This is what I do, I hover over a story or section of the scripture. I don’t move fast. The whole rest of my life is about deadlines and meetings and exhaustion and “have to’s”. Scripture for me is a chance to slow down. Not trying to read the whole thing in a year. Or even ten years. I want to go deep. I want to see connections between the various stories. I want to unpack the text and think about the history and the historical context. I feel a sense of joy, and a sort of “click”, when it seems that I am really swimming in the words, feeling the Spirit’s very presence.
Dive deep. Swim in the waters. Water that cleanses – literally, of course, and metaphorically, perhaps more importantly. What a shocking change for the people to use the river Jordan to wipe away sins. Wild river water wasn’t clean? I actually agree with them. You have no idea what is living in living water! We could go many places with water – again back to the Genesis with chaotic dangerous water everywhere in the beginning; or the life-giving rivers in the Garden. We could go forward and look at the Wedding at Cana and the water into wine. Or even skip all the way to Revelations (“take the free gift of the water of life”). But let’s stay for this moment with the river.
You took the children, you followed your husband, each step into the desert and toward the Jordan river getting harder. At first, there was chatting and laughing, maybe, and it was easy to follow the crowd. Then the prophet’s words: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near!” And it hits you then, all there is to repent. All the times of missing the mark. The crowd is full of folk who actually broke the commandments brutally, perhaps, but you know that keeping them – mostly — doesn’t mean all is right. There is something missing, some richness of life, some depth, some connection….something.
Your turn into the river, and the coolness, and the wet, and the rising up and the sun dazzling over thing, and you gasp and sweet air fills your lungs. Like your first breath.
Perhaps it was a cloudy day, perhaps the walk from Jerusalem to the river isn’t as long as I imagine? Perhaps a dozen people not the hundreds I imagine were there? Perhaps it was only those who had actually broken the commandments, and had felt so completely cut off and isolated and hopeless. Now healed, restored, renewed. The joy!