BRIDGES ~ Part II ~ Tools

(As the scene opens, God is working at work bench, hammering, painting, designing.)

(The scene opens with the male and female as they ended Part I, standing back to back)

(There are planks of wood leaning against the workbench. God pulls one up onto the workbench and writes on it, then brings it center stage behind the couple and returns to the workbench.)

MALE: So.

FEMALE: A needle pulling thread.

MAL: (a tad miffed) Well...

FEMALE: That's a deep subject.

MALE: (exasperated...to God) See???

GOD: Everything.

(They break away, the male a little more than miffed.)

FEMALE: Heh heh heh.

MALE: WHY did you make woman???

GOD: You couldn't get along with the lions, tigers, and bears.

FEMALE: You needed SOMEONE to teach you the RULES.

MALE: Growl.

FEMALE: Heh heh heh.

MALE: (seeing the planks) What are those?

FEMALE: Obvious male bashing tools.

GOD: TOOLS, indeed, but not for bashing...

MALE: For???

GOD: Bridge building.

FEMALE: Oh.

MALE: Don't look like Legos to me.

FEMALE: Make like a woodchuck and go BURY yourself!!!
(sighs) What does it take to build a bridge?

(God hands out first plank..."TRUST")

MALE: (reading) Trust.

FEMALE: Said the spider to the fly.

GOD: (handing one plank to female, another to male) Compassion. Communication.

MALE: Commun-i-what?

FEMALE: (like explaining to a child) He means "talk". Men should try it once in awhile. Right along with "listening".

GOD: (handing plank to female) Respect...
(handing plank to male)...patience.

MALE: Hey, I've a ton of patience.

GOD: Great.

MALE: I just don't like waiting.

FEMALE: This is just wood. This is just oil and paint. How can it help bring anything of any togetherness or sense to...

GOD: This isn't a physical bridge. It looks like one, but it isn't. Physical bridges fall if they aren't crafted from a careful foundation. Maintained. Protected.

FEMALE: (to God, referring to the male who is laying the planks incorrectly) Your rough draft is having difficulty.

(The male is struggling with a plank. The female is amused.)

FEMALE: (continuing) Having trouble?

MALE: No, why do you ask?

FEMALE: In order to find out.

MALE: Find out what?

FEMALE: If you're having trouble!

MALE: (obviously having trouble) What makes you think that???

GOD: (handing female the last plank) Why don't you try working together!

FEMALE: (examining "togetherness" plank) Got a great idea!

MALE: Yeah?

FEMALE: Let's work together!

MALE: Great idea...

The male and female take the planks (i.e., tools), and begin to build a bridge between them)

(Excitement builds as they get to the last plank..."TRUST"...then, the female stops, looks at the male, grabs the plank and runs to one side)

FEMALE: If only I trusted you...

MALE: What...is that...supposed to mean???

FEMALE: IF - after this bridge thingy is built and I feel comfortable that all the ducks are in a row - I went back to being your girlfriend...key word there being IF...what do I have to expect?

MALE: Devotion. Unconditional loyalty. Immediate attention. Happily greet you no matter what you looked like - morning, noon, night. And ALWAYS leave the toilet seat down.

FEMALE: (pause) I already have a dog.

MALE: (sighing deeply, turning to God) See???

GOD: Stop bickering...look at what I've given you...

(She looks at the plan, at God, at the male, at their work, at the plank...and at last decides to trust. She goes back to the male and they lay the "TRUST" plank in together.)

FEMALE: We got ourselves a bridge.

MALE: Yep.

FEMALE: Can't mistake it.

MALE: We are SO cool.

GOD: Very proud of both of you...

MALE/FEMALE: What do we do now?

GOD: Take your first steps.

FEMALE: WHAT???

GOD: Cross it.

(Silence. Finally the female, thinking it's a joke, bursts out laughing)

FEMALE: Oh! Ha! I get it! You said we were suppose to CROSS it!!!

MALE: Cool joke...ha.

GOD: You made it - just take the first step and cross your bridge.

FEMALE: Gasp! We can't do that.

(dies like the Wicked Witch of the West) Oh what a world, what a world.

MALE: (bargaining) Let's talk about this first...

GOD: Nothing to talk about...

FEMALE: (still dying, down on the stage) Cruel-cold-world...look what you did-to-meeeeeeeee...

MALE: See, the world, as I see it, is far from, ummm...perfect.

GOD: It's not a perfect world, true. And life is not fair. But I am.

FEMALE: How do we proceed? (begins to edge toward the lip of the bridge)

GOD: Leave behind the thinking that one way is right, the other is wrong...be open to each other.

MALE: But aren't there truths? Absolutes? (begins to edge toward the lip of the bridge) GOD: Absolutely. But there are situations in life that we CAN learn to live and deal with. We are all different.
(seeing the looks) Well, maybe not.
(looking at them again) Still scared?

MALE: Yeah.

GOD: Why?

FEMALE: Because it might actually work!

~ CURTAIN ~


BUILDING BRIDGES
TEXT: Matthew 7:24-27; Colossians 3:12-17

There's really not too much more that needs to be said; the skit has preached most of the sermon. Building bridges is hard work. That's the main message to take away for today. God gives us the opportunity, the tools, the encouragement...even secures the framework for us. But, in the end, there is no room for Christian couch potatoes. God will do what we cannot, but there is a substantial part of the work that is up to us.

