When we lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, I used to go up on the roof of the church to watch people walking on the street below. It was fascinating to see so many different nationalities, languages, professions, destinations and styles walking on the same busy sidewalk. It felt like I was gazing into the kingdom of heaven.
Our neighborhood was no stranger to crime. You didn’t have to solicit prostitutes to know them by their first name. They had their place on the street like everyone else. My morning job was to sweep used crack vials and drug needles from the sidewalks of the church. At night, drug deals took place outside the church office. It was the summer of “Wilding.” where groups of youth went on spontaneous violent rampages. And, it was the first time I had a gun pointed at my head.
Right now you may be asking yourself one of two questions. How was it possible for me to see the kingdom of heaven? Or, can anything good come out of Sunset Park, Brooklyn?
Some people see God in creation, a beautiful mountain stream or a glorious sunset. I see God in the creation of life which played, walked and worked on 4th avenue in Brooklyn. Crime tried to claim that neighborhood, but there were too many beautiful people to let it happen. Nowhere have I ever witnessed more harmony among diversity than in Sunset Park. It may only be possible in heaven. It remains one of my favorite experiences and it’s an experience that has remained with me everywhere I go.
It reminded me of the biblical question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel asked this question when Philip invited him to go and meet Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a question that almost prevented him from a dynamic encounter with God. Have you ever failed to see God because of where a person was from, what they looked like, or how they spoke? Just know, you may be missing a dynamic encounter with God because of it. (John 1: 45-51)