“Ring Them Bells,” originally written by Bob Dylan for his 1989 album “Oh Mercy,” is a richly poetic song with plenty of biblical references and allusions. Many observers have pointed to the apocalyptic hints in the song, and those are certainly there. But there’s something else I hear in the song that speaks to why I like it. It reminds me of the place of the church in turbulent times.
We as a society are dealing with a lot of grief and loss right now. Woe to us, the church, if we don’t recognize and live into our crucial and unique role in this situation. In particular, I see two important but largely neglected roles for the church: public lament and grief shepherding.
There is much we can, do, and should disagree about. But the greatest heresy is not what that brother or sister across the table believes. The greatest form of heresy is when I insist that the Head of the table disinvite them, or when I leave because they are there. When in doubt, meet me at the table.
The actual biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus is nestled deep in obscurity. But what is clear is that this coming of God’s son, in a dark, forgotten corner of the world, was good news to those who also find themselves in life’s dark, forgotten corners.
If the authors of the Bible got away with not just grieving, not just doubting, but accusing God of leaving them, why do we today equate normal grieving as “taking it hard” and doubts as “a lack of faith”?