Surprise! You Have Been Selected To Travel to Jordan!
There was a time—a very brief time—in my childhood when my father had three yoked parishes. He was a Protestant preacher. When a local UCC parish lost their pastor, my father’s two Presbyterian parishes agreed to embrace this shepherd-less parish and share their pastor (my Dad) with them.
There was only one problem. The three parishes covered so many square miles of Iowa farmland that Dad could not make it to all three parishes on a given Sunday in order to preach a sermon.
My mother, the storyteller, would take one parish each Sunday and simply retell a story from the Bible—a reflection—a kind of lectio divina on Elijah and Elisha or Ruth or some other Bible story.
As a Catholic writer who is very much a faith storyteller, I take after both of my parents. Dad was Protestant his entire life; Mom is still Protestant.
But the need to share the Gospel story was a zeal all three of us have had.
Dad always wanted to visit the Holy Land. It was something he planned to do, just never got around to doing. I was blessed last year to travel twice to the Holy Land.
I had lived my father’s dream. But God had something more for me. There was another surprise.
Faith journeys are all about surprises.
Within one week’s time, I applied for a trip to Jordan and received confirmation that I had been select to travel there April 9-19 with the press.
They called it the Eastern Holy Land. And I leave in less than three days.
I knew that Ruth was from ancient Moab and that ancient Moab is now part of Jordan. I was going to visit Ruth’s home. The story of Ruth has been my favorite story about a woman in Salvation History since I was a little girl.
Twice last year, I looked upon Shepherd’s field in Bethlehem where she gleaned in Boaz’ field. I pondered how Boaz became her kinsman redeemer—how Jesus has become my own Kinsman Redeemer.
And I thought that was as far as my travel with Ruth would go.
I was wrong. I am going to Moab—well, to Jordan, that is.
My favorite story about a man in Salvation History is the story of Elijah and Elisha. I love Elijah from beginning to end, but the best part of the story is the passing on of the mantle. Elisha crosses the Jordan with Elijah, and Elisha watches as a chariot of fire swoops down and Elijah steps inside and is carried into the heavens. Elijah drops the mantle that is anointed by the Holy Spirit. He drops it for Elisha. The mantle of God’s blessing and the calling that goes with it have been passed on to Elisha.
Elisha picks up the mantle, strikes the waters of Jordan, and crosses over on dry land. He goes on to do many of the same miraculous things his predecessor did.
I have picked up the mantle passed on to me by my parents, and I have gone where the Holy Spirit has led me.
Straight to the Eucharist:
My greatest blessing, my most amazing surprise, my Source & Summit of life.
Elijah’s chariot ride to the Source & Summit of Life– to the arms of God–began in Jordan.
I never knew that.
And Moses had his first glimpse of the Promised Land from the top of Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is in Jordan.
Jacob wrestled with the angel in the land of Jordan.
And St. John the Baptist was martyred there.
I never knew any of these things.
Pilgrimage is full of surprises. Happy surprises. New friendships. New stories. New connections to people and places. New understandings of the faith and our collective story as believers.
The first time I traveled to the Holy Land, we visited the southern part of the Dead Sea. It looked like a light snowfall had covered the edges of the sea. It was not snow. It was salt. That was my view from the western part of the Dead Sea.
In a few days, I will see the Dead Sea from the eastern side. Again, I will see the salt. But this time, I know more about the history of this place. This is the area Lot chose when Abraham (Abram) gave Lot the first pick of the land before them and said that they needed to each go separate ways. Sometime later, Lot left the area at God’s command, but Lot’s wife looked back at the land they were leaving and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
I remember the story from childhood, and this is where it happened.
I never knew that, either.
When Jesus crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, guess where He was. Modern-day Jordan.
I never realized that.
Pilgrimage is filled with one surprise after another. Holy surprises. Things that stick with you and give even greater meaning to the faith you already have.
Come with me on this journey. See these places through my pictures and by way of my storytelling. Learn things you never knew.
But most of all, enter the pilgrimage and discover the great surprise of Salvation History.
Our Lord awaits.