Having left Israel and entering Jordan yesterday, we spent today traveling toward Petra with stops along the way to discover and appreciate the history, prevalence and importance of mosaics in this area. At the top of Mt. Nebo, where Moses once viewed the Promised Land, we found the Moses Memorial Church.
In use off and on since the 4th Century, the present Franciscan basilica houses the best preserved mosaics in all of Jordan, some dating back to 530 A.D. The most famous is a hunting and herding scene interspersed with an assortment of exotic African animals, including a zebu (humped ox), lions, tigers, bears, boars, zebras, an ostrich on a leash and a camel-shaped giraffe.
Probably the most famous Jordanian mosaic is housed in St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Masada. In the 1800s, as builders prepared the site for St. George’s, they came across the remnants of a Byzantine church. Among the rubble, the flooring they discovered was a mosaic representing the oldest map of Palestine in existence, providing many historical insights into the region.
We learned about the art of preserving and creating mosaics with a stop at a Mosaic School workshop in Masada (The school was established by the government of Jordan in 1992.). We saw artists chipping, cutting and gluing, putting the pieces together to create uniquely beautiful works.
Jeff, our teaching leader, puts energy, creativity and passion into stories, mini-sermons, and Biblical history lessons, helping us put together the pieces of Jesus’ ministry, life and call on each of our lives in a deep, meaningful way. Below, he gestures dramatically while connecting Herod’s Machaerus fortress/palace (ruins seen at the top of a hill behind Jeff) to Jesus via John the Baptist.
This evening’s worship service capped not just today, but our entire journey. Since we are nearing the end of our time together, Jeff preached a challenging sermon on what exactly it means to be a follower, not just a fan, of this Jesus whose steps we’ve been tracing. What now? How should we respond? There’s an expectant feeling that, to quote our Jordanian guide, “The best is yet to come!”