Tonight we begin the Triduum, or worship in three parts over three days that is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. We have, with God’s help, moved along our Lenten journey of God bringing us home again to Christ. Here, tonight, we are gathered with Jesus’ other disciples as the Master humbles himself to wash our feet.

There is nothing more important than the gift of faith that God in Christ makes possible through the cross.

The “Hosannas” of Palm/Passion Sunday, which do so quickly change to cries of “Crucify him, crucify him!” remind us of humanities basic changeability, yet they are but a backdrop to the permanence and eternal and enduring love of Christ that so patiently and persistently fulfills God’s promise of grace and mercy by climbing to the cross and going to the grave.

Christ’s welcoming home love – what a gift we have been given!

What do we do as individuals and communities, as we become aware of Christ’s welcoming-home-love? What do we do as we come to see again that Christ has freely purchased our lives with a ransom from the cross that makes of us a new creation? What do we do now that we know that no matter what ever might be lost from us, or however lost we might become, God will never stop trying to bring us home?

One of my fellow pastors here in the Hudson Conference of the Metropolitan New York Synod, Pastor Paul Britton, recently told us a story about a young boy receiving Holy Communion for the first time. As this boy received God’s gift of grace in the body and blood of Jesus, he beamed with joy and then turned and skipped exuberantly back to his seat. Pastor Paul wondered aloud, after telling this story, if, as Christians desiring to be reverent with the precious and holy gift of Holy Communion, we sometimes become overly earnest and serious and forget to let God help us experience the light-hearted joy of knowing that we have been fed and freed by the living Christ.

The wilderness can take many shapes. Maybe it’s the challenges of home, family and work. Or perhaps it’s illness, be it physical or mental, our own or those we love.

Or perhaps it’s the wilderness that arrived for people in Alabama, with the loss of home and life from recent storms that like so many others, have been made more extreme by climate change.

Or there’s the wilderness being faced by the people of Western Congo as they fight not only the Ebola outbreak that began in August, but the violence that has interrupted the work of healthcare folks who have otherwise successfully beaten back previous Ebola outbreaks.

The wilderness, in these and so many other forms, can bow our shoulders and foil, get in the way of our efforts to practice joy in life.