelter, open for anyone who wants in, and it does offer protection
from the worst of whatever storms we may face.
And though we know we haven’t done anything to earn it,
we thank you that we can find rest,
in the midst of life’s turbulence,
in the shelter of your grace.