One Sunday when I was growing up, I was the acolyte, and before the service the assistant for the service asked the Pastor what these strange names were in the prayers. The Pastor correctly pronounced the names as Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann and Paul Gerhardt and explained that they were hymn writers, and that today was the day assigned for their commemoration.
Such was my introduction to the Commemorations of the Church. Of course, I should be excused for not knowing about the Commemorations of the Church as we never had services for any of them on their appointed days; nor did I ever remember them being mentioned in the prayers aside from this one Sunday; nor did the readings and the sermon ever make mention of any such days either.
As it turns out, it was not just Sunday morning worship that overlooks these commemorations, so to do devotionals of all shapes and sizes. In that sense, the commemorations of the Church are for many what the appointed feasts and festivals are: unless they fall on Sunday, and unless the Pastor makes mention of it specifically, you will never hear about them.
But then again, at least if a feast or festival falls on Sunday the Church usually makes note of it. The commemorations do not even get that.
Perhaps there is a reason behind this. I understand that there is a difference between feasts, festivals, and commemorations. I also understand that having a service every time there is a feast, festival or commemoration is not entirely feasible outside of a campus setting.
However, if the Church is going to ignore the commemorations of the Church, and in many respects also ignore the feasts and festivals that do not fall on Sunday’s, then there is really no reason to have them listed in the hymnal.
Which brings me to another issue.
Many of you have heard me vent how many of the familiar texts that are taught repeatedly in Sunday school and day school settings to younger children, are absent from the standard Lectionaries entirely. And you have also heard me argue that if children never hear these accounts in Church, either read as one of the appointed lessons, or even preached on, that it will be yet another contributing factor in children questioning the Scriptures, and ultimately falling away from the faith. And you have also heard me speak of a sermon series project that I worked on for a while called The Archbook Lectionary.
Well I have recently found a way to mark the feasts, festivals and commemorations of the Church, without reworking the entire Lectionary system. It is a new video series called Church Bells are Ringing.
In this series, every time a feast, festival, or Biblical commemoration comes up, I will post a short video devotion online. The goal is to provide a resource that people can go to and mark these days on their calendar, perhaps not with a full Divine Service, but in a way that they can make note of, and have a thought in their mind that today, the Church celebrates an individual of the faith, and that individual can be held up as an example.
I say the Biblical commemorations for two reasons; first, right now it is far more feasible to accomplish this task; and second because that is where I think the greatest need lies. We can point to hymn writers and theologians and give thanks to God for them, but right now, the important thing is getting the Biblical commemorations out for people.
As for the title, Church Bells are Ringing is a phrase from verse 5 of LSB #645 Built on the Rock. Church bells are distinct sounds that in small communities can be heard in every nook and cranny. They are normally used to call people to worship and can also be rung periodically throughout the service. In these video devotions, we are not calling people to a full service, but we are calling people away from the busyness of the world for at least a few moments, so that they might remember their faith.
Watch the videos either through this blog or at http://www.facebook.com/churchbellsareringing