Generally, that's not a fun message to hear. We like to hear that God will swoop in and bail us out...even if it is at the last minute. We don't like to hear that there are times when we must learn to get ourselves out of whatever mess we are in...not because God doesn't care, but because it is necessary for our Christian growth. If parents do all of a child's homework for them, the child may come home with good grades, but will graduate without having learned anything at all. God is not going to do our homework for us. God will teach us, practice with us, and walk with us...but the work itself is ours to do.

And the work does not always...or even generally...go smoothly. Tish and Mike were going along so well in building together, until Tish got scared. The whole project was almost scrapped until she decided whether or not she would trust. Trust was God's gift, and God encouraged her...but in the end, she had to wrestle with the decision to trust or not.

I can't tell you how important it is to realize this about our Christian lives. We must do the work...the hard work. If we are in a broken relationship, God is not going to instantly repair it without any effort on our part. God will bless whatever efforts we make, but we must still make them. That also goes for our relationship with God. Sitting in church for an hour on Sundays will not create a relationship with God. It takes effort. We have to reach out: in prayer, in service, in study...over a long period of time.

The message that we must do the work is basic, but that doesn't mean it is simple. Let's go back to Mike and Tish for a minute. The whole thing almost unraveled at the trust board. Tish decided in the end to trust Mike, but that's not how every relationship comes out. She might also have decided to leave for good. Worse, she might have taken the trust board and bashed Mike over the head with it. Sometimes you might do a lot of work on building a bridge and the other person or group just burns it down, refuses to cross it, or sends an army across it to hunt you down.

In those cases, we need to remember that the outcome of a situation is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of our work. We talked about that a few weeks ago when we talked about how to find God's will. God is constantly giving us nudges and opportunities to move us in the right direction. But we and others are always free to walk through the open door or to go some other way instead. God will direct us, but we can refuse the direction.

Bridge building is a two-way enterprise, and it only takes one side to mess it up. That may not be particularly good news, but I know that sometimes for me it is a relief to know it. My marriage fell apart because in the ten years we were married, both of us neglected our bridge. It fell into disrepair and then outright collapse. At the point of the collapse, I did everything I could to rebuild, but my husband simply was not interested. I had to take half of the responsibility for the collapse, but I didn't have to shoulder any of the guilt for not being able to rebuild it. I was willing and God was willing to help us. My husband chose another way.

There will be times when you have done all you can do and relationship is not possible. The other person may be unwilling to work at it, as my husband was, or the other person may want to distort the bridge for violent ends. There are times when Jesus sends out the disciples to a town saying, "Give your peace to the town when you arrive. If they return peace to you, stay with them. If they do not, shake the dust from your sandals and move on." There are times we must do that in relationships.

That said, however, it is still true that in the vast majority of cases, God is calling on us to work hard at building bridges. If you do the work and it doesn't help, then rest knowing you have done what you could do. But if you haven't nailed down the first board....if you haven't wrestled with the questions of trust and forgiveness and respect and compassion, then it's time to get moving. It is the work that Paul describes in Colossians:

"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

And it's not just in personal relationships. We need to find ways to build bridges to reach people from different racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds. As the Church, our primary mission is to build bridges to those who don't know the love of God. There absolutely must be a bridge from the Church to the world, so that those outside can feel free to come in to us and we can just as easily go out to them. Right now, the Church operates more like a giant Venus Fly Trap. If somebody hovers close enough...zap, in they come and in they stay. Hopefully they find it pleasant once inside, but that's still not what the Church is supposed to be. We need to be crossing the bridge out to the world at least as often as others cross to us....perhaps more so.

The question of stewardship is the question of how we use the tools that God gives to us. God hands us "trust," but what will we do with it? Will we use it? Will we hide it away, afraid to use it? Will we steal the trust of someone else? God hands us "patience." Will we use that tool when things are not happening as quickly as we would like? Will we call on it when someone is being difficult or when we are angry? God gives us "compassion." Will we choose that tool when someone we don't like much is hurting?

You see, God gives us tools...not ready-made products. This is especially hard for the plug and play generation and for people like me whose idea of cooking a meal is "cut a slit in the center of film cover and heat on high for five minutes." For the most part, we get annoyed when something comes without batteries, let alone something that needs to be assembled. And how many of us...even if we are building our own home...don't at least get the boards already prepared from the lumber yard.

Yet what God gives us are the tools with which we are to work the raw materials of our lives. We are to take God's tool of humility and use it to shape our lives. When we are tempted to see ourselves as more deserving than someone else, we are supposed to use humility to re- shape our attitude. When we close our eyes to the poor around us, we are to use the chisel of compassion on our hardened hearts. When we catch ourselves caught in the cycle of always wanting more and more, we should take thankfulness from our toolbox and be grateful for the abundance we already possess.

As we use those tools, we will find that bridges are forming. Those who once found us unapproachable will be drawn across the bridge of compassion we have laid down. Those who we once found unappealing or frightening we will begin to meet on the bridge of thankfulness. We have every tool at our disposal. We just have to be willing to do the work.

Amen.

Skit 2002, Jim Goddard
Sermon 2002, Anne Robertson


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