I’m back in Richmond this morning, sitting at my kitchen table having a delicious bowl of hot oatmeal and browsing through the pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
I have to tell you that when I saw the front page of today’s paper I thought, “It’s working!” because there, above the fold, was a headline that read: “Crime down as sales soar.” What I meant was, “It’s working: the Kingdom of Heaven is coming to Richmond, Virginia!” because crime was down and sales were soaring (I was a little disappointed when I read the article to find it referred only to gun sales; the picture below the fold had led me to believe the headline referred to Black Friday retail sales. But when I read that article—“Bargain Hunt”—I was pleased to learn that those sales have also been strong. In fact, consumers seem to be more confident about the economy getting better than they have for the past decade).
I’m not sure that’s how I should measure the success of this year-long, every-member mission trip, and it’s possible that First Baptist Church had nothing to do with the drop in the crime rate or the spike in consumer confidence, but it was—in fact—my first thought: that when you get this many people working together and praying together for Metropolitan Richmond good things are bound to happen.
I believe that’s true no matter what the headlines say. Good things are happening in Metropolitan Richmond, and First Baptist Church is part of the reason. When God’s people begin looking for ways to put God’s love into action, it makes a difference.
It is making a difference.
I don’t know how you will choose to bring heaven to earth today. Maybe you’ll do your part to stimulate the local economy by shopping for Christmas gifts (smile). Whatever it is, do it with the confidence that God loves the place you live, the place you call home, and let that love flow through you to the people you encounter today.
Even if you have to go to the mall to do it.
It’s Black Friday.
Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? Especially after a day we call “Thanksgiving”? Apparently we call it Black Friday because it’s the day all the retailers go back “into the black.” The shoppers get out there and spend and spend and spend until their pockets are empty and the cash registers are full. I hope they do it happily, with hearts still spilling over with gratitude from the day before, and that they think about those people they know and love and search for the perfect gift for each one.
I, for one, will not be joining them. I’ll be driving back to Richmond after a delicious Thanksgiving Day celebration in New York City. For the first part of that journey I will be savoring the memories of the holiday, but somewhere around Baltimore I will start thinking about Richmond, and about the work that waits for me there.
And here’s the good news: I love my work.
I appreciated all the comments on Wednesday about whether we’re supposed to bring heaven to earth or get people to heaven. I think that in the end we concluded that both of those things are important, and essential to the work God has for us to do here. At our best, we can’t keep from telling people about Jesus and helping them enter into a life-giving and life-changing relationship with him, but he himself would probably tell them to join him in the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth. It is joyful work, and you can see that in Louis and Linda Watts’ letter from yesterday. Taking that pumpkin bread to Glen Lea Elementary School blessed them as much as it blessed the teachers, and I believe it’s the kind of thing that would make Jesus smile.
I’ll be smiling on the way back to Richmond today, thinking about that, and thinking about all the ways the people of First Baptist have entered into the spirit of this year-long, every-member mission trip. Some of them may be out there today, on Black Friday, spending money in a way that blesses the lives of others.
God bless them every one.