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  • Canon Paul Black

The kingdom of God grows by invitation


Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” – John 1:46

On Wednesday, in the Church’s calendar, we will celebrate and remember the life, witness and work of Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles. It is also my 30th anniversary of being made a Deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral, Rockhampton.

We don’t know too much about Bartholomew, though Early Church sources suggest that after the resurrection he carried the Gospel message to India and Armenia, where he was flayed alive before being beheaded.

It is generally agreed that Nathaniel and Bartholomew are one and the same person. The writers of the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all refer to him as Bartholomew, while John calls him Nathaniel.

Nathaniel’s journey of faith in Jesus began with Philip’s simple invitation for him to ‘come and see’. Philip, who seems to have been a friend of Nathaniel, had himself encountered Jesus and decided to follow him. Now he was eager to introduce his friend to Jesus.

We are called to offer the same invitation to others to ‘come and see’ that Jesus is the Messiah.

Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia, says, “While God might be working in the world, the Creator has a hard time being heard in the West. I think Western culture is the most resistant to the Gospel and spiritual dimension of any culture that we have seen, because it is utterly self-sufficient. It’s confident about its ability to solve problems and to create an ever-increasing range of consumerist experiences and goods.”

Ironically, Costello sees the hope for the West in its ultimate failure to deliver a meaningful life.

“More and more people are asking, how is it possible when we have solved the problem of supply that there is an epidemic of depression? There’s got to be something that grounds happiness rather than ever-increasing prosperity – the wealth to happiness story that dominates our society.”

Saint Augustine said it well when he said, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." In our day-to-day lives, there are people we encounter whose hearts are restless. They are searching for purpose, meaning and new direction in their lives.

Who are the people we know and love who are just waiting for someone to issue the invitation to “come and see’? It is by invitation that the kingdom of God grows and takes root.

Photo: A much younger Paul on the left. The Bishop is George Hearn.

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