One of the things that I love about the physical plant at Saint Paul’s is that we have a real bell in our steeple. A rope drops down through the ceiling in the Narthex and just begs to be pulled: thankfully, this guy doesn’t live near us. Every Sunday at 7:25, 8:55, and 10:45am, it signals the five minute warning for the beginning of each service. Every Wednesday it gets run just before noon to announce the start of our healing service. Perhaps my favorite use of the church bell is when it gets rung as we process out of the Nave at the end of a funeral service. It is in those moments that the bell tolls for minutes, not seconds, and when the reality of “ringing out your joy” hits home for me.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the loss of the Daily Office in our common life can be lamented for a variety of reasons, but the fact that we miss out on singing the great Canticles is perhaps the hardest for me to swallow. Thankfully, on occasion, the Lectionary gives us the opportunity to use a Canticle rather than a Psalm. This week, Track I congregations get to hear Canticle 9 – The First Song of Isaiah, of which Jack Noble White, former headmaster at Saint Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, wrote a beautiful setting I linked to in yesterday’s post.
The First Song of Isaiah comes from chapter 12 of Isaiah and is a song of strength and resilience in the midst of hardship. With the Assyrians breathing down their necks and the future looking bleak for for Judah, Isaiah encourages them to sing songs of joy for the future when God’s redemption will be fulfilled. Kind of like when we ring the bells at the end of a funeral service, even in our sadness, we ring out our joy, and a very helpful reminder as we struggle through apocalyptic texts in Luke even as the radio stations turn to their interminable Christmas music marathons.
Ring out your joy! The future is secured! Salvation belongs to our God.