Voicing the Message
I miss that bell. Its voice fell silent when, the national elections ended and the votes counted, the political party that used a bell as its symbol was declared the winner.
Overjoyed at the taste of victory at the polls, after years in opposition, a handful of partisan enthusiasts appropriated the instrument that summoned people to community worship and made it a clanging symbol of political success. They beat the bell with such fervency that it simply burst into two, never to issue its sweet sound again.
I miss that bell, which adorned the stand-alone belfry at the Gibraltar Baptist Church – the church of my youth. This is one place where I encountered God in an intimate and intentional gathered Christian community. This is where I was immersed into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, I keep with me a recording of the sound of a bell to remind me of formative experiences of my youth that still guide my Christian pilgrimage today.
The sound of the bell at my country church alerted little children to the fact that they should be on their way to church if they expected to be in Sunday School on time.
The bell called the community to prayer. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, the rich sound of the bell voiced a note of invitation to a communal experience of God's welcoming presence. I miss that bell.
The bell tolled when members of the community died – or passed – to use the current fashionable euphemism. The loss it sounded was not that of a family alone, but of an entire community. The bell reminded us that death and grief are communal experiences.
I miss the loud, clear sound of that bell that awoke the community on Christmas morn, reminding us of that great miracle when God came to earth in the form of a human being. Every year, the bell told that story again and again.
Many people love the voice that reads the scriptures, delivers the sermon, lifts up our prayers, helps us sound our praise in song and prayer, in language known and unknown. But don't we also love the voice that speaks without words?
The voice of that bell went silent 35 years ago. Yet, it still tugs at my heart and speaks passionately to my soul. No wonder I remember the sound. May our lives give voice to the message of God's love.