The Mighty Little Jordan

Later, Jesus coming from Galilee, appeared
before John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

Matthew 3:13

On this second trip to Israel, we viewed the Jordan River from a different vantage point. Last year, we stood on the shore of one of the river’s narrowest segments. Though it seemed a humble setting for Jesus’ baptism, it also typified the Jesus’ unassuming life. This small segment which I could have easily waded across was as important as the rest of this renowned river. The same was true of Jesus’ life. Even his seemingly insignificant interactions changed lives forever.

This year, we viewed the river nearer the tourist center. As a result, we encountered several groups who had assembled to be baptized or to reenact the baptisms they’d celebrated previously. It was difficult to miss the reverence and enthusiasm of each one as he or she entered the water. I couldn’t help acknowledging that Jesus’ simple baptism continues to impact humankind in amazing ways.

As for me, I knelt at the river’s edge and dipped my fingers into the water. Rather than immersing myself into the river’s bounty, I left it to God to renew me as God saw fit. To date, I haven’t been disappointed.

Dear God, you renew us day in and day out. Help us to take notice of your handiwork and to imitate your goodness humbly, just as Jesus did.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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The Jordan River

Later, Jesus coming from Galilee, appeared
before John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

Matthew 3:13

The Jordan River flows freely along Israel’s western border. The river is referenced often in the scriptures. Though I stood at its shore near a very narrow portion which I could have easily walked across, the river’s significance overwhelmed me.

When Moses looked toward the Promised Land, he saw the Jordan River flowing down from Mount Hermon into the Jordan Valley. Though Moses never entered the Promised Land, his people did. Not long into their occupancy, they turned to worship idols. Elijah is among the prophets who attempted to guide the people back to God. When Elijah grew old and Elisha prepared to take his place, the two traveled to the Jordan Valley where Elijah’s days among us ended. Just after crossing the Jordan together, the scriptures tell us Elijah was carried off to heaven in a fiery chariot and Elisha returned to continue his work among the people

Hundreds of years later, John the Baptist, last of the prophets of old, called people to repentance on the shores of the Jordan. They sealed their commitments with John’s baptism. The baptizer’s most significant baptism was that of Jesus. The scriptures tell us Jesus took his baptism seriously. Afterward, he spent forty days in the desert preparing for his public life among us. When Jesus emerged, he returned to John and that river where the first five of his disciples joined him.

As I stood at the river’s edge, I saw dozens of white-robed people in the distance. They’d come to renew their baptisms in the waters where Jesus began his work. As for me, I knelt at the river’s edge and dipped my fingers into the water. I left it to God to renew me as God saw fit. To date, I haven’t been disappointed.

Dear God, help us to respond to your love by revealing it to all of those we meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Family

You are my shelter; from distress
you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom
you will deliver me.

Psalm 32:7

We landed in Israel at 4:00 P.M. and made our way to our hotel by 6:00. After dinner with our tour group at 7:00, I happily climbed into bed before 9:00 that evening. Our itinerary promised busy days and I was determined to sleep whenever possible in order to keep up. Though sleeping on the plane wasn’t easy, I managed to rest a few hours even with our Hasidic plane-mates call to prayer at 4:00 A.M. Our room was on an upper floor of a very tall hotel so I expected to enjoy a full night’s sleep that first night.

I slept soundly for hours until a distant voice roused me. I ignored this intrusion until it persisted. I went to the door to listen. When all was quiet, I tiptoed toward the window. That resounding voice had come from outside. I opened the drapes just enough to see the large dome from which it resonated. I finally realized that the voice was calling our Muslim friends to prayer. I thought of the devout farmers and townspeople of old who used to rely upon pealing church bells to wake them to their workday and to prayer every morning. If you’re as old as I am, you may remember similar chimes throughout the day which called us to recite The Angelus.

When that voice gave way to silence, I watched the birth of the new day. As I enjoyed the beautiful sky, I marveled at the seeming differences which actually prove us to be more alike than we admit. There I was in the heart of a Jewish country listening to a Muslim call to prayer which was reminiscent of my Catholic upbringing. I wondered if my praying Hasidic friends from the airplane were also turning their thoughts to God at that hour.

Loving God, you have an amazing family! Help us to love one another and to respect one another just as you love and respect each one of us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved