So, it was Maundy Thursday night and we had one of those services where people came up twelve at a time and sat at a table set like Passover and took communion. After that they were to leave through the Choir room and into a Sunday School room that was made to look like the area where Peter was to deny Jesus three times. And that is where I set up shop to be, or should I say, portray Peter.
I wanted it to look real, so I had the lights turned off and had made a torch out of items in my garage. Now the torch was made out of a stick and a can of Sterno (like they put under food at a wedding buffet). To make it look authentic I wrapped the can of Sterno in rags from my garage... where I worked on my car and motorcycle. What could go wrong, right?
Well, a lot could go wrong. About the time I was giving my great performance for the third time to an enraptured audience of twelve people, yes you guessed it, the rags wrapped around the Sterno caught fire.
So, I am acting, very well I might add, but see flames over my right shoulder. I must say that Peter had never denied Jesus any faster than he did at that moment. I sped up to end the speech and take care of the fire that was growing larger and threatening to scorch the ceiling of the Sunday School room.
As I grabbed the fully engulfed torch and headed toward the bathroom in the pastor’s study, straight ahead of me was the face of the woman whose house had burned down a few years before. She had been forced to leap from a second-floor window and still walked with a cane from the incident.
Her face was filled with sheer terror as Peter, or me, ran directly at her with a flaming torch. I yelled “I’m sorry” and pushed her aside to clear the room and extinguish the torch in the sink or the pastor’s bathroom.
Till this day I can see her face and it stands as a reminder to me that the first Holy Week was filled with terror for those who followed Jesus. His arrest in the dark with men carrying torches. Fear and terror leading to hiding and denying. The suicide of Judas. The awful death of Jesus on a cross. Loss of hope when the body of Jesus went into the dark tomb.
Even on the first day of the week, Easter Sunday as we call it, the angels had to say, “Don’t be afraid!” Because they were afraid. The guards were so scared that they froze and appeared like dead men. When God acts it is a fearsome and awesome thing.
And I do not want it any other way because I need an awesome God to act in my life!