We are en route now. For almost 30 years, I have had the joy of holding the keys and serving as the incumbent of a parish church. Sunday mornings were spent holding the door open to welcome the long-time parishioner, a lost soul or two and visitors coming for the first time. Worship happened in a well-known place, with the regular crowd, in a predictable way…
We are en route now. Every Sunday morning, it is the keys to the car that I hold in my hand. The car points in a different direction week after week; sometimes to the north, sometimes to the east and sometimes to the west. With Mary by my side, we set out in anticipation of meeting you. We find our bearings in the suburb, the country or in the heart of city. And while the place may be new to us, there is something familiar. One of my mentors was Dr. George Black, who taught liturgics at Huron College. He was convenor of the Common Praise Hymn Book Task Force and one of the key leaders in developing the Book of Alternative Services. George used to say that liturgy is like visiting with old friends. The readings, the prayers, the hymns and mass settings take us home and bathe us in a narrative of God’s love. No matter where we go on a Sunday morning, we somehow feel at home among old friends.
Sometimes we meet in the most serendipitous ways. After the New Year’s levee at St. James Cathedral, Mary and I headed north to Bala for a couple of days of rest. We stopped at the Onroute Service Centre in King City for some refreshments. Once inside, we traipsed behind someone who looked familiar to me. “I think I know that guy,” I said to Mary. As we emerged into the dining area, there was a throng of people gathered at tables sipping coffee and tea. We looked at them and they looked at us. It took a moment to recognize each other. Hey, its St. George’s, Fairvalley! we called out. Hey, it’s the Bishop! they said. Arms went up, there were pats on the back and shaking of hands. A newly minted Order of the Diocese of Toronto medal hung around a neck or two. They were on their way home. We delighted in the surprise of seeing each other en route. We marked the moment by taking a group photo. The other travellers on the road must have wondered what on earth was happening.
We are en route now. With ashes smeared on our foreheads on Wednesday we turn our faces toward the promise of the resurrection on Sunday. From ashes to Easter, we travel together making the commitment for 40 days to steep ourselves in the ways of Lent. Old friends, fasting, almsgiving, self-examination, penitence and prayer help us to prepare and make our souls ready for the week that holds the key to life itself. With Jesus we go to celebrate the paschal feast.