Sunday started with morning worship on the banks of the Jordan River. We thought of where we would normally be on a Sunday morning and offered prayers for the church and family back home.
Our first impression of the Jordan was that it is neither deep nor wide as the song of Michael rowing his boat has always suggested. When we read the story of the children of Israel crossing the Jordan to enter the promised land we were nonetheless grateful that they had passed through on dry ground because, honestly, who would want to touch the water? The water was green and uninviting and so as we read the story of the leper Naaman being instructed by the prophet Elisha to dip himself in the river seven times we understood his reluctance.
Then of course we read a text concerning John the Baptist immersing great numbers of people in the Jordan River as witness to their repentance and faith. They too must have faced the dirty water Naaman resisted, but they swallowed pride and surrendered their guilt and fear and everything else that stood in the way of a new life in God's promises. And as a sign of our identity with our own baptisms we sang the baptismal hymn, 'Just as I am.'
A few hours later we arrived in Jerusalem and looked over the city from the Mount to Olives from which Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Our arrival in the city coincided with Jerusalem Day when some ultra-nationalistic Israeli Jews remember the conquest of east Jerusalem in 1967. It is not a day of celebration for all and so there was great tension in the city when we arrived. Roads were closed, helicopters were buzzing overhead, and soldiers were on the lookout everywhere even in our hotel.
Our day ended in evensong at the Anglican Cathedral adjacent to our hotel. Even there Jerusalem Day with all its tension was the subject of the homily, but it ended with a warning not to jump to conclusions. The presiding priest cautioned us saying that those who come to Jerusalem for a week are ready to write a book on how to solve the problems, while those who stay a month write an article and those who stay a year have no idea what to say because they have come to realize how deeply complicated the issues in Jerusalem are.
Even in church we could hear the helicopters buzzing overhead and my mind went back to the quiet spot where we began the day on the Jordan River. Perhaps the secret to at least beginning to solve my own problems lies buried in the Jordan River - a place of humility, penance, and grace. I wonder if others might see the wisdom of beginning a day in such a place.
Grace and peace,
p.s. At all times all day Sunday we felt very safe and Monday was a day of real peace in the city. All is well.