Last Sunday’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord took my mind back to what I recorded about our only visit to the Jordan and to the Dead Sea in October 2013.
So what I shared with congregations here was the sense of disappointment which anyone might feel standing at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism.
It ought to be a place of intense experience. Here the people of Israel finally entered the Promised Land as Joshua struck the river and made a dry pathway through it. Here God was revealed as Trinity as the Son emerged from the water with the Father’s voice audible and the descent of the Holy Spirit visible. Here, the Welsh hymn writer reminds me, is the symbol that my step into death should be as anxiety-free as any safe passage.
But instead here is a discoloured, narrow, sluggish stream, approached through a minefield, robbed of much of its headwaters as they are extracted and piped away from local use, fed instead in part by water from sewage recycling upstream.
From all of which I begin to see a new message.
We are prone to claim to recognise the presence of God at moments of highlight: a prayer answered, a healing experienced, beauty encountered.
But God-in-Christ chose to be identified with our sin at what is actually the lowest point on dry land on our planet, a point at which a rift is opening up in the surface of the globe.
So should we not be claiming particular encounter with and awareness of God at places of disullusionment, places marked by the detritus of our war making and the consequence of our environmental and political exploitation, places where our resources can only be generated from our own waste?
At our lowest points, at the points at which our world is coming apart around us: here I really feel the presence of God?
The picture is of early morning light spreading across Haworth churchyard last week.