Last night was National Night Out but that’s not why I ended up in front of Richmond’s First Baptist Church with a group of 20-30somethings. We had come for the Tuesday night gathering of RVA United—an outreach ministry to and through young adults in the Richmond area. I had been asked to tell them something about KOH2RVA and Lynn Turner had been invited to lead in prayer. Surrounding those “talking times” there had been music—glorious, thunderous, not-for-the-faint-of-heart music—offered up with abandon in praise to God. It was a powerful worship experience. We came out of the sanctuary with our hearts still pounding and found…ice cream.
That’s right: ice cream.
It was being dished out by graduates of the Ralph Starling School of Radical Hospitality. Ralph himself was in the crowd, meeting and greeting those 20-30somethings while his graduates (mostly 60-70somethings) served ice cream sundaes with a smile. The picture above is a little dark, but maybe you can see the RVA United sign on the front porch of the church and just to the left of it people standing in line to get ice cream. The others have come down the steps to eat their sundaes and enjoy each other’s company. They stayed for an hour after the service, until it was so dark nobody could see anything. Even then, some of them didn’t want to go home.
This morning, as I was re-reading parts of the Gospel of Luke, I found that place where Jesus says to his opponents, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (11:20). Jesus had just cast out a demon, and here he seems to be saying that in that act, in that moment, the kingdom of God had come.
That’s how it felt to me last night when I stepped out of that powerful worship service and found some of our members cheerfully dishing out ice cream for young people they had never met before—as though in that act, in that moment, the kingdom of God had come upon us. If I were putting it in the form of a parable I might say, “What is the Kingdom like, and to what shall I compare it?”
It’s like an ice cream sundae offered to a stranger.