On our way to Galilee we stopped off at the River Jordan to see the baptismal site, the place where, approximately, John baptised Jesus - just a fairly narrow strip of river separating Israel and Jordan. It is well supplied with infra structure to keep it safe these days and - on the Jordanian side, a range of churches, and even a mosque. Each main denomination has been given a piece of land to build a church, part of a marking of this place belonging to us all. It must have been different in John and Jesus' day, but it was not too difficult to imagine John there in the water, encouraging his listeners to step forward and symbolically demonstrate their repentance for all their wrongs.
We were able to dip our hands in the water and we had a brief, but very moving, service of renewal of our baptismal vows. What a wonderful place to be to take the opportunity to remember God's grace and our Christian commitment.
It was also a significant opportunity to remember the importance of water. There were some monks filling up water carriers as this operates as their water source. Admittedly, they didn't have to lift the containers on to their head and walk back to the monastery - they loaded them on to a truck. Water is crucial to our human survival - and so its use in the sacraments that signifies our entry to the church is indicative of so much, life itself, as well as cleansing.