Takes a Village to Ring a Bell

Refresh Worship Service

Trinity United Methodist Church / Beaumont, Texas

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“It Takes A Village to Ring a Bell”

Phoebe Hambright Dishman, Lay Speaker


Opening song, #660 God is Here; closing song, #730 O Day of God, Draw Nigh


Shout your praises to GOD, everybody!

Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!

Round up an orchestra to play for GOD, add on a hundred-voice choir.

Feature trumpets and big trombones. Fill the air with praises to King GOD.

Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,

With everything living on earth joining in.

Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”

And mountains harmonize the finale—

A tribute to GOD when he comes, when he comes to set the earth right.

He’ll straighten out the whole world, he’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.    

                                                       from Psalm 98 [The Message]


The sea claps its waves, the fish their fins.

The hills are alive, with the sound of music.

The stones, the stones cry out for joy, because someone is coming,

to set everything right.

Psalm 98, a sweeping summons to sing.

Really? Seems if anything the sea the hills the stones

Should be and in fact are struck all the more wordless.

The seas that closed over the ships in the war to end all wars

the fields that silently pondered  the mustard gas

the mud and the blood the California hills burst into flames

witness the heart-cries of the bereft the dirges the slow tolling bells

the abdication of reason the chronic sullen posturing of mankind

which grinds on in pursuit of security with little more than lip service

if that to the health of our only home our sweet air our birds

fish choking on plastic and this all too evidently is us and little we know how to make amends.

Thus laden, why on earth would the earth sing?  And yet:


‘I am earth, earth / out of my grass heart / Rises the bobwhite. /

Out of my nameless weeds / God’s foolish worship.’

Thomas Merton

Psalm 98, this sweeping summons to sing,

is it just the lavish language of poetry, having little to do with reality?


I think we need to stop, we need to unlearn the idea that poetry and science, that sacred and secular are two different things.

I think the earth knows something big and is trying to tell us.

Even the stones cry out:

Death is not the end.  Brokenness will be mended.

Tears?  Gone.

Pain?  Gone.

Injustice?  Gone.

Cold hearts?

Lit up and strangely warmed with the Immense Tenderness

that encompasses all,

and always has.


And so …


People on earth, be filled with God.

Let loose and sing. Ring out for joy.


And all the more this time of the church year.


Why does the cat purr?

Why does the elephant rumble, in tones too low for us to hear?

What is that wave of music rolling through my heart, deep in the night?


I will tell you: Advent is coming. Love is coming.

The feet of the Beloved are on the road.


On the other hand, and this is a big on the other hand,

our present anguish needs to be acknowledged.

We need to let things hurt, maybe not be so quick on the fixing,

on the rush to the bright side, on the “hallelujah anyway.”

To hold the tension of pain and hope. This is a fine art, seldom taught.

There are teachers, though.

In 1864, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow looked clear-eyed into a cascade of personal tragedies not to mention the hell of America’s Civil War

and he let it hurt.  He let it break his heart. Then he wrote these words:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 

‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

the wrong shall fail, the right prevail

with peace on earth, good will to men.’


Henry Longfellow stood witness:

Death is unavoidable. Bells have power to give new life.

Here’s another quote from another poem of his:


For bells are the voice of the church; / they have tones that touch and search / the hearts of young and old.


Tell me this: what if Trinity’s carillon went silent?


Henry Longfellow was not the first to ring us to attention. Bells go way back. Listen to this passage from the Hebrew book of Exodus:


They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells

between the pomegranates all around on the hem of the [priest’s] robe … just as the Lord had commanded Moses.                              

 Exodus 39:25-26


A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, calling men to worship.


Other faith traditions ring us to attention.  Listen to Thich Naht Hanh:

Whether we can wake up or not depends

on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future

of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet.

We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren.


Listen to Matsuo Basho:

The temple bell stops

but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.                


I want to ask your help with something.

It’s time to change the display case in the West Wing

from Ordinary Time to Advent and Christmas.

I have a vision, and guess what?

The vision is bells.

In the tall end-cases

I’m thinking to use the language of Longfellow’s poem,

from bells to despair and back to hope.

A seasonal cycle. Our human condition, yes?

What I have in mind for the center case is a wealth of actual bells.

Earthy bells, old bells, bells with practical application:

handbells, sleighbells, schoolbells, shop door bells, alarm bells.


We need bells. Do you have any?


I’ve already located one bell that means very much to my family.

By the back door of the house of our growing up hung a rustic bell

of unknown provenance.

From the clapper hung an old leather strap.

Many and many a time

our mother would summon us from our work and play in the far-flung corners of our yard, summon us to her excellent cooking.

Give us this day our daily bread!


In time the house came down.  But the bell was saved. Or was it?


When first I put out the call to my siblings for this remembered bell,

we could not find it. And then …

my brother found it.

Our heritage, restored.

It takes a village to find a bell.

And here’s how I felt when I heard the news:


Fling, ye bells, your songs to heaven,

Ring your music to the sky,

Sing the everlasting Gospel,

Lift your hearts to God on high;

Christian folk afar shall hear you,

Saints above take up your song,

Praising God in one communion

Through the ages all along.



And that’s how I will feel when you bring me yourbells,

to live during Advent in the long glass case.

Let’s round up a wealth of bells, an orchestra of bells, to play for GOD.


Advent’s coming.  We have suffered this year, let’s not pretend,

and who knows what lies ahead.

But Advent’s coming, and with it, the gift of hope.

We are noble folk, made to hope.  In fact it’s our duty.

We CAN bear what we MUST bear

for the sake of what wants to be born. We can do it.

We are the beloved, preparing the way for Love.

So ring the bells that still can ring.

Don’t look away, feel what God feels, let your heart break.

And broken, let the joy rush in.

For Love is coming, to put the world right, and everyone in it.

Lift up your hearts!  Magnify the Beloved with me!

And pretty soon, before too long, even now, the whole earth …

is ringing like a bell.

Let it begin with us.

Ring them over again to me, wonderful bells of life.



Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

2 thoughts on “Takes a Village to Ring a Bell”

  1. Beautiful and incisive. Let us mend the disconnect between worship and Monday morning. Let us face reality before we move to our rose colored glasses. Let the bells ring🙏


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