I am likely going to disappoint you all today – because I’m struggling to articulate much of anything this morning.

I’m not feeling witty (although when I am these days, I am grateful – thanks to Victoria Weinstein for highlighting that as a gift of grace).

I’m not feeling moved deeply (although I can see this hymn’s potential for deep meaning).

I’m not feeling inspired to talk about the tune, for good or ill (although someday there will be a consideration of tunes like this from a cultural and musical viewpoint).

The truth is, I’m not feeling much of anything today except a bit overwhelmed by the personal, professional, and prophetic To Do Lists. And so this hymn, which I sang, felt a bit like a chore that I had to get done, not a balm to my spirit or an offering to others.

And here’s another truth, for the laity in my tiny readership: whether it’s a daily post like this, or a service, or a covenant group, or a rite of passage, sometimes ministers feel overwhelmed and unable to get their spirits to properly rise to the occasion. The good news is that it passes; we learn – and are reminded of – those practices that get us out of the funk, off the dime, on task, back into it. We learn how to fake it ’til we make it. We learn how to put on the character of minister until we are the minister again.

In the meantime, we clergy ask for some grace – we are human, as hard as we try not to be. And on a disappointing day like today, when I have no witty repartee, no caustic criticism, no soaring poetry, I ask for some grace.

Maybe that’s the point of this hymn, after all.

Almond trees, renewed in bloom, do they not proclaim
life returning year by year, love that will remain?
Almond blossom, sign of life in the face of pain,
raises hope in people’s hearts: spring has come again.

War destroys a thousandfold, hatred scars the earth,
but the day when almonds bloom is a time of birth.
Friends, give thanks for almond blooms swaying in the wind:
token that the gift of life triumphs in the end.


I love being surprised by a hymn.

I opened the page and groaned a little at yet another hymn I don’t know – wild bells? Clouds? Frosty light? Oy vei. Here we go again, I thought. Another fairly fluffy lyric that doesn’t go anywhere. And oh, look, another tune I have never sung.

I decided to tackle the tune first, which I discovered is a remarkable little melody with graceful lines and a touch of melancholy. That in hand, I turned to sing.

And I discovered the fluffy lyrics don’t last long at all.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild, wild sky,
the flying cloud, the frosty light:
the year is dying in the night;
ring out, wild bells, and