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Published on September 10th, 2013 | by ABCUSA

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Invitations: National Back-to-Church Sunday

This reflection was written by Jim Kelsey, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of New York State.

It is all a bit anticlimactic really.

In Matthew chapter 3 Jesus is baptized, and then in chapter 4 he is tested in the desert.  Chapter 4 ends with a quote from Isaiah about the bar of the oppressor being broken and captives rejoicing as at the harvest.  Isaiah says that people will no longer stumble in darkness but will walk in light, and the “chosen one of God” will accomplish all of this.  Jesus is standing in the very place Isaiah mentions, the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.  It dawns on us that Jesus is going to make all this happen.  He is the chosen one of God.

We can almost hear Beethoven’s 5th building in the background as the story rushes headlong to its climax.  We might expect a flurry of miracles, some thunder and lightening, at least cheering crowds swelling behind him as he travels.  We know this is the inauguration of grand things.

So what follows this auspicious beginning?  Jesus takes a solitary walk along the Sea of Galilee and strikes up some conversations with a few fishermen who are toiling to earn a living to feed their families.  It is a bit anticlimactic. We were expecting, perhaps, something a bit more dramatic.

There is, however, something to be learned by this rather low-key initiation of the ministry of Jesus.  He simply, as the British might say, chats up a few folks and invites them to travel with him.  It is not a grandiose beginning, but it is one that bears fruit a bit later in the story.  These guys become 4 of the original 12 apostles, one of them being Peter.  All that follows begins with a simple, personal invitation.

This coming Sunday, September 15th, is National Back-to-Church Sunday.  People all over the nation are going to invite someone to go with them to church on that Sunday.  Are you willing to do that?  Think about your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your neighbors.  Is there someone whom you could invite to go to church with you?  You could say:  “You know, I enjoy going to my church.  It helps me as I try to live my life and make good decisions.  Would you like to go with me this Sunday?  I think you might like it.”

This is how Jesus began there by the Sea of Galilee.  There were no slick brochures, no Internet training modules, no football or movie stars spokespersons, no national film or book promotions, no funny U-tube videos of cats playing the piano, and no free gifts.  It was just one person inviting another person to journey with them to a new way of life.  Give it a try and see what happens.  Who knows what fruit that simple conversation might bear?  Let me know how it goes.


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