“Something strange is happening.”[i] Something strange is happening. We hear those words read at the mid day service here at the monastery on Holy Saturday at the culmination of Holy Week as we sit in this bare chapel wondering what is next. We have shouted our hosannas and screamed our crucify; we have been over powered by the scent of the nard used to anoint the feet of the Lord in that home at Bethany and we have shared in the meal of bread and wine and watched as our feet have been washed; we have followed the crowd as it made its way through Jerusalem on its way to Calvary and there we watched Him die. With the disciples we saw him hastily buried by Joseph and Nicodemus. And then we waited; lost, afraid, despairing and bewildered until we heard those first alleluias on Easter Day. Yes, something strange indeed is happening. And something strange continues to happen.
First there was word from two of the Mary’s that his body was missing and then the breathless Magdalene arrived to tell us that she has seen him alive. Peter and John confirmed this strange news and it was too wild a story to take it all in when suddenly Cleopas bust into the room breathless from his six mile walk telling us that they too had seen the Lord.
Something strange is happening, and it doesn’t stop there. Silently, softly, almost without anyone noticing He came into the room and spoke words of peace. Peace. Something strange is happening.
We can only imagine how confused, and terrified, and bewildered; how excited, and thrilled and astonished those first disciples were that Easter morning when they heard news of the resurrection and later that day when they saw for themselves the proof that what Mary Magdalene had said was indeed true. But the strange happenings did not end there. They did not end even a week later with Thomas, seeing the wounded hands and side for himself falling to his knees and proclaiming “my Lord and my God”.[ii] No, those strange happenings did not end there, and nor have they ended here. Something strange continues to happen.
These strange happenings continue with the story from Acts where we hear again the account of Saul’s conversion from determined persecutor of the early church powerful proponent of what was known then as The Way. We see those strange happenings continue in John’s gospel with the story of Peter, the disciple who denies his master and the fisherman who can catch nothing who becomes not only the fisherman who catches people, but also the shepherd who feeds his flock not with grass and hay, but with love and patience.
Something strange is happening!
But what is strange is not that Saul becomes Paul or that a fisherman catches people. What is strange is that we continue to be surprised, not so much by the likes of Peter and Paul but rather that we continue to be surprised . . . by ourselves.
Something strange is indeed happening, and it is happening here, today, in this place, in our very midst, to our very selves.
We know the story of Saul’s encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus and how he was thrown off his horse. We know the story of the dramatic change that overcame Paul but do we know the stories of our own conversions? Do we know the ways large and small that we have been changed? Do we know those tiny and tremendous ways in which we have been converted? We know the story of Peter’s denial and the power of Christ’s love for him manifested in the gift of forgiveness but do we know the story of our own need for forgiveness and the change in us that the healing words of love make in us? We know the strange things that happened in Jerusalem and Galilee and Emmaus but do we know the strange things that happen in Cambridge and Boston and Watertown?
Father Benson, in his wonderful meditation on the story of the Magi reminds us that each encounter with God changes us in ways large and small so that we are never the same person we once were. He writes:
They had come to Him who was Himself the Way, and the
Truth, and the Life. None can come to Christ . . . and
go away as they came.[iii]
Saul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and was changed. Peter encountered the Risen Lord on the shore and was changed. You may not have been thrown from your horse, today or ever, but God’s love for you in the person of the Risen Jesus has the power to change you. You may not jump overboard and swim ashore, today or ever, but God’s forgiving love for you, has the power to change you. Like the Magi you may have traveled a long distance to get to this point in your life, and you may have an equally long way to go before you get home, but God in the person of Jesus Christ has the power to change you and send you home not just a different person, but by another way.
Something strange is happening today and it is happening here and to you for God’s love manifested to you in the resurrection of Jesus is changing you right here and right now. You may not notice it today or tomorrow but over time and in time God has changed and God is changing you. As Father Benson reminds us, like an artist God is painting upon your soul the image and likeness of his beloved Son so that with each encounter with Jesus, God is
as it were, adding some fresh point to the image of Christ
within our souls. As each touch of the artist adds some
fresh feature to the painting, so each communion is a touch
of Christ, which should develop some fresh feature
of his own perfect likeness within us. And it is not that it
does this merely in some one direction, but as each
moment of the morning adds imperceptibly a fresh glow
to the whole illuminated hemisphere, so each communion
imperceptibly should add a fresh glow, a fresh brightness,
a fresh colouring to the sphere of the soul which it penetrates;
the whole nature should assume a fresh glory with each
So be careful today, you may find yourself thrown from your horse and on the ground; you may find yourself overboard and flailing in the water; you may find yourself covered in wet paint. But if you are on the ground, or in the water, or covered with paint there is one thing you can do, you can with the four living creatures and the myriads and myriads of elders fall on your knees before the living God and sing with full voice:
To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
forever and ever!
Amen! Amen! Amen![v]
It is not your horse that has thrown you to the ground, but love. It is not sea that has drenched you, but love. It is not some madcap artist that has covered you in paint, but love.
Something strange is happening here and it is called love!
[i] From an ancient homily on the holy and great Sabbath; The Prayer Book Office, page 735
[ii] John 20:28
[iii] Richard Meux Benson SSJE, Spiritual Readings; Christmas, page 260
[iv] Richard Meux Benson SSJE, The Religious Vocation, page 160
[v] Revelation 5:12
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