December 27, 2013

The Rev. Rodney B. Weaver: ‘The bell tolls for ...'

— The year 2013 is fastly coming to an end. After today, there are only three days left. The month of December has proven to be very challenging. Dec. 14 marked a year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Families are still grieving due to last year’s tragic event. South African political activist Nelson Mandela succumbed to death during this month. His exit from the world stage caused all to remember his inspirational example of sacrifice for a cause. December marked his exit.

The year’s worldly events witnessed the Boston massacre Patriots Day bombing. Two brothers made a homemade bomb, which exploded, killing three persons, injuring 264 and crippling an entire city. Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines. It wreaked havoc, killing 6,000 and injuring almost 2,000 people.

The world’s economy continued to be bleak with little positive news. The plight of human relationships indicated that as a people under God, we continue to mistreat each other. A prime example would be the Syrian civil war in which more than 120,000 people have been killed.

Scripturally we have to be careful that we don’t remove ourselves from others’ situations. The Bible reminds us, “Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it to the least of my brethren, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:40). This advice is shared by Christ at the conclusion of a parable.

The meaning of this Scripture should cause us not to neglect those with needs or issues. Our involvement in caring should not be abstract, but personal. Our struggle is shared by the tread of life. This Bible verse is further paraphrased by the works of John Donne in his poetic phrase, “No man is an island; every man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for me.”

The bell of 2013 has tolled and caused some to exit from their earthly existence (as aforementioned of Mandela). Their passing has left us saddened. Some were not as socially prominent as others, but nonetheless just as important to us.

The bell has tolled to recognize exits. It has also tolled to note the entrance of others. New life has come forth in the birth of babies. On Dec. 25 the bell tolled as the reminder of baby Christ’s birth-entrance into the world. December is the advent season wherein we celebrate the birthday of Christ. His entrance on the earthly landscape is praised by Christians worldwide. The Christmas season is upon us. It has seen us engage in family get-togethers, shopping, gift buying and celebrations.

On Dec. 31, 2013, at midnight, another bell will toll. It will mark the exit of 2013 and the entrance of 2014. Unfortunately between now and then, life’s events may cause some to leave due to death.

Whatever happens, let us be ever mindful when tragedy occurs, when bad things happen to good or bad people, the bell tolls for us. Conversely when others succeed academically, politically, socially or financially, the bell tolls for us again.

Some of our existence is shaped by others. All of our existence is shaped by God. You ask for whom the bell tolls. Whatever the issue, malady, success or failure, pain or joy, the bell tolls for us all. Have a happy new year!

Rodney Weaver is the pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. His column runs the fourth Saturday of the month.