If Someone Wrote a Play

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A friend called this week to let me know how much he had appreciated my Easter sermon, and how much–under the present circumstances of his life–he needed it.  And so, with his encouragement, I’m posting it here: a sermon preached at Richmond’s First Baptist Church on March 27, 2016 under the title, “Author of Life.”

For nearly three years, from the fall of 2010 to the spring of 2013, I got into my car at 12:30 on Friday afternoons and drove to Clark Springs Elementary School to spend some time with my “lunch buddy,” Jaylen.  It started with a clergy conference I attended at Richmond Hill, where I learned that the Commonwealth of Virginia estimates the number of prison cells it will build on the number of children who are not reading by fourth grade.  I thought I should do something about that, and so I called Raylene Harton, a member of this church who was working with the Micah Initiative, a partnership with Richmond Public Schools.  I said, “Can you help me find a third grade boy who needs some help with his reading?  If you can, I’ll go and sit with him for an hour each week and see if I can make a difference.”  So, she did; she found Jaylen.  And for nearly three years I did what I could to help.

Jaylen could already read, but I tried to help him read better.  He was kind of a mumbler, so I asked him to read aloud as if he were reading the news on television, and worked with him on his e-nun-ci-a-tion.  I asked him what he was interested in, and when he said “football” I went to a neighborhood bookstore to see if I could find an age-appropriate book.  While I was there the owner told me that what the kids were reading those days was a series called the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  So I bought one of those and took it to Jaylen, and that day we hardly talked at all; he couldn’t stop reading.  The next time I went to see him we talked about writing, and how wonderful it was that someone could dream up all those things and put them in a book.  I said, “Here’s the magical thing about writing: you can write anything you want.  You can put yourself in the story; you can be captain of the football team; you can score the winning touchdown.  “If you want to, you can fly.”   And I wish you could have seen his face in that moment.  That boy—who had been held down by so many things in life—picturing himself flying like a bird, realizing, perhaps for the first time ever, that he was limited only by his imagination.

It’s a secret I’ve known for years.

When I was in elementary school I sometimes got bored, and when I did I would look out the window and daydream.  I dreamed about all sorts of things.  I dreamed about flying, usually with a red cape flapping behind me like Superman.  I dreamed about having a magic wand that really worked.  I dreamed about holding hands with my fourth-grade crush, Bamma Donohue.  As I got older I daydreamed less and less, but I didn’t give it up completely.  One day when I was stuck in traffic in DC I imagined pulling back on the steering wheel and feeling my car rise up into the air, and then stepping on the gas and going wherever I wanted to.

Some of you could write a book about that.

The best writers know that with words you can move not only cars, but people.  Shakespeare (who was considered a pretty fair writer) wrote both comedies and tragedies.  He knew that with words you can move people to tears or make them laugh out loud.  In one of his best known plays, Romeo and Juliet, he tells the heartbreaking story of a young couple who couldn’t live without each other.  When Juliet is told that she will have to marry someone else she drinks a potion that will make her appear to be dead so that Romeo can steal her body out of the tomb and take her away to live with him forever.  But Romeo doesn’t know about that plan; the person who was supposed to tell him is detained.  So, when he learns that Juliet has died he goes to her tomb, weeps over her body, and drinks a vial of poison so he can die by her side.  When she wakes up and finds him dead she kisses him, hoping there will be enough poison left on his lips to kill her, but when that doesn’t work she stabs herself with his dagger, and falls dead on top of his body.  I hope I’m not spoiling the ending for anyone; this play has been around more than 400 years.  But when it’s done well it still makes people gasp, it makes them weep.  They get up from their seats brokenhearted, but believing in true love as never before.

Which brings me to a song I’ve wanted to share with you for years.

