Our church’s dramatic Lenten service needed a showstopper. Boy did we get one.
Mar 13, 2017
It was a clear, calm spring night. People packed our church for a special Lenten service. Our congregation had worked for weeks preparing this presentation dramatizing Christ’s final words on the cross. Church members would read passages from the Gospels, and at key moments we intended to play a tape of sound effects to add to the drama: the screams of a crowd, the creak of a wooden cross, the murmur of conversation as soldiers gambled for Jesus’ robe.
We had an especially powerful finale planned for Christ’s death on the cross when the “earth shook.” My part was cuing up a tape of roaring wind, crashing thunder and blinding lightning. I would both narrate and turn the tape player on and off.
The lights in the church slowly dimmed. I stepped to the altar and lit the seven candles representing the last statements of Christ, then went back to the podium.
The readings began, and I clicked the tape on and off at the appropriate times without a hitch. The entire congregation sat in rapt attention as the story proceeded.
We neared the climax of the service. I pressed the play button and heard only a snap, then silence. I fumbled with the player, even flipped the tape over. It was no use. The tape recorder was beyond repair. The part of the evening around which we’d planned everything would not have the crucial dramatic sound effects.
Someone rose to read Christ’s final words: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” At that moment, as if on cue, from outside the church came a mighty roar of real thunder. It sounded as if it had struck directly above the church’s roof.
The stained-glass windows shook. The sanctuary was illuminated by a brilliant flash of lightning. The candles on the altar flickered. My own voice trembled as I read the words of the centurion who stood by the cross: “Truly this man was the son of God.”
Our best-laid theatrical plans hadn’t worked out as expected.
But the real stage manager had things well in hand.