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"Closer Than We Think"

Closer than We Think


Psalm 124; Romans 8:26-28, 31-39

April 26, 2015

Epworth United Methodist Church

Linda Loessberg-Zahl

Do you have any idea what this is? It’s the site where something that seemed impossible was accomplished. It’s the Golden Gate Strait. When have you found yourself facing an abyss, uncertain about the next step or frozen in place? When have you looked down at a chasm of crisis, or faced a pit of despair? When have you wondered how you would get across the gulf of anxiety or anger, injustice or grief? There are so many chasms of crisis in life: loss or loneliness, divorce or discrimination, illness or injustice. Finding the way across the chasm may seem overwhelming or impossible.

That’s what they said about the Golden Gate Bridge (the site of that first photo). On skeptic in the 1930’s argued, “No one can bridge the Golden Gate (Strait) because of insurmountable difficulties which are apparent to all who give thought to the idea.” Those ‘insurmountable difficulties’ included swift currents, deep water, and strong, 60 mph winds. That wasn’t all. It was also in the middle of The Great Depression.

The Psalmist who wrote the scripture that was read today knows about living through times of depression and insurmountable conditions. Those who wrote our holy book and other holy books faced oppression, malnutrition, destruction. They too struggled when the way forward seemed impossible. The reading from Psalm 124 tells us that we are never alone on the precipice, that God is always with us: “If it had not been for God who was on our side... the torrent would have gone over us.” The scripture doesn’t always promise that our lives will be smooth or that we will never be hurt. But again and again, it says that we will never stand alone, that we will never be abandoned by God.

The Psalm tells us that God’s presence spans every chasm with an indestructible love and that God is on our side. Steve Garnaas-Holmes says: “God is ‘on our side,’ not against other people but against all that diminishes life.” You and I and every person have had life diminishing experiences, where we come away feeling less than we truly are. Sadly, we have also contributed to life diminishing experiences. Yet, God is on our side, meeting us in our vulnerability and our culpability with transforming love. That Holy Mystery of Love is the lifeline that can span all chasms of crisis.

Finding that lifeline of strength, starts small, like the beginning of a suspension cable. Those massive cables start with a strand of steel 0.196 inches in diameter, about the diameter of a pencil!

When we cross the bridge we are held up by strands the diameter of a pencil!

That is 27,572 of those woven together…

into two of the longest bridge suspension cables at that time:80,000 miles of galvanized steel,

long enough to encircle the world more than three times at the equator, woven together into two 3 foot diameter cables to lift us and 39,000 other cars per year across a chasm that people thought no one could bridge.

When we find ourselves and our world on a precipice, like the thin foundational strands of those strong Golden Gate cables, we have many strands of experience that can help span the illusion that we are alone, apart from God and others. Those experiences woven together can lift us and lead us forward through the crisis or difficulty. Many of those small but profound strands of spiritual strength are woven through our lives. Moments of the Spirit are intertwined into our stories.

When have you experienced a strand of the spirit in your life? It could have been when you realized that the deepest pain did not destroy you. When did you discover that? It could have been when the deepest love claimed you: the love of a partner, a friend, a mentor a child. When has love claimed you? It could have been when you laughed and played like a child with someone you trusted. When have you played like that? It could have been when you spoke with courage or stood with others against hatred and systemic practices that diminish others. What has called you to your feet? When have you stood up and said, “Enough!”? People encountered that indomitable Spirit, that profound love in Jesus as he partied with the outcasts and called the comfortable to account. Let people encounter that spirit in you. Let those many strands of the spirit running through your life, our life, intertwine to lift you, lead you with a love that is always with you, a love that cannot be broken.

The Golden Gate Bridge was built to withstand fierce storms. A dramatic test blew in on Saturday, December 1, 1951. During the violent storm with winds of 70 miles per hour, the deck of the bridge swayed twenty-four feet from side to side and five feet up and down. Later, only minor damage was found.

The bridge has also survived the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta quake.

The current seismic-retrofit should make it even stronger. God’s love is stronger than the fiercest storms and earthshaking events

in our world and our lives.

When Paul describes the struggles faced by early Christians he says, “What can we say about these things?” Then he answers his own question: “If God is for us, who is against us?” He goes on to say, “So I am dead-set sure that there is absolutely nothing — nothing living or dead, nothing wielding power in heaven or on earth, nothing in the past or in the future, nothing of authority or influence, nothing above or below or any place else in the entire universe — (What would you add to this list? What threatens you?) nothing — that will ever be able to come between us and the love of God that we have found in Jesus the Messiah” (From

No matter where you are in this world, no matter what’s happening in your life, nothing can separate you from God’s love. Anne Lamott’s son had to learn to trust that he was always connected to his mother’s love, even across a distance.

In her book, Grace (Eventually), Lamott describes how traumatic it was for 10-year-old Sam to adjust to their new house. In their old house their bedrooms had been close. In the new place, her son’s bedroom was two rooms and two hallwaysaway from hers. He would wake up in the middle of the night and end up on her bed with his blanket. She tried a nightlight, bribes etc. Nothing seemed to help.

“Finally, Sam and I came up with a solution: The first night, he put his sleeping bag and pillow right beside my bed…The second night we moved the sleeping bag three feet away, to the foot of my bed. The next night, he moved three more feet away. On the fourth night, he made it to the door. He slept there two nights before he was able to put his sleeping bag in the hall. I kept the door open. ‘Are you okay?’ I called to him in the dark. ‘Yeah,’ he said, in his small but manly voice. The short hallway to the living room took three nights to master. Then there were four nights in the living room as he crept overland closer to his own room, with four three foot scootches, one stall, and one night when he had to drag his sleeping bag back three feet. Sometimes he would call out, ‘Good Night’ again to hear my voice. There was one valiant worried night in the hall between my study and his room. ‘See you tomorrow, Mom.’ ‘Love you, Mom! Doing okay out here Mom.’ A few times he called for me to come sit with him. My nearness lifted him…And then, at last, he spent his first night in his spooky new room, bravely, on the floor.”

Somewhere we are all ten years old, afraid to step out into the unknown, not quite believing that God really is with us, hearing us when we call out.

The bridge across the gorge near Niagara Falls, finally began when a child was able to fly a kite from the American to the Canadian side. After the string of the kite made it across, larger and larger cords and ropes were pulled across. Finally, steel cables spanned the gorge and the bridge was built.

Often we can’t see a full blown bridge across our own fears or the pain of the world. Just look for those strands of the Spirit woven throughout your life that connect you with the strong love of God. When you find yourself on that precipice let that love lead you across the chasm. Sometimes we stride, sometimes we skip, sometimes all we can do is scootch, But the Spirit loves us too much to let us stay where we are and miss the view! Amen.

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