It’s a song by David Wilcox, who is not a “Christian musician,” but maybe a musician who is a Christian.  I don’t know.  It’s not something he talks about much.  But when he talks about music he says, “Music is about all the different kinds of feelings we can have—we can be scared, we can be angry, we can be hopeful, we can be sad. We can be all these things and have company in it. Music is sacred ground.”  And so he wrote this song called “Show the Way,” which he once introduced by saying, “It’s a song to help us live in a world like this one.”  I remembered those words last Tuesday, when I heard about the bombing in Brussels, and felt that old sense of hopelessness wash over me.  I thought, “When will this madness ever end?  How many more lives must be lost?” and then I thought of this song.  Listen to the lyrics.

You say you see no hope
You say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change
You’re saying love is foolish to believe

‘Cause there’ll always be some crazy
With an army or a knife
To wake you from your day dream
Put the fear back in your life.

And then Wilcox eases into the next verse:

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What’s stronger than hate
Would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late?

And I want to pause there for a moment, because I think that’s what was going on in those last few days before that first Easter.  “If someone wrote a play just to glorify what’s stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage to look as if the hero came too late?”  If William Shakespeare wrote Jesus’ story, for example, would he not have him arrested and tried before Pontius Pilate?  Would he not have him nailed to a cross and left there to die?  Would he not let his enemies mock him and deride him?  Would he not go ahead and let it happen—let him die?  Would he not have his dead body taken down from the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb?  Would he not have a heavy stone rolled in front of the opening so that everyone in the audience would say, “It’s over!  Whatever hopes we had have been crushed.  If we thought Jesus was the Messiah we think so no longer.  It’s obvious that he’s dead, he’s gone, Evil has won!”

But the song goes on:

If someone wrote a play just to glorify
What’s stronger than hate
Would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late?

He’s almost in defeat
It’s looking like the evil side will win
So on the edge of every seat
From the moment that the whole thing begins, it is

Love who mixed the mortar
And it’s Love who stacked these stones
And it’s Love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we’re alone

In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it’s Love that wrote the play

For in this darkness Love can show the way.

And there it is, the surprising reversal that leaves you gasping and actually does glorify what’s stronger than hate.  Just when you thought Evil was going to win Love intervenes, rolls back the stone, and raises Jesus from the dead.  Wilcox never comes right out and says so but for those who believe it’s hard not to hear the Easter message in this song.  We know, that even in that moment when it looked as if Evil had won, even as those women were on the way to the tomb, it was Love who mixed the mortar, and it was Love who stacked those stones, and it was Love who made the stage there, though it looked like they were alone.  In that scene set in shadows, like the night was there to stay, there was Evil cast around them, but it was Love who wrote that play, and in that darkness Love showed them the way.”

There is a difference, however, in the author of this play and someone like William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare could write whatever he wanted.  He could have written a play in which Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after.  He was limited only by his imagination.  God, on the other hand—the Love who wrote this play—is limited by human freedom.  From the earliest chapters of Genesis we learn that he loved us enough to make us free, and sometimes we have used that freedom to do terrible things, to write scenes of unspeakable horror.  Some human being dreamed up that nightmare scenario in Brussels, where dozens of people would die at the moment a suicide bomber worked up the nerve to push a button.  As much as God hates such moments, as much as he turns his eyes away from such carnage, he does not stop it.  He has made us free—free to live and love and laugh, free to hate and hurt and kill.  Free to nail his son to a cross.  Free to toss his body in a borrowed tomb.

But after we have done our worst God is free to do his best, and early on that first Easter Sunday he did.  Think about those women who got up to go to the tomb.  They went like people called in to identify the remains of bomb victims.  They were expecting to see only the worst: the lifeless body of their beloved Lord, stretched out on a cold slab of stone.  Nothing could have prepared them for what they actually saw: the tomb open, two men in dazzling clothes asking them why they were seeking the living among the dead, and then telling them that the one they sought, Jesus of Nazareth, was not there, that he had risen.  Think of how they must have gasped.  Think of how they must have felt the cold, dead body of hope at the center of their chests come to life again.  Shakespeare himself could not have written a play with a more joyful ending, but Shakespeare would know that joy depends upon its opposite: that until you have experienced sorrow you hardly know what joy is.

