KOH2RVA: Day 332

2013-08-06 20.29.14Last 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.

KOH2RVA: Day 130

singing-in-the-rain1I don’t know how many 20-30somethings were at Richmond’s First Baptist Church last night, but it seemed like a lot, especially under the circumstances.

It was cold and rainy outside, but as I stood in the hallway to greet people they kept coming in, shaking the rain off their coats, folding up their umbrellas—some of them looking a little confused about what to do next.

“Are you looking for RVA United?” I would ask (the big, flashy worship service for 20-30somethings in the sanctuary, complete with wailing guitars and thundering drums).

Some were, some weren’t.

“Are you looking for the Bible study?” I would ask (the Capstone Community Bible Study on Genesis, offered to 20-30somethings, which meets in the youth suite up on the third floor and includes a snack supper. Yum!).

Some were, some weren’t.

“Are you looking for the food truck?” I would ask (the old, pink school bus parked in front of the church, where Ed Edge, a friendly vegan with interesting tattoos, was selling tacos and cupcakes to 20-30somethings or anyone else who could come up with $2, including me).

Some were, some weren’t.

And, finally, “Are you looking for the Boy Scouts?” (the regular Tuesday night meeting of Troop 443).  The scouts were not looking for their meeting. They knew exactly where to find it. And if not they could pull out their maps and compasses and locate it in about two seconds flat.

That’s just how they are.

I went up to the youth suite eventually to see what the Capstone Bible Study looked like. It looked like fun, with two “core leaders” serving up supper and about twenty young adults catching up with each other after a busy day at work.

I went to the sanctuary for most of the RVA United worship service and it was spectacular, with a worship band put together from six or seven different churches in the area and a message from Dave Allam about how the ancient words of the Bible can speak to us in ways that are astonishingly fresh and relevant. I didn’t count how many people were there, but I was surprised by the number on such a cold, rainy night, and fairly certain that those who came were glad they did. I was.

So, the Kingdom of Heaven came to Richmond, Virginia, last night, right there at “Mission Central”—2709 Monument Avenue. Stop by and visit sometime, on a Tuesday night or even on a Sunday morning. The food truck may not be there, but I believe you’ll find something on the inside that will nourish your soul.