Friday, October 17, 2008

Bridging the Gap

I never cease to be amazed by the Huey P. Long Bridge which spans the mighty Mississippi River just north of New Orleans. The Huey P. is an absolute marvel of engineering which is now over 70 years old, yet performs admirably in a world that was not even imagined when it was constructed in the first 1/3 of the previous century!

Opened in December 1935 to replace the Walnut Street Ferry, the bridge was named for an extremely popular and notorious governor, "The Kingfish" himself, Huey P. Long, who had just been assassinated on September 8th that same year in the Capitol Building at Baton Rouge. Long was Depression era Governor and U.S. Senator who began a dynasty of political powers in Louisiana that included Governor Earl Long and long time U.S. Senator Russell Long. Interestingly enough, Earl K. Long gained infamy by having an extramarital affair with a stripper known as "Blaze Starr". Huey P. had captured the Governor's Mansion with a controversial populist campaign style. His stump slogan was, "Every Man A King!" and Huey P. was commonly known as "The Kingfish".

Quite a family, the Longs!

The bridge was the first Mississippi River span built in Louisiana and the 29th along the entire length of the river. What makes it so interesting to me is the fact that it carries four lanes of traffic between Bridge City and Metarie, and between the narrow traffic lanes run three railroad tracks! It is a sight to behold, and an adventure to cross.

The vital statistics indicate that the widest clean span is 790 feet (240 m) long and sits 135 feet (41 m) above the water. There are three navigation channels below the bridge, the widest being 750 feet (230 m). The distinctive rail structure is 22,996 feet (7,009 m) long and extends as a rail viaduct well into the city. The highway structure is 8,076 feet (2,462 m) long with extremely steep grades on both sides. Each roadway deck is a precarious 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, with 2 9-foot lanes, but because of the railroad component, is unusually flat for a bridge of this height. Normally, bridges this high have a hump to accommodate the height but this bridge is flat to accommodate rail traffic.

To imagine what a huge project this was in the 1930's simply boggles my mind. The designers and the hundreds of men who labored on this huge bridge could never imagine what type of world this bridge would serve in the 21st Century. The narrow traffic lanes were designed for the small vehicles of the early 20th Century, and are a far cry from what is needed today to service full size automobiles, trucks and SUV's, today's delivery vehicles, and the huge tractor trailers that dominate our highways. Train engines are much more powerful and pull longer and heaver loads. Yet, all these years later, the Huey P. Long Bridge stands as a monument of engineering brilliance and longevity.

I am reminded of an even more amazing marvel. A bridge that is 20 centuries old, which is just as strong and effective today, as the day it came into being way back in the "30's". Please note that I'm not referring to the 1930's but, rather, the actual 30's! The bridge I reference is the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is an engineering marvel of love and grace that will never grow old, and will never lose it's power to bridge a gap that cannot be humanly spanned.

An uncrossable chasm exists between The Creator and His beloved Creation (mankind) because of the first man's rebellion against God, and the resulting sinful nature that we have inherited from our corporate father, Adam. This is a gap that could not be crossed, no matter how hard we might try, nor how many good deeds we might do. Our sin separates us from our loving Heavenly Father and we cannot bridge that gap. Without a remedy, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and have no hope of eternal life. Thankfully God did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

How did God do that? Here is how Paul the Apostle puts it in Romans 8: 1-4 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

In 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19 and 5:21 Paul states it this way, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, ... He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

When Jesus' arms were outstretched, and his hands were nailed to the cross beam of that old rugged cross, he symbolically took us by our sin stained hands and God by His Holy Hand, and brought us together - at least those who would accept that great sacrifice!

In the old hymn, "At Calvary" these true words ring out - "Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan. Oh, the Grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span - at Calvary!"

That is a bridge that is unrivaled in it's magnificence and power. I hope you know Jesus today as your bridge to the Father. If so, why not take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks to our Savior. If you have not found that bridge personally - Come to Jesus and live!

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