The Tolling Bell

Brittany C. Burnette's picture

For centuries, the sound of a tolling bell has marked that a person has gone to meet his Maker. On this day, the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, it is more than appropriate to remember and honor those who lost their lives in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Let us remember our humanity, our unity, and our hope in the supreme victory of Christ. We too, will one day see the face of our God, Redeemer, and King. None of us, save God Himself, knows when that day, that time, that moment will come. May we be ready. And by proclaiming the gospel of truth in love, may the Holy Spirit use us to prepare the souls of others as well.

For those who lost loved ones on this day, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, grant you comfort and hope.

 I will write nothing else. Instead, I will let the English poet/writer John Donne communicate all that is on my heart this morning. Here is his Meditation XVII.

 

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Comments

John Donne makes death sound pretty..."translation."

One volume of one book, one continent is Mankind, one body is the Church. One death, therefore, affects us all. (And one death and resurrection redeems us all.)

Brit, thanks for sharing this Donne passage with us. Thanks even more for acknowledging the solemnity of this day.

It's been seven years, but I am still sad when I think about what happened, and the gaping holes the event left in the ground, in hearts, in our national psyche, and definitely in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania.

And death still just really offends and angers me, Brit. It makes no sense. It is a mockery of what creation was all about. The wonder is that God is able to redeem even death for those who trust in Jesus. But I don't believe that death was God's first choice for us. It was humanity's first choice when we disobeyed and hid and did not repent.

9/11 is a day to remember how those who perished just because they went to work. A day to remember that death can come unexpectedly, swiftly, and without reason. A day to remember the heroes that did not consider their own safety first, but

Michael H. Burer's picture

Hey, Sharifa. Yeah, it is one of those solemn days, one of those pensive days, one of those regrettable days. Today, we remember the 9/11 victims and their families - we honor their lives and their sacrifice. And at the same time, we also pray earnestly for those who are lost ... even those who shed blood seven years ago.

You're certainly right when you note that death was not in the original plan. Eternal life, with unhindered access to God, was what we were made for. And the infection of sin, and its devastating consequences, brings us to this point. But I don't

I hate death. I hate how it intrudes on God's good creation. I hate how it intrudes on relationships and beauty. And I hate most of all that we brought it here.

On days like today, I cling to the hope, the vision of the day when death will be no more, when we will be dancing and running and riding the backs of tigers in the re-creation. It will be a day when bells won't sound a death knell but will ring joyous music.

 

I enjoyed sharing these same thoughts with you in light of the national tragedy that touched us seven years ago and still today...I thought of you and remembered that your dad lost dear friends in the attack on the Pentagon and the ripple effect I am sure that has had in your own life and view on this day...anyway, grace and peace to you my dear sister...

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