This has been a time of firsts for me.
After living in New York City all my life, particularly Manhattan for over thirty years, my wife Marion and I said farewell to all that and pulled up stakes and moved to New Rochelle.
The contrast between our old life and our new life has in certain ways been very striking. The pace of life has been marked by one that is slower and more peaceful; that slower part is taking some time to get used to . I had often heard that well-worn phrase “the New York Minute” and it never meant anything to me before I was standing on line behind some folks paying for tickets at the local movie theater or waiting to pay for groceries at Stop and Shop while wondering to myself: what’s taking people so long. And then there’s the traffic, I think there was more traffic on the side street we lived on in Greenwich Village in one day than there is on Huguenot in an entire week.
This contrast has resulted it equally unexpected dividends. For a long time Marion and I had been discussing the fact that we had grown weary of the pace of City life. What has been an undeniable gift of living here has been the friendliness and care for one another that I have experienced and the people I have come across here, in our new home town. When I’m on the elevator in the building we live in, people greet one another and talk to each other; this was something unheard of in the city. One of the things that struck me early on came from my first hospital visit that I made with a parishioner visiting her husband who was greeted warmly by friends who happened to be there at the same time. I had been to the hospital many times when I in lived in the city and I had never experienced anything so comforting and intimate.
It is in the intimate culture that is community where God will be found. You can’t open any of the scriptures, Old Testament or New Testament, epistle or psalm that isn’t grounded in the experience of God lived out in community. This experience, this new point in time and place has unfailingly demonstrated this to me in spades.
It has been in the relative peace and quiet of this community that the words from Psalm 46 have filled me with God’s presence; “Be still, and know that I am God”. This breaking of God into my heart has been the origin of so much transformation in my life as a priest.
It was from this that for the first time, I was inspired to bring the Lent message of our faith to the larger community by going to the Metro North station here in town to offer ashes to all who wished to receive them in the name of the people of St Simon’s. This involved taking a chance, how would I be received, would anyone stop, would some people be offended? I was
entering into the unknown; but I wasn’t doing it by myself. This could only be done through the expression of God’s kingdom revealed and expressed in his community gathered at St. Simon’s.
If Lent is about anything it’s about new beginnings. God is reminding us that His ways aren’t our ways. That he has given us everything we need, and look what you’ve done with my great blessings. But we are never lost. It is through the Body of Christ, the church, where we are assured of God’s presence and are nourished through the witness of his people to carry the
good news of Jesus Christ beyond what we know and are familiar with and have made comfortable.
Lent is about new beginnings formed out of prayer and the hope of God. It is from the burnt palms of last Palm Sunday that the ashes we put on our heads are created. New beginnings come from old and false things are allowed to die. Such was the case for me. In just that way God has made a way forward born of his people.
Yours in Christ,
The Reverend Keith Lane
Choose Topic to Read