I did a crazy thing last Tuesday.
I rounded up David Powers, our media minister, and Allen Cumbia, his right hand man, and the three of us jumped in David’s car with two cameras and a microphone and drove down to the corner of First and Broad. I wanted to do some “man on the street interviews” with people who live in the heart of the city.
I started by asking them if they knew the Lord’s Prayer, especially that part that says, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Everybody knew that prayer. I said, “It sounds to as if Jesus was asking his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come to earth—right here where we are—and not just stay up there in heaven.” They agreed that it did sound like that. I added, “And maybe he even wanted them to help him do that, to bring heaven to earth. What do you think?” They thought that maybe he did. And then I asked, “If the people of Richmond’s First Baptist Church wanted to help Jesus bring heaven to earth what could they do right here in your neighborhood to make things a little more heavenly?”
Many of them laughed out loud when I said that. They looked around that street corner and shook their heads as if heaven were a million miles away from First and Broad. But some of them were more practical. “You could do something for the homeless,” they said, and one of them added, “I don’t think there will be any homeless people in heaven.” Others suggested doing something about all the abandoned, boarded-up buildings in that part of town, or helping people find work in these difficult times.
Some people had trouble understanding the question and David suggested that I ask, “What would you do for Richmond if you were God?” That’s what I asked Roslyn, who stood there wearing a loud clash of colors and a big, big smile. “I know you!” she said. “I come to your church for showers” (First Baptist offers hot showers, clean clothes, and a generous helping of Christ’s love to our homeless neighbors four times a week). Roslyn told me it was her birthday and right there in front of the cameras I sang the Happy Birthday song. She seemed pleased. “Now,” I said, “if you were God, what would you do for Richmond?”
“Buy me some lunch,” she said, with that same big, big smile.
You probably know how this story turned out. David, Allen, and I agreed that if God would buy Roslyn some lunch then maybe we should chip in and do the same. We did. And when Roslyn got her lunch she was so grateful she gave me a kiss on the cheek—a big, red, smeary, lipstick kiss that I would have had trouble explaining to my wife. But for a little while on Tuesday, in the warmth of Roslyn’s smile and the kindness of that meal,
Heaven came to earth.