It happens every Sunday, but some Sundays “it” is more pronounced than on others. Yesterday, I experienced a small- to medium-sized “it.” We celebrated Reformation Sunday, and our church was hosting some of the leaders of the international gathering of PEAR USA, the (conservative, evangelical, Rwandan) oversee of the Anglican church in the United States. In our presence were important figures, including our guest preacher, Bishop Nathan Gasatura and a few of my Anglican worship-leader acquaintances from across the US. All of this made the service extra sweet, because we were able to break bread together and embody, with just a tiny glimpse, what the Kingdom would be like in its consummation.
So, for probably some good and some bad reasons, I wanted the service to go off really well. I planned a robust liturgy, with more Anglican (Prayer Book) elements than is common for us on a weekly basis. And we pulled out all the musical stops—stately brass quintet, big fat pipe organ, 90-voice choir, and grade-A folk band. We sang “A Mighty Fortress,” a Mumford-style arrangement of “10,000 Reasons,” “Help My Unbelief” (Red Mountain), and, for communion, “Open Our Eyes” and “In Christ Alone.”
We had one little snafu. During “10,000 Reasons,” I (overly ambitiously) planned for a tiny musical extension leading from one verse to one chorus, to add a bit more flare and excitement. You can imagine what happened. The congregation (they sing boldly at Cherry Creek) came in where they weren’t supposed to, two bars early. Awkward worship moment #2,653,238 of my career. The cool part of it all was that I smiled at the congregation and they largely smiled back and laughed and we got on with praising God. We’ve built that kind of trust and rapport over the years, where those kinds of things don’t phase us too much–a blessed camaraderie.
This was a minor thing. Sometimes, though, they aren’t minor things. Sometimes you don’t have a capo on when you should and you begin a song on an awfully dissonant downbeat. Sometimes your tempo is dreadfully off. Sometimes the sound is horribly off. Sometimes you mispronounce a word and say something very differently. (I have a few off-air stories I could share if you are ever in Denver. ;)) Why does God allow such things to occur? Well, I’ve learned over the years that it’s at least partially for your sake.
God provides errors as humbling moments so that we, in the words of Dan Allender, “lead with a limp.” The moment we begin to rest in our adequacy, our performance, and our perfection is the moment we’ve most fully bowed to our self-serving idols. We perfectionistic worship leaders get all bent out of shape over small glitches, and usually the congregation gets over them much faster than we do. (Many times, they don’t even notice it.) It is so easy for us to inflate ourselves. Every time someone gives us a verbal high-five of affirmation, it can be one more air-pump to our heads. We’re sinners; it’s the way we roll. We take a good thing, like mutual edification in the body of Christ, and we mix in some sin and taint it. If we’ve got the humility to see it, then, we can realize that God uses the snafus to let a little air out from our heads.
Here’s what happens when we don’t see it: we blame. We point the finger. We come up with 10,000 reasons why it’s the sound guy’s fault, the band’s fault, the congregation’s fault. But, in Christ, we’re freed up to raise our hand with a bold mea culpa. Our reputation’s not on the line when we mess up. That’s sealed with God the Father, in Christ, through the Spirit. Our performance record (counter-intuitively) isn’t marred when we mess up. That’s already been taken care of. Our report card is a 4.0, straight A, summa cum laude, valedictorian’s rap sheet, because Jesus already mailed His own report card in to the Father with His name scratched out and ours in its place.
If the above-mentioned issues are settled, then we can receive the mess-ups as the Father’s gracious, tender discipline so that we don’t think too highly of ourselves. We can receive errors with holy joy. So, after Sundays like yesterday, once I parse out all the yucky, sinful stuff in my heart, I’m able to simply say, “Thank You, God,” and look forward to the next Sunday.
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Oh wow. I'm a pianist / music leader, not the worship leader, but you just nailed me. "We come up with 10,000 reasons why it’s the sound guy’s fault, the band’s fault, the congregation’s fault." – Thank you!