But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
~ Psalm 131:2
I awoke to the sound of church bells ringing at 6 am this morning. My sister lives just a few blocks from a church that announces it's presence by ringing bells at 6 am, noon and 6 pm. This morning was my first reality of the bells, laying in bed, and listening, as the hammer struck. My mind began to wander, and think of the people who decided to build and house the bells in the church. And then I began to think about the people who chose to schedule the bells to be rung each day at these hours, and began to question whether they were being faithful, or getting even with someone.
I am reminded that the church is to be the apostolic presence among the community, and perhaps, needs to provide a daily reminder to those around that there exists a need to be a way to remind people of God's presence.
While the presence of the bells ringing serves as a reminder that there exists this church, I can't help but think of those who don't notice the sound of the bells at all. I remember years ago living just blocks away from a set of train tracks. After months of living next to them, I rarely noticed the trains that would speed through town, often blasting their horns. Only when I would have company over would I be reminded of them when someone would generally ask, "How do you live with that sound all the time?"
The bells remind me that the church has become the train of my past. The church has become the bells in the community where I am today. And we have become immune to it's presence.
As a pastor I often wonder what it is that I can say, or do, that will become a different sound. With so many competing sound bytes out in the world, how can the church become a defining word that draws people closer to God?
My sister shared that when she hears the bells in the morning, she knows that she only has twenty more minutes before she needs to leave her home for the hospital where she works. For her, it has become a source of urgency, and timing.
I can remember hearing a sermon years ago that suggested that the church has managed to immunize entire communities with Christianity. I can remember the person saying, "When you immunize someone against something, you give the person just a small dose of the disease. The host then produces antibodies that will protect the person from ever getting the disease completely. Just a small dose of Christianity prevents an outbreak."
Funny, in many ways I sense the bells have become simply a booster.
Each day God tries to find ways to draw us in. It's not always about bells, earthquakes, fires, and storms. I am reminded that sometimes God comes to us in a still, small voice. In the silence. In our times of joy, as well as, times of great sadness. In the rising of the sun with each new day, and with each morning when our feet touch the floor. With every "I love you," shared, and with every moment when we cry.
This morning the bells have done their job. I have been drawn to consider the church, God's presence, and the need for me to hear more.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.