Have you ever felt at the End of your rope?! Sure, we all have. The rope is a familiar metaphor for many of life’s experiences and activities. Sometimes we can feel like we’re getting all Tied Up, or walking a Tightrope just to get through our day, or wistfully longing for the simple joy of Jumping Rope as a child in the neighborhood. Remember playing Tug-of-war on the field? It may have Ben a while since you enjoyed the Rope Swing in your backyard. Ropes can also keep us on the path and guide us in the best direction.
Our energizing message this week is from Mark 13 and Hebrews 4 and you are invited to consider Jesus’ promise to be with us in our present and our future. While visions of the “end times” may result in some anxieties, the end times is not at the end of our rope. Rather, Jesus promises to be faithful to us… “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Even when Jesus envisioned the future destruction of Herod’s Great Temple, do not fear. Even the uncertainties ahead can result in normal fears, God promises to stand with us in our fear, to tie us as with a safe and secure rope, not only to himself, but to one another. Sure, we may not immediately correlate encouragement and safety to former church experiences, but at Cold Spring Church, we not only stand on the promises of God, we stand on the promises of God together.
Did you know that the The Latin root of the word “religion” is re-ligare, which means to be tied to a yoke? Many monastic orders still require the monk to tie a rope around his waist. It’s not a rope that keeps the cassock from falling. It was a symbol of God’s promises. The rope symbolized that we are all bound together in ropes of hope and faith and love.
Find Ropes of Living Hope this week at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church.
What holiday do we celebrate on Thursday? Sure, Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for? Lots of things. And lots of people, like our family and friends, too, right? We are thankful because God has given us reasons to give thanks because in Jesus Christ we are tied to God. See this rope? What kinds of knots would hold us tight to God? Here, let me know you as I tie this knot. (Disappearing knot rope demonstration.) Wow. That kind of loose knot is not secure. No! The kind of knot you are tied to God with is like this. (Demonstrate a tight knot.) When Melissa and I were married, the minister used the illustration of a knot to show how we are tied together in marriage. Held by God. Held to each other in love. Let’s celebrate God’s connection as we trust in Jesus. Remember to give thanks. And every time you see a rope, a cord, over the holiday, remember how you are always tied to Jesus! And give thanks!
“On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says’ (John 7:38).
Rivers of water are powerful. We know this power living at the shore. While it looks like the sandy beaches constrains the water, it is the power of the water that moves and shapes the beach. Jesus said that rivers of living water of the Spirit would flow from those who follow him, quenching every thirst. Our church was named for the cold spring nearby, a place of refreshment for all who pass by. But sometimes the rivers of life are hard to get to safely so we build bridges that make connections for us so that the river does not overwhelm, but remains accessible on our journey.
Take a look at the photo (above) of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1930. It survived many storms providing safe connections from one side of the river to another, and easy access to the river bed below. Until Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that decimated Central America with more than 22,000 human lives lost and millions left without adequate shelter. Many lesser bridges were destroyed.
As you can see from the photo taken after the storm (above), the Choluteca Bridge survived unscathed. (Yes, that is the same bridge! It’s the river that moved!)
Where did the river go? The hurricane couldn’t move the bridge, but the hurricane picked-up and moved the river making the bridge a bridge to nowhere.
Sometimes we can recognize that our former “bridges” and “community connections” remain intact, but they are no longer anywhere near today’s community or its concerns. Since Jesus is the Living Water, the water of life, our mission as the bridge is to connect people in our communities to that Living Water. For the bridge to fulfill its purpose it must be in the river and connecting others to the river of life, too.
Cold Spring Presbyterian Church has withstood the seasons and storms of life for hundreds of years. We’re still standing! We were build on a solid foundation. Our structures are strong. We just may not always notice that the water has moved. Our neighbors may not even know they are thirsty, but the accessibility to the Living Water is out of reach… unless we extend our bridge in every direction to reach people who need to see God’s love in action. We have the Living Water. We don’t want to be a beautiful bridge to nowhere. Instead, we have begin a transformation journey to let the Living Water flow and connect to our community’s rivers in Lower Township and Cape May that are flowing, moving, dynamically changing. Let’s work together to address the moving river:
(We’re the bridge!) Be Willing to Relocate the Bridge: When its really difficult to make new connections, what do you do? Stay rigidly in place, or adapt and grow until new connections are made.
Spirit Bridges Are Flexible: We have many wonderful structures, our bridges, that need to be flexible to stay connected to the Living Water and the rivers of life all around us.
Everyone is a Bridge-Builder, a People-Connector: Each of us has a gift, an interest, an experience, talent, or skill that can help relocate and reconnect our bridge to our community.
Oddly, the word “bridge” does not appear in the Bible, but remember that Jesus is the ultimate Bridge-Builder, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
The Apostle Paul again wrote, “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
The Choluteca Bridge was a marvel of engineering but lacked the capacity to keep up with the river waters. Let’s be sure our bridges are making contact with people where they are by getting in the water, the flow of the Spirit, so even more can drink and quench their thirst.