I live at one of the highest points in the city, Church Hill. This hill on 22nd and Grace (Richmond Hill) has been a place of prayer since 1866. It was likely a place of worship and prayer for Native Americans centuries before because of its view and prominence. I can see the cities sky line from one side, a 270 degree view from another and the river if I go a few blocks over. This hill is a sacred and holy place. It’s a beautiful place. People come here to have an encounter with God and when they leave their face and countenance are visibly changed. It reminds me how Moses went up on Mount Sinai and came down with the 10 commandments and his face glowing. I am also reminded of high places in one of last week’s scripture readings from Isaiah 40, which admonished the reader to go up on a high mountain and sing good tidings about God:
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
I recognize that this hill is a high place to lift up God’s heart for the city, for prayer, for the Good News of Jesus and of God’s rest and presence. However, about 5 blocks down at the bottom of the hill, Shockhoe Bottom to be exact, I found good news in an unexpected place.
Last Tuesday, I went to Tuesday Versus, an open mic which is housed in an Ethiopian restaurant. The vibe in there is chill, full of mostly grown and sexy young black professionals. Natural hair and stylish caps and clothes prevailed. When I walked in I was hit by some R & B jams blaring from the speakers aided by a live band. The place was packed and I knew it had soul. Just how much I would learn. I was taken aback and pleasantly surprised when a few of the performers gladly took us to church. First, a tall black woman with an asymmetrical red natural hairstyle, quieted the crowd with “Thank You Lord.” Another woman, with a green fitted shirt and pants and cap atop auburn locs, took us deeper into the heart of worship with “I know I’ve been changed.” The audience participated with the chorus with “an angel in heaven done signed my name.” The call and response was lovely and the woman’s voice reverberated throughout the crowd. The song lasted about 10 minutes and gave me chills. I forgot where I was for a moment and was raising my hands and singing at the top of my lungs. The spirit had overtaken the place, more alive and present then I have experienced in a church in a long time. I was reminded how God shows up in both high and low places. He is the God of the mountain top and the God of the valley, the low places, the mangers and the bottoms. God continued to appear in a spoken word poem a gentlemen performed about God manifesting in creativity, in a woman singing of the beauty of love, in a deep, soulful voice.
Advent is a season where we are awake and waiting for God to show up. I love how the spirit moves in mysterious ways, how God shows up in unexpected places, like the savior of the world being born in a manger. Jesus was present at Tuesday Verses, in the poetry, creativity and song, in habiting the people and the place. The performers were shouting good tidings from the bottom (a low place), unafraid and with joy. I am glad that I was awake and present at this appearance of Christ amongst his people. God is with us, that is good news.