It seemed like a pretty simple plan, really. I would use Luke’s (Chapter 2, verses 25-35) account of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary and Joseph for my sermon Sunday morning. Following that, I would sing John Michael Talbot’s “Go in Peace/Canticle of Simeon.” It’s a powerful prophecy, a poignant story and a beautiful song.
Usually, my sermons flow pretty well. I have studied, thought, prayed and reflected, sketched out the main points and prayed some more. For some reason, this one felt discombobulated from the very beginning. Actually, for some reason, I didn’t start with the beginning. I started in the bottom half of the sermon and then came back to the beginning. All those points I’d sketched out started sliding around on the page. Instead of going from A-Z, I started at M, moved back up to A, staggered my way from D to L to G to T… It got worse…
People who never go to sleep were starting to nod off. Maybe the sanctuary was too warm. Maybe someone had slipped “E-Z-Sleep” into the treats at the welcome table. Or maybe, horror of horrors, the sermon was boring. Yikes!
Even I was relieved when it was over. “At least,” I thought, “now I can sing this beautiful song.
So, I walked down from the pulpit, opened my case, pulled out the guitar, lifted up the strap and placed it around my neck. Then I stepped over to where I’d be front and center and started to strum the first chord. That’s when I realized I’d forgotten to bring in my smart phone with the lyrics stored on it.
In retrospect, maybe I should have just made my way through the lyrics I remembered and fake the rest. I didn’t have the nerve so I announced my plight to the congregation and hurried out to the parking lot. That’s where I discovered I had forgotten to even bring my smart phone, the one with the lyrics stored on it.
Back into the church, back up to the front of the congregation. There, with a very sheepish look and perceptibly red face, I announced that I needed to borrow a smart phone. One of the younger teens offered me hers. The screen was locked. She unlocked it. Then I couldn’t access the internet. She accessed it. I touched the right spot and spoke quietly, “John Michael Talbot, lyrics, Go in Peace.” Lyrics came up. I set the phone on a stool, got my guitar again and started to strum the opening chord. Then I realized I couldn’t read the lyrics; the stool was too low. I enlarged the lyrics, then finally started the song.
In spite of everything, the song went pretty well. I got the right notes in the right order and correctly read the words to the chorus and the first verse. I was starting to feel like maybe this whole fiasco would finally work out. Then the screen went black.
I tapped it and the words came back up on the screen.
I was halfway through the second verse when the screen went black again. I didn’t want to interrupt the song so I sang the words as best I remembered them. And, of course, faked the rest. I managed to make them rhyme and they sounded like they fit the song, at least so far as I can remember.
One thing I can clearly remember is that we all had a few good laughs at my unintended but memorable display of human frailty. My dad would really have enjoyed the story; he called me “the absent-minded professor” from the time I was ten years old. It appears that I am still earning the moniker and I reckon we all need a little gentle reminder from time to time that we are not infallible. A bit of humiliation now and again isn’t always a bad thing.
Especially when it’s shared with folks who can laugh at you and with you at the same time. And still love you later.
*From Robert Burns’ Spring Plowing: “The best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft agly [often go awry].”