Faith & Worship: The Bell of Freedom

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. (Galatians 5:13, The Message)

I always thought that the Liberty Bell was important because it was rung on July 4, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. However, historians say that is unlikely. Most believe it was rung to celebrate the public reading of the signed document on July 8.

Actually, the bell itself has a very interesting history. I learned for example that the original bell was made in England, not America. And that after it made its journey to America, and was unpacked and installed, it cracked the first time it was rung. No one is quite sure why, but it was recast in America, twice, because the subsequent recast bells also cracked. So much for “made in America.”

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The other thing that I learned is that the name “Liberty Bell” has more to do with Pennsylvania’s support of the anti-slavery movement in the 19th century than the American revolution in the 18th.

As I was thinking about my newly discovered revisions of the history of the Liberty Bell, it occurred that there may be a lesson in all this, both for our country, and our faith.

Neither the practice of faith, or the practice of freedom in our country has ever been perfect. Far from it. We have all been bruised and broken. We have all kinds of cracks in the façade of our well-manicured lives, both personally, and as a country. But more importantly, the truth is that our failings are failings only if we cannot acknowledge them and move forward with humility and a faithful vision to do better. That is one reason why the Bible calls us to repentance, and why so many churches have a ritual of confession in their worship services. Only in honest confession can there be forgiveness, renewal, and the possibility for new life.

Or as Canadian singer and song writer Leonard Cohen wrote in his song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget the perfect offering,

There is a crack in

That’s how the light gets in.

We are far from perfect. But in our faithful acknowledgment of our shortcomings, we can always begin again. A holiday like July 4th invites us to remember the sacrifices and passion of our foreparents, even as we remember our own shortcomings as a nation. Sunday worship invites us to remember the incredible grace, mercy, and love of God, even as we remember our own failings. Both suggest the same response: “Thank you.

Pastor Dent Davis, Tryon Presbyterian Church