In an article published late last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was asked if he planned to change his Easter sermon in light of the Brussels bombings.  He said, “You bet I am.  I’m going to say that it’s Easter Sunday morning but it looks like Good Friday afternoon.   The world seems to be filled with a lot of death, a lot of lies, a lot of evil, a lot of violence. We’re tempted to think that the powers of darkness have the upper hand. We find ourselves stuck on Good Friday afternoon, when the sun was eclipsed, and the world went dark, and the earth trembled out of sorrow.  We don’t have to look outside to the world to think we’re stuck on Good Friday afternoon,” he said.  “We look within our own hearts and we find sin there, we find darkness there, we find evil there; we find reasons to feel discouraged, lonely, isolated. But Easter Sunday is God the father saying life has the last word, goodness trumps evil, truth is victorious over lies and mercy triumphs over violence. We need to hear that.  In light of what happened in Belgium this week that message seems to have a special poignancy.”[i]

Joy looks brighter against the backdrop of sorrow.

All the best writers know this.  David Wilcox knows this.  At one of his live concerts he introduced this song by saying, “So, this is about this perfect world.”  And then he smiled, because everyone knows that it isn’t perfect, but he went on to say, “You couldn’t find a place better to care or to love.  But that’s certainly not the logical decision.  The logical decision would be to bunker down in the fear and just not be very alive at all.”  And then he began to sing: “You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason we should dream, that the world could ever change, you’re saying love is foolish to believe, ‘cause there’ll always be some crazy, with an army or a knife, to wake you from your daydream, and put the fear back in your life.  But look, if someone wrote a play, just to glorify what’s stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage, to look as if the hero came too late?  He’s almost in defeat, it’s looking like the evil side will win, so on the edge of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins, ‘It is Love who mixed the mortar, and it’s Love who stacked these stones, and it’s Love who made the stage here, although it looks like we’re alone.  In this scene set in shadows, like the night is here to stay, there is Evil cast around us, but it’s Love that wrote the play, and in this darkness Love will show the way.'”

I think he is right: I think this song can help us live in a world like this one.  As Shakespeare said, we can see the world as a kind of stage, on which good and evil are acting out their parts.  And when we hear about an act of terrorism in a place like Brussels we can imagine that Evil has just had its moment.  But as soon as Evil walks off the stage Good walks on.  You begin to see people using their human freedom to help and heal.  And in a world like this one we are called to be those people.  It could be something as simple as helping a third grade boy with his reading.  It could be something much more grand.  But we have to do something.  We have to follow the way of Love.  We are Easter people.  We cannot allow ourselves to be entombed by fear.  At the end of his song Wilcox says:

And now the stage is set,
You feel your own heart beating in your chest
This life’s not over yet,
So we get up on our feet and do your best.

We play against the fear,
We play against the reasons not to try
Playing for the tears,
Burning in the happy angel’s eyes

For it’s Love who mixed the mortar
And it’s Love who stacked these stones
And it’s Love who made the stage here
Though it looks like we’re alone

In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it’s Love that wrote the play

For in this darkness Love will show the way.[ii]

Jim Somerville © 2016

 

 

 

______________________

[i] http://www.lohud.com/story/news/religion/2016/03/25/lohud-easter-messages/82158990/
[ii]
David Wilcox, “Show the Way,” on the Big Horizon album, 1994.

Come Celebrate a Miracle

BrailleIn the post below, guest blogger Phil Mitchell, Associate Pastor of Christian Worship at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, tells the story of a real-life miracle, and invites us to come and celebrate it with him on April 27.  Read the story, save the date, and then come…celebrate a miracle.

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This year, we have been challenged by our pastor to partner with others in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, VA. The initiative is called “Kingdom of Heaven Times Two” (KOHx2), and it’s all about bringing heaven to earth through partnerships. Here is one way we are seeking to do just that:

Two years ago, our church procured the new Celebrating Grace Hymnal. It has turned out to be a wonderful worship resource for us, full of the old and the new, brimming with countless ways to express our faith. Our pew racks are full of them. They are within an arm’s length of everyone who has gathered for worship. All you have to do is open the book to see the rich possibilities for singing a “new song unto the Lord.”

