Summary: Three uses of bells - to call us to Worship, to Warn us of danger, and proclaim something Wonderful. Sermon delivered on the occasion of a visiting church bell choir.
• Since we have the Chehalis UMC Bell Choir with us today, I decided it would be enlightening for us to discover what lessons God might teach us from bells.
• I guess you all know why cows have bells? It’s because their horns don’t work.
• In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later. The best line inspired by the affair came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
1. Bells, especially smaller hand-bells have been around for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence has shown them to have been used in all the chief nations of antiquity, Babylonia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome.
• In Exodus 28:33-35 God instructs Moses concerning the creation of the High Priestly garment for Aaron, requiring gold bells to be sewn onto the hem of the ephod so that the sound of the bells, as he moved inside the Holy Place, would indicate that he was alive and had not died! So here we see the first Biblically recorded use of bells in worship.
2. Bells have been used throughout history for all kinds of occasions – for worship, for war, for peace, to warn of danger, to sound an alarm, to announce death, to proclaim liberty, to celebrate joy, to tell the time, to make music, just to name a few.
3. I have selected three broad uses of bells and want us to explore how these uses might be applied to our calling as Christians and as the church.
A. BELLS CALL PEOPLE TO WORSHIP
1. I’ve already referred to God’s required use of bells to sound on the High Priest’s garment as he entered into the Holy of Holies to worship and offer the sacrifice for sins.
2. The first Christian writer to make any mention of bells in regard to church worship was Bishop Gregory of Tours back in 585 A.D. These would have been fairly large bells that were struck or shaken, probably with a cord. They were rung before church services and to rouse monks from their beds.
• In 615, when one of his monks was dying, St. Columban assembled the community by the ringing of a bell
• The Canons of the Church of England prescribe "When any is passing out of this life a bell shall be tolled and the minister shall not then slack to do his last duty. And after the party’s death, if it so fall out, there shall be rung no more than one short peal, and one before the burial, and one after the burial."
• Further down the road steeples and bell towers were erected to house one or more bells for the added purpose of conveying the sound over a far greater distance – calling people to worship or to prayer.
3. In any Catholic Mass or Episcopalian High Church Eucharistic services – smaller hand bells are rung at specific moments during the service, such as at the Elevation of the Host or before the praying of the Our Father.
4. In the same way that church bells sound out in the community calling people to the worship of God, so I believe that our individual lives and corporate witness should be doing exactly the same thing.
• Just as no one can miss or ignore the sound of church bells ringing across a town or city, so they should not be able to miss or ignore the call that goes forth from our individual and corporate life elevating and honoring God in all that we say and do.
• That is what worship is – it is our action of declaring the truth about God’s worth, God’s honor, God’s greatness, God’s love. We declare it to Him, we declare it to host of heaven, and we declare it to all creation.
• Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 that we are “the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” We were not called to be a gathering of undercover agents or disguised disciples. We are not to be ashamed of Him, but in our words and our witness pointing to Him and calling others to follow Him and exalt Him as we do.
• Our job is to lift Him up and as we do so, He will draw others to Himself.