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.

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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?

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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.

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When and how does the light of Christ transfigure the ordinary, revealing the extraordinary loving work of God?

Perhaps it’s when a friend listens and cares.

Perhaps it’s when a church like Redeemer makes room in God’s building for survivor support groups and AA groups and more.

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Next year, in 2019, the world will mark thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. While many were surprised by this “breaching of a monument to division” (David Lose, Working Preacher 2009), it is important to remember that this event was preceded for several months by the peaceful protests of the citizens of Leipzig. They gathered by candlelight on Monday nights outside of St. Nikolai Church, first by thousands, and then with numbers swelling to over three hundred thousand - more than half the population of that city - singing songs of peace and hope and protest. And then the wall began to come down.

We should never underestimate the power of song.

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