Unless, of course, you are blind.

Lewis Myers asked me if we were going to provide Braille copies of the new hymnal for our blind members. Honestly, I had never thought about it. None of us had thought about it until Lewis wanted to know how members like Mark and Melody Roane were going to sing the hymns from the new hymnal. I spoke to the editor at Celebrating Grace who said he was sorry, but there were no plans to produce a Braille version.  “Well, then,” I thought.  “If no one will do it for us we will do it ourselves!”

But how do you do-it-yourself when it comes to a Braille hymnal?

Robbie Hott, a computer genius in our church designed a template to input all the texts into a database. Anyone, could go to the site and enter texts (using some basic guidelines) so we could build an electronic resource that would eventually become Braille.

We contacted Brian Barton at the Braille Circulating Library, just down the street from the church, and they volunteered to produce the Braille version for us, at no cost. We are almost to the final product. Two years of really hard work and scores of volunteer hours later, we are about to have the Braille edition of our new hymnal in our hands.

You can learn more about the fascinating process by viewing the video below.

So, here is a partner in our neighborhood who is seeking to do the very thing we have been called to do: to make our neighborhood a little more like God would want it to be—accessible, hospitable, and full of praise. Together, we are doing that.

I tried to imagine a way to bless the Braille Circulating Library in the manner that they have so generously blessed us. It came to me that the perfect person to facilitate this blessing would be Ken Medema. Ken is a long-time friend, a blind singer-composer whose concerts are full of prepared and spontaneous stories set to music—much of which is composed on the spot! He has been to our church before and is always a smashing hit.

So I have invited Ken to present a benefit concert at Richmond’s First Baptist Church on Sunday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and all proceeds go directly to our neighbors, the Braille Circulating Library. It is a win/win. We get to experience an incredible concert and we can bless the Braille Lending Library with a generous gift to support their ongoing ministry in Richmond.

You can buy tickets at the church during the week or on Wednesdays and Sundays. You can also buy them online simply by clicking HERE.

Join me in supporting this concert and watching the Kingdom come ever closer as both the blind and the sighted sing praise to God.

–Phil Mitchell

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 251

heart stringsWhen I say that First Baptist Church is on a year-long, every-member mission trip, it doesn’t mean that I know what every member is up to, or how they are working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. So it does my heart good when I find out that somebody has been bringing it all along, and I didn’t even know it. Jackie Morsink, for example, who sings with “The Heart Strings,” a group of some 73 ladies whose mission is to bring joy, through music and song, to the many senior citizens in retirement and nursing homes across the Richmond metropolitan area. Jackie writes:

Jim: This has been my “mission trip” (off the bus!!!) this year to help bring heaven to earth in the Richmond area (and also Effie Farmer). We have visited 30 homes on Monday mornings since October 8 of last year. Our last performance is next Monday, May 20, at Lakewood Manor (Health Care), from 10:30 to about 11:15. Come check us out, if you can fit it into your schedule! Would love to see you in the audience! Jackie

Do you see what I mean? On 30 different occasions since our mission trip began on September 9, 2012, Jackie has gotten up, gotten dressed, and gone off to some retirement or nursing home in the area to share some joy (and believe me, Jackie’s got plenty to share). How many others are out there on secret missions and would somebody please tell me?

Secrets like these are too good to keep.

___________________________

p.s. I hear the Heart Strings are going to be singing at the Memorial Day celebration on the Goochland Courthouse Green at 10 a.m. on May 27.  Included in the announcement were these words about Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is the special day on which we remember the men and women who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces of the United States. Like most traditions, it evolved from similar celebrations. Memorial day most likely started after the Civil War as a way to commemorate the death of both Union and Confederate soldiers, however, there is documentation that the women of Savannah Georgia decorated the graves of soldiers as early as 1862.

