Twenty years ago I was serving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Concord, New Hampshire. It is a historic church that sits adjacent to the State House. St. Paul’s was a great church and one thing I enjoyed was the bell tower. At the top of the stairs of the tower, if my memory is correct, were 8 bells of various sizes. To ring the bells, there was a bank of wooden levers. By pushing a lever down, a particular bell would ring. I spent some time in the tower learning how to play hymns on the bells. To this day I cherish this experience.
One afternoon I was in the tower playing away when all of a sudden our parish administrator came running up the stairs. She said, “Robert. Robert. You need to stop. The Senate is in session and the bells are so loud they cannot deliberate. They just called. They asked who on earth was making all the racket. I did not tell them it was you.” I was certainly grateful for that especially as I knew the governor at the time.
Bells have been part of faith traditions for centuries. The use of bells by priests is found in the Book of Exodus. There we learn that Aaron wore bells whenever he was in a particular area of the Temple. In the Christian tradition, bells were introduced by an Italian Bishop in the 400’s. A Pope in 604 sanctioned bells for use in worship. Since that time, church bells have been used for worship, to announce the beginning of worship, special services, or simply for celebratory purposes.
Church bells can be small or quite large. One bell at the National Cathedral weighs over 3500 pounds. Other bells around the world are even larger. Regardless of bell size, there are few sounds as glorious as church bells ringing.
In Psalm 100 we find this verse. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” When we worship God, we are invited to do so with joy, even and perhaps especially in the midst of painful hard times. One way to do this is with bells. Also in Psalm 100 is this. “God made us and we are his. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” In other words, we worship God with joy because we are God’s. We belong to God through it all and nothing changes that.
This Sunday is Easter, the day we remember and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It is the day humanity learned clearly that new life follows the life we have now and that death is a passage into something wonderfully and beautifully beyond description. Because of Jesus, we can trust eternal life is ahead and this changes everything, including how we live now each day.
To help us celebrate Easter with joy, let’s use some bells and connect ourselves with those who have worshipped God over many centuries. I invite each of you to join me, following our online live broadcast of our Easter service at 9AM, MDT, to go outside, wherever you are, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. If you have bells of some kind, use them. Ring them with vigor to express your joy over Easter and Jesus’ resurrection. If you don’t have bells, I invite you to make a joyful racket unto the Lord. Use pots and pans, anything to express joy to God. And if you cannot join us at 9 MDT, sometime during Easter Sunday go out and make some joyful noise. You might just get somebody’s attention who needs a smile.
This time in all of our lives is so tough, hard, and unsettling, to say the least. The losses many are experiencing are massive. I believe it is during this time, we need a dose, even if just a small one, of joy. Joy over our Lord who is guiding us through this time. Joy over God who loves us without bounds. Joy over our Lord who promises us that when it is all said and done, all will be well. Happy Easter my friends.