Herald Journal Columns
May 22, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Building bridges

Pastor Philip A. Geoffrio, Albion Evangelical Free Church, Cokato

Once upon a time, two neighbors who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed, without a hitch.

Then, the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, and it grew into a major difference. Finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words, followed by weeks of silence.

One morning, there was a knock on Ole’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.

“I’m looking for a few days’ work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have some small jobs here and there. Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said Ole. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, Sven. Last week, there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee. Now, there is a creek between us.

“Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow.”

The carpenter replied, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

Ole had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off.

The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset, when the farmer returned, the carpenter had finished his job.

Ole’s eyes opened wide. His jaw dropped. There was no fence at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other!

As Ole stood looking across the fine piece of work, with handrails and all, he saw Sven coming across the bridge, his hand outstretched. As they met in the middle, taking each other’s hands, Sven remarked, “You’re quite a fellow, Ole, to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait,” cried Ole. “Stay a few days. I’ve got a lot of other projects for you.”

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter countered, “but I have many more bridges to build.”

Jesus Christ is the carpenter who came to this world to build bridges between us and God and between us and other people. Through his death and resurrection, which many of us recently celebrated at Easter, he broke down the wall of separation that sin had erected and ended the hostility between man and God.

Jesus is the bridge back to God. Now, God is approaching us with his hand outstretched. Forgiveness is offered to those who ask for it; reconciliation is possible for those who appropriate it. Will you stretch out your hand to God?

And, through the love of Christ, will you stretch out your hand to a friend, a spouse, a relative, a neighbor, a fellow student, a co-worker, even an enemy?

Take a lesson from Ole and Sven: a bridge is better than a wall any day.

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