We preachers have our most embarrassing moments. I imagine it’s true for musicians, too. The other night I witnessed one.
Mumford & Sons’ lead singer Marcus Mumford, performing for a full house at Ryman Theater, in Nashville, Tennessee, first forgot the lyrics to one of the band’s more popular songs, and then later in the evening, mid-song, had a full-fledged coughing fit that required him to walk off stage, eventually sending the other band members off to look for him with an awkward, “give us five minutes, guys.”
Throughout the concert, but especially in these moments, the audience was nothing less than enthusiastic and supportive. They applauded, shouted words of encouragement like, “I love you!,” and sang along with Mumford.
After Marcus and company had returned to the stage to finish up with a few more songs, the band chose as its final parting the well-known hit, “The Cave.” As he began to strum the familiar tune, Marcus in a moment of vulnerability looked out rather tentatively upon the audience and asked, “If I forget my lines or throw up, will you sing along for me?”
Everyone cheered wildly by way of affirmation, so that soon Marcus was stepping away from the microphone in order to listen to the audience sing along.
And they did. Loudly. A bit out of tune. But enthusiastically, with the lyrics down pat. To which Marcus at one moment could only exclaim, maybe a bit like God would have been entitled to do after setting creation in motion and stepping back to see that it was grand, “That’s f&*king awesome!”
Everyone cheered again, and in the exchange, “grace” happened. A kind of freeing synergy. A creative exhalation of sorts.
And I suppose that what it means to be “church” is really this: that when I or any other of God’s children forgets their lines (the refrain of the Good News that God loves them), there is a community to remind them; that on the days when I find it hard to believe the creeds we say every week, I’m able to know that there are others there who do believe, who in a sense, are believing in that moment for me. They’re singing the lyrics for me when I can’t do it for myself.
And this kind of exchange is a beautiful thing. I suspect it is a bit of what the apostle Paul has in mind when he urges the church in Galatia to share life together and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6). Maybe more pastors need to “forget their lines” every so often- or at least step away from the mic- so that those in the pews can pick up the slack.