Holy Land Pilgrimage 2018: Remembering our baptism

March 05, 2018

“Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” - St. Jerome, 347-420 AD

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar led a group of 52 clergy and laity on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from Feb. 19 to March 1, 2018. Accompanying the pilgrims as spiritual leader was Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who serves the Baltimore-Washington Area.  
Over the next few weeks, we will share highlights from the pilgrimage.
Quoting Saint Jerome (above), Bishop Devadhar summed up the purpose of the journey, encouraging pilgrims to be “open to the movements of the Spirit so that you can go back with a new understanding of the Holy Gospel.”
In this installment, we will follow pilgrims as they visited Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and the Dead Sea itself, Jericho, and the banks of the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
Qumran, on the West Bank, is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. The documents were hidden in 11 caves throughout the area. The Scrolls are believed to have been written by the Essenes, a group of Jews who fled what they saw as the corruption of Jerusalem.
The Essenes may have been teachers to John the Baptist. The Essenes’ practices of taking a vow of poverty, performing baptismal rituals, and sharing communal meals mirror those of the early Christians.
The day ended with a chance to float in the Dead Sea, a place that has drawn those seeking healing for centuries. At 1,412 ft. below sea level, it is the lowest place (on land) on earth.
Pilgrims also visited the city of Jericho, one of the oldest in the world. Tell es-Sultan (Tell in Hebrew and Arabic means mound) dates back to 10,000 BC. Joshua 6 tells the story of the Battle of Jericho.
See more photos in the gallery at right.

Earlier in the day, at Qasr el Yahud (Castle of the Jews) in Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Bishop Easterling preached on the banks of the river where Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17), and pilgrims remembered their own baptisms.
The Scripture read at the river was Ephesians 4:1-16
Bishop Easterling said whoever we are and wherever we come from, our baptism made us new creations and gave us our most important identity as disciples of Christ.
Hear an excerpt from Bishop Easterling’s sermon at the Jordan
See more photos from the service at Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the gallery at right.