Some of you may know him. He’s a fine art and antiques broker who owns a beautiful little shop just around the corner from First Baptist Church. I was on my way back from lunch with Ralph Starling at Arianna’s yesterday when Bob called out, “Did one of you leave your sunglasses?” He had been at Arianna’s, too.
He hurried up the sidewalk to catch us and, sure enough, in the distraction of paying for my lunch Ralph had forgotten his sunglasses. Bob handed them over and introduced himself to Ralph. I had met him before, and we had talked about his connection to First Baptist Church.
Bob’s grandparents were pillars of the church. His grandfather (or was it his great-grandfather?) had once been chair of the deacons. Bob himself had been baptized by Ted Adams and is still a member of the church, although he confessed that he didn’t get there very often these days. He is, however, a faithful member of our television congregation and, as I learned yesterday, he’s more than that:
“I’m part of your K-O-whatever-it-is,” Bob said. KOH2RVA. Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. “Right,” he said. “That.” And then he told us how.
Bob’s shop is right across Park Avenue from the small parking lot where we keep the church vans. He said, “I’m the one who’s been keeping these hedges trimmed, and picking up the trash around this lot.” I noticed how neatly the hedges had been trimmed, and how the ground beneath them had been raked clean of any debris. In fact, the whole parking lot was as tidy as your grandmother’s flower bed.
Bob said, “I think this would be a great way for the church to bring heaven to earth. Just get some T-shirts with the church’s name on it, and then round up a group of volunteers who wear those shirts and go out into the neighborhood picking up trash.”
I told him I had tried that same thing once at my church in DC and it had worked well. We had gone up 17th Street, with all its sidewalk cafes, and people had asked us what we were doing. “We’re from First Baptist Church, just down the street,” I would say. “We’re just trying to be good neighbors in a great neighborhood.”
“That!” Bob said. “If a group of volunteers would do that, wearing First Baptist T-shirts and carrying big, orange bags so they would stand out, it would be a great way to bring heaven to earth.”
I appreciated that. I appreciated Bob and the good work he’s doing. I appreciated the idea that people we don’t see in church every Sunday may be out there quietly bringing in the Kingdom.
I’d like to think that someone who reads this post today, who may not live in Richmond or have anything to do with First Baptist Church, would pick a piece of trash up off the street, throw it into a nearby trash can, and make the world a tiny bit more beautiful by doing so, a tiny bit more like heaven and a tiny bit less like that other place.