The day became an occasion to not just lay flowers on the graves, but to come together and remember fallen family members. It is still a common practice in Richmond to assemble at Hollywood cemetery and hold memorial picnics at the military grave sites.

On this Memorial Day, even though it is the unofficial start of summer, take time to find one of the many neglected military graves or memorials. Pull up the weeds, place some flowers, and leave a small U.S. flag in remembrance of those who gave all for this country.

KOH2RVA: Day 249

mustache-kidLast night was our children’s end-of-the-year program at First Baptist Church, which is always a treat. Those kids who have spent the school year in Wednesday night music and mission activities get to show off what they’ve learned and last night we got to see:

They’ve learned a lot.

I didn’t take good notes and I forgot to take a picture, but here are some of the things that stood out:

The Kid with the Big Voice, who stood on the steps with the Angel Choir and sang the parts of the song he knew with enthusiasm. It was funny. The choir would be singing along in those tiny voices children have and then, suddenly, they would reach the chorus and here would come TKWTBV (the kid with the big voice), booming out the first line of the chorus like an opera star. The look on his face was priceless. He loves to sing, and it shows. I’ve got to get to know that kid.

The Prayer Walkers. These precious little girls told us about prayer walking in the neighborhood (which is exactly what it sounds like: you walk around the neighborhood praying for people and things). Several of the girls told us that they had prayed for “the lost cat.” Apparently they had seen a poster asking if anyone had seen a lost cat. The poster had a picture of the cat on it and the girls just melted. “Poor Mittens!” Isn’t it a comfort to know that somebody is out there praying for lost cats?

The Fake Mustaches. I think it was the Mission Force group that was telling us about the things they had done in the community during the year, and one of those things was singing Christmas carols at the nursing homes. So half the boys put on fake mustaches, as if they were the elderly residents of the nursing home, and the other half sang carols to them. When they finished singing the “elderly residents” came and hugged the boys and patted on them and tousled their hair just as they had at the nursing homes. The acting was Oscar-worthy.

The Fund Raisers. A few of the Girls in Action (GA’s) stood up to tell us about the fund-raising they’d been doing for mission projects around the world. Morella Harris told us about “Pure Water, Pure Love,” and I think she said at one point that it costs $500 to dig a well or put in a pump (or something) in an African village and that she and the other girls had raised enough money to do that six times over: $3,000. I gasped. She said they’d earned most of their money by selling lemonade, cutting grass, and—surprisingly—by selling water.

What impressed me about last night’s event was how many of the presentations were focused on mission, and how much of that mission was an effort to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Kids catch on so quickly, and often they end up teaching us what can be done if we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm and prayer and fund raising and fake mustaches.

I want to thank Ruth Szucs and Candi Brown, the staff members most responsible for directing our children’s music and mission programs, but I also want to thank the dozens of volunteers who come on Wednesday night week after week to work with children. What we got last night was just a taste of the fruit of their labors.

And it was delicious.

I remember telling our Minister of Christian Worship Phil Mitchell nearly five years ago that one of the things that was so important about his ministry was giving us a little taste of heaven on earth, so that we would know what it’s like. Last Sunday he, and the choir, and accompanists Becky Payne and Eunice Kim, did exactly that. They brought the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, through a piece of music by Johannes Brahms called, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place.” I hope you will take the time to close the door, quiet your thoughts, turn up the volume, and lose yourself in the beauty and power of this anthem. Or maybe you’ll plug your earbuds into your iPhone at Starbucks, and just let the music wash over you like ocean waves.

It’s glorious.

On a run with my colleague Wallace Adams-Riley this morning we were talking about how some statisticians and sociologists have almost given up on the church. They say Sunday morning worship is on its way out, and will soon be a thing of the past. I don’t think they were in worship at either of our churches last Sunday. I don’t think they recall that the first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What better way to do it than through corporate worship? And what better place to do it than in church on Sunday?

