Activism / arts / Church / Epiphany / Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus


An Israeli sign barred our way to the Baptism site

 

Song: Turn Back

 I went down to the river Jordan to pray
And a man with a gun he barred my way
Saying
Turn back, turn back,
There’s no way through.
There’s no way through
For the likes of you.
You better turn back
‘Cause there’s no way through.

I went down to vote on election day
But the man with the power he barred my way,
Saying
Turn back, turn back,
There’s nothing to do.
There’s nothing to do
For the likes of you.
You better turn back
‘Cause there’s nothing to do.

I tried to find the money my debts to pay
But the man in the bank he barred my way
Saying
Turn back, turn back,
There’s no money for you.
‘Cause the poor are many
And the rich are few.
You better turn back
There’s no money for you.

One day everything’s gonna have to change
‘Cause the banks and the guns put us all in a rage
We’re saying
Move on, move on
We’re gonna move on
‘Cause money has ruled for far too long
We’re gonna move on
No more singing the rich man’s song.

You ask me when, I tell you: Now!
You already know so don’t ask me how.
The time is coming and  won’t be long.
We’re gonna stop singing the rich man’s song.

July 29, 2001, Petra, Jordan

Epiphany

I was following a star to the riverbank,
to the place of baptism,
but a man with a gun stood in my way.

Looking back from this epiphanic turn of the year,
the time when everything changes,
we are figures on a stage viewed from the gods,
a crib before the altar of our lives,
rolled back to a dimension
when now is then,
and what’s to come
springs from the seeds we have already sown.

Then, it was a time and a place of pain.

I had floated in the salt sea of death,
but when I travelled to the border
to wash myself clean
and kneel before the child of all,
I had no gold or incense or embalming herbs to celebrate life, death and resurrection
but only the short-term vision of a sky where no angels sang
any more.

I was a far-flung worshipper of fire
damped down by the tears of my heart,
seeking a star in my own entrails.

I had come thousands of miles to stand here by the water-stolen Jordan
and my incantations served me nothing.

My whole life had been a prayer leading to this moment
but no dove came down from heaven to bless me.

I looked down into the riverbed to see the footprints of my Lord
and while I knew they must be there
– because what else could give meaning to this moment? –
I could not see them.

I turned back to where the taxi stood waiting,
its plastic seats scorched by the noonday sun.
I reached out for your hand
but you snatched it away.
We drove back to Amman in silence.

Next year I would walk along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem
and drink orange juice in your absence,
seated across the road from the Armenian church
where Jesus slipped and fell under the burden of my cross.

But this day, in a barren land,
not far from the Dead Sea,
I had encountered my true epiphany,
baptised with the dust of my own desert.

And the chaff of my life was thrown into the refiner’s fire.

8 minutes past midnight, January 8, 2007

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