Saturday, April 30, 2016

In the Jordan River

In January of 2016, I led a group of 45 people on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Jordan. In Jordan, we visited the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Due to irrigational use, the river has been substantially narrowed in this area, and today the actual site of the baptism is a little distance away from the water on the Jordanian side. The area of the river closest to the baptism site can be accessed both from Jordan and from Israel, a small marker separating the two sides in the water.

Our visit fell on January 19th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany in the Eastern rites. A large group of Iraqi Christians were visiting the site that day in honor of the feast. Over the years, millions of refugees have found shelter in the country of Jordan, especially Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians. Many of the refugees are Arab Christians, who trace their spiritual roots to the preaching of the first disciples of Christ.

Standing on the bank of the river, we renewed our baptismal vows as a group. Later, I went into the water and submerged myself three times. The water was very cold and very muddy, but going in was a powerful experience. Given the narrowness of the river at this spot, I also had to be careful not to cross the international border, because once I was in the water, I was standing just a few feet away from Israel.