Thursday, October 09, 2014

Parish Magazine Item with a Church Bells Theme

As I write, this week the newly restored bells have been returned to Warbleton church – thankfully on schedule, as we had an important service in the church today. Whilst the bells were away a significant amount of work has been done in the tower. I haven’t seen the result myself yet, but I’m told some very striking fire engine red paint was used. Indeed, apparently quite a bit of it ended up on some of the volunteer work force!

This completed job represents a tremendous achievement. A huge thank you to all those who gave so generously of their time, skills and efforts. Because people from the parish and beyond actually undertook some of the work, we saved a considerable amount of money on the cost of the job. Many thanks too to all those who worked so hard in fundraising and in securing grants, and all those who gave so generously towards the project.

Myself I very much enjoy hearing the church bells rung. I sometimes hear them as I walk Caleb the dog around Rushlake Green, if the wind is in the right direction. I realise that if you live next door to the church, a peal of bells might not always seem so appealing!

There are precious few mentions of bells in the Bible. (In Old Testament times the High Priest has bells on his garments, if you want to know, and in the prophet Zechariah’s vision of The Day of The LORD, we’re told that even the bells of the horses will be inscribed ‘Holy to the Lord’).

Yet I think one could make a theological case for bell-ringing.

I guess the bells are meant to be a joyful invitation to everyone to come to worship. To that we want to say a loud ‘Amen!’

And for myself I think this public Christian call to prayer is no bad thing. It’s a little reminder, perhaps, that the Christian faith isn’t something entirely private or somehow “spiritual” and divorced from real life. After all, Christians believe that in Jesus of Nazareth God Himself has gone public – He’s broken in to human history and claims the allegiance of all people. That affects all of life.      

At the rededication of the bells on Sunday, I intend to preach on the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 1 and verse 8, where Paul speaks of the Lord’s message ringing out from the Christians there. It’s great to have such a splendid ancient church building in a beautiful location with a good set of newly refurbished bells, which we trust will be rung well and frequently. But Paul’s great concern is that the good news of people turning to Jesus for rescue and beginning to serve the true and living God should ring out far and wide (verses 9 and 10). Paul mentions three particular things which he thanks God for in the Thessalonian Christians, things that we could pray for in ourselves and in our churches:

·         Work produced by faith
·         Labour prompted by love
·         Endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 3).

It would be great if our churches were known for such things. Not, to change the musical metaphor, to blow our own trumpets. But because changed lives are such powerful evidence of the transforming power of the Lord Jesus in our lives. No Christian should ever have a holier than thou attitude. If we do our grasp of the gospel is highly questionable. We are all sinners. But let’s pray that we might honestly be able to say with John Newton, the former slave ship captain who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace:

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am

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