KOH2RVA: Day 173

Song_Sparrow-27527-2I’ve been looking through this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. The big news is that the federal government is going to cut $85 billion in spending, beginning today. It remains to be seen how those cuts will affect us locally or how much they will slow our progress in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

But that’s an interesting thought in itself, isn’t it? That the actions of the federal government could have an impact on the coming of God’s Kingdom?

The Times-Dispatch reports that “Henrico County could lose between $1.1 million and $2.1 million in grant funding used to support special education, the Head Start preschool program, programs for at-risk children and other federally funded efforts…. In total, roughly 20 to 30 positions could be jeopardized, many of them teachers. Money for equipment and materials would also be reduced” (page B1).

So, yes, if you’re at an at-risk child in Henrico County federal budget cuts could mean that you don’t go to Head Start, or you don’t get a free or reduced lunch. If you’re a Head Start teacher it could mean that you lose your job. And when you sit in my office a few months from now and say, “Pastor, I lost my job because of federal spending cuts!” it’s going to feel like heaven is a long way away.

But here’s the good news: God does not depend on federal funding.

On Wednesday morning I went downstairs to Community Missions at First Baptist Church, where I found about 75 of our homeless neighbors waiting for showers, hot coffee and pastries, and some of the love of Christ that is so generously shared by our volunteers. I told them I had been reading Luke 12 that morning, where Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear, for life is more than food and the body more than clothing.” In that same passage he asks his disciples to consider the ravens and the lilies, and to notice how God feeds and clothes them. “If God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies,” Jesus says, “then how much more will he feed and clothe you!”

“Is that true?” I asked. “Has God ever fed and clothed any of you?”

Every hand in the room went up, and for the next few minutes I heard testimonies of how these people had been cared for by God or by God’s people when they had little or nothing of their own. I finally had to call time, but even as I made my way out of the room some of them crowded around to tell me their stories.

This was two days before the sequester was scheduled to take effect, two days before deep cuts in federal funding would cost some people their jobs. Financial disaster was looming on the horizon but at Community Missions heaven was coming to earth. The brothers and sisters of the one who had “no place to lay his head” were bearing witness that God cares, and that he can and does provide.

There haven’t been a lot of hymns written about the federal government, but there have been a lot of hymns written about the Heavenly Father. Here’s one that will leave you humming:

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

KOH2RVA: Day 77

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.