This is edited from what I posted at

BridgesA friend of mine once referred to Portland, Oregon as the “City of Bridges.” Ten of them span the Willamette River which runs through the center of the city. * Anyone who has lived in Portland knows of this little city’s eclectic mix of people. Though there can be tension between them, there is generous space for people to live in whatever margins they define for themselves. Individual expression finds an apex here where few expressions are out-of-bounds.

The long, bright sunny days of summer explode with oddity as hibernators emerge from winter dens. Entertainment? Just sit on the Esplanade and watch it go by. Yet that same individualism breeds isolation. The short, dark, rainy days of winter in Portland keep most of us huddled inside and alone. We stand with each other half-awake at the same coffee lines, but we rarely cross bridges to engage with anyone who is not sharing our margins. It may be as entertaining to watch the people-watchers as it is the people on the Esplanade. They are as diverse as those passing by. It is as though they are looking out the jeep window at the wildlife safari where they are told, “don’t feed the animals.” Yes, this city is known for its bridges, but there are very few bridge-builders connecting us to one another. My friend, Paul Metzger, said,

“…it is easy to pass judgment; it is not so easy to pass over judgment and even undergo people’s judgment by seeking to build reconciling bridges through apologies, forgiveness, and understanding.”

When He walked this Earth, Jesus declared a new Kingdom. It coexists with fallen cultures vexed by evil and self-centeredness. And it stands in contrast to these micro-cultures by creating space for a good and common culture that transcends them all. Everyone is invited to enter this Kingdom. Repentance will separate us from those cultural elements that are defined by sin, but we who enter this Kingdom are never asked to leave our cultures at the door. On the contrary, this space is a truly human space where a mosaic of cultural diversity is celebrated. Jesus was a bridge-builder…

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:4-8)

I cannot imagine the chasm that Jesus crossed when He condescended to walk among us. His very presence revealed the Father. In Him we discover not an overbearing and angry God – quick to call us short on our faults – but rather a generous, loving, humble God calling us into His presence and into a union with the eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He removed every obstacle that stood in our way.  Francis of Assisi had a simple prayer…

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

There are lots of bridges that need building. I pray that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ will clothe ourselves in humility and begin to build.

*Ten bridges from south to north – 1. Ross Island, 2. Tilikum Crossing, 3. Marquam, 4. Hawthorne, 5. Morrison, 6. Burnside, 7. Steel, 8. Broadway, 9. Fremont, 10. St. Johns.

About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
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