KOH2RVA: Day 98

Sandy HookFirst Baptist Church has spent nearly 100 days working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, in a year-long, every-member mission trip. I don’t know that every member has been involved, but it certainly does seem that way. Many of them stop me in the hallway to tell me about the work they’ve been doing. They’re excited about it. You can hear it in their voices. You can see it on their faces. And that’s good, because on a day like today I’m thinking about how it takes all of us working together with Jesus to make this world more like heaven while it only takes one of us to make it more like hell.

It happened yesterday.

While we may never know what drove him to do it we know that 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire on Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 26 people—many of them children—before turning the gun on himself. It’s hard to imagine a more horrifying, or hellish, scenario.

How long will it take to undo the damage Adam Lanza did? Forever. While it will take days to restore some semblance of order at Sandy Hook Elementary, weeks to memorialize the 26 people who died in yesterday’s shootings, months to get things back to “normal” in Newtown, some things will never be the same. Parents who lost children will never get them back again, not in this life. And that’s when I become grateful to tears that it’s not all up to us.

While we can “labor alongside Jesus in the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth,” Jesus can do some things we can’t. He can bring earth to heaven. He can take the tragedy of yesterday’s shootings and lay it before his heavenly Father. And the Father—who loves little children—can take them in his arms, breathe new life into their broken bodies, and welcome them into his eternal presence.

“God will wipe every tear from their eyes,” writes the author of Revelation. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:4).

Until then we keep working with Jesus to bring heaven to earth. We renew our determination. We strengthen our resolve. We know as we didn’t know two days ago…

…it’s going to take all of us.

Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

Doo-Doo for President

crying_babyHere’s a story from Sunday’s sermon that everyone seemed to enjoy.  It’s based on that passage in Mark 9 where Jesus takes a little child into his arms and tells his disciples, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me” (vs. 37). 


At one of my churches some of us used to go to a nearby trailer park on Saturday afternoons to work with the children there.  On one particular Saturday afternoon, a little girl came dragging her baby brother along with her. 

“What’s his name?” I asked. 

“Doo-Doo,” she answered. 



So, Doo-Doo it was.  He was really too young to be there.  We usually worked with children four and older.  But his sister held him on her lap and for a while he did fine.  But then he began to get tired, and then he began to cry, until the tears spilled down his fat brown cheeks and his nose began to run.  It went on for a long time until finally, exhausted by all that crying, he fell asleep right there in the middle of the floor.  I begged the children not to wake him but to their delight they found that they couldn’t wake him, no matter how hard they tried.  They were poking him, prodding him, clapping their hands in front of his face and shouting, “Doo-Doo!” I began to feel sorry for him, and asked someone else to take over while I took him home.

He lived just a few trailers away.  And as I walked with him in my arms I looked down at his face.  That peaceful expression, at last.  Those tightly curled eyelashes.  The salty tear-tracks on his cheeks.  The dried mucus under his nose.  Away from all those other children I could focus my attention on this one child, and as I did I began to imagine the life that was ahead of him:  probably he was just one more child in a trailer that was already too full.  And probably he would go off to school when he was old enough, without any preparation, without anyone having ever read Dr. Seuss to him.  And probably he would try, for a while, until he failed so often he stopped trying.  And then he would stumble through a troubled adolescence and into an even more troubled young adulthood.  And if the statistics proved true in his case there was a good chance that he would never live to see his twenty-fifth birthday. 

As I held him in my arms I seemed to see his whole life stretched out before me, his whole, short, sad life.  And my heart went out to that child, and I almost cried myself.  I came to the trailer where he lived and knocked on the door.  I waited until a tired and bored-looking young woman yanked it open.  “Is this your baby?” I asked, holding him out.  “Yeah,” she said, as if it wore her out to admit it. “He fell asleep,” I said.  And then I put him into her arms and watched as she jerked him inside and shoved the door closed with her hip.  For a full minute I stood there, wondering what I could do.  And then I turned and said with a sigh, “God, please take care of Doo-Doo.” 

He was just a little kid.  And in the eyes of the world he will probably never amount to anything.  He won’t be a soccer star, or the pastor of a prominent church, or the president of the United States (I mean, really, can you imagine the bumper stickers?).  Yet in that moment—in that crazy, upside-down, Kingdom of God moment—I saw him the way Jesus saw him.

Nobody was more important.


For the full text of the sermon click HERE.