I say that partly to remind you that this Sunday, March 10, we “spring forward” by setting our clocks ahead one hour when we go to bed on Saturday night. I wouldn’t want you to get to church on Sunday and find that everybody had already gone to Sunday brunch. So, do it: spring forward. And then get up, get dressed, and make the effort to participate in the most important event of the week—Sunday morning worship.  If you can’t come, then tune in on Channel 8 at 11:00 in the Richmond area, or join us by webcast at http://www.fbcrichmond.org.  It’s not the same as being there, but it’s the next best thing.  Either way…

…I’ll see you in church.

KOH2RVA: Day 26

Last night was Wednesday night at First Baptist Church.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Wednesday night was known as “church night” in many parts of the country. Every other activity would be suspended so that people could go to church for a meal and mid-week opportunities to learn and grow in their faith. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other activities compete with church and often win. But last night I think I saw who the true winners are.

Usually, I go to the dining hall at 5:00, give my $6 ticket to Bob Vance, pick up a tray, and go through the line, where smiling volunteers serve up a delicious, steaming hot supper complete with rolls, salad, beverage, dessert, and—if I’m in the mood—a slice of pie and an after-dinner cup of decaf (poured at my table by Allen or Charlotte Brown). I look for a place to sit where I can get to know someone a little better, and sit down for an hour of lively and interesting conversation. At six o’clock, Bob Higgins stands up to share prayer concerns and offer a prayer, and then at 6:15 I usually stand up to teach or to introduce a guest speaker.

It’s a great way to spend an evening.

But last night I did something different. I went to the gym—not the dining hall—at 5:00 and got a huge salad from the salad bar, topping it with black beans, edamame, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and yummy croutons. I sat down to eat as I usually do, but the atmosphere in the gym is a little different than the dining hall. Children go racing past from time to time, laughing and out of breath; someone comes by to show off a new baby; parents share trade secrets in hushed voices while their children eat with friends.

I loved it.

At six o’clock I went to the dining hall for some spirited hymn singing, the evening prayer, and an update on our year-long, every-member mission trip: KOH2RVA. We watched a video about church members who have dedicated their time to making small repairs around our building so that it can continue to be used as a seven-day-a-week ministry center. That’s certainly one way to do it. I challenged the folks in the room to come up with a good answer when I ask them in the hallways, “What’s your way of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia?”

And then I turned things over to Bob, who was just starting an October series on the Parables of the Kingdom from the Gospel of Matthew. I hated to leave, but I wanted to see what else goes on at First Baptist Church on Wednesday nights.

When I left the dining hall I heard music, and peeked into a few classrooms before I found the source. There was David Carter, sitting at the piano, surrounded by beautiful little girls singing “Footprints of Jesus.” It was the Angel Choir, and I hated to interrupt, but I couldn’t really get hugs from everybody without interrupting.

And then I went upstairs, where I found six young women sitting around a table prepping earnestly for what was going to happen next: a horde of “Girls in Action” (GA’s) was about to descend on them, and they needed to be ready to teach. I said hello and moved on quickly.

I heard music again, and looked around the corner to find about forty children rehearsing. It was the Children’s Choir, and they were kind enough to let me sing a song with them, an “Alle, Alle, Luia” song about Christmas they will present sometime in December. I ended with a big, show-offy flourish just to make them smile and—right on cue—they did.

And then I found all these adults in Suite 280, sitting in classrooms, learning from good and capable teachers. There was a session for parents of teenagers, one for parents of younger children, a session on managing personal finances, and the one I ended up in, the S.K.E.I.N.S. group, which has become famous for knitting warm, wool caps for shivering children in South Africa.

I talked and laughed with those women for a full thirty minutes (I never knitted a thing), and as I made my way back downstairs afterward I felt full in a different way than I had right after supper. I was full of that good feeling a pastor gets when he sees that the church is busy being the church even when he isn’t in the room. And in this year of KOH2RVA I could see how the Kingdom of Heaven was coming to Richmond, Virginia, right there in our building, in a hundred different opportunities for people to learn, and laugh, and love.

I hope you’ll join us next Wednesday night.