We rang our church bell (in full disclosure, we have the automated chimes) 27 times at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. One time for each person who was murdered in Connecticut – 26 at the elementary school and 1 in the bed of her home by her son. As I watched Rev. Jody Ray’s sermon from church yesterday at Stockbridge UMC (in Georgia), he said he was questioned by NBC about ringing theirs 27 times, why he wouldn’t just ring it 26. In his sermon, Jody said if he had it to do over he would have rung the bell 28 times. I debated about 28 dings when I rang ours.
I guess if I were honest, I didn’t based on the slim chance that there was anyone counting. I didn’t want to have to explain or defend it to a flawed society. But this I know, if Jesus was in charge of the ringing, He would have rung the bell 28 times. And the irony is that He is the judge, not us. We who are saved by grace often act as if we are the judge. I think about Michael Yacconelli’s line from his book Messy Spirituality that goes something like this: ‘Too many Christians are like a person who crashes a party they were never invited to and once they’re in, they stand guard at the door to make sure no other undesirables get in.’
Was what the gunman did among the worst things any human has ever done? Yes, I believe it was. I still get nauseated thinking about those innocent children and families who will have an unthinkable Christmas morning tomorrow. But Jesus grieves for every one that is lost: Not just the 27, but all 28. And as a Christian, I believe the children were not lost – just lost by us in this world. Now they can be found in the arms of a loving Savior in a place He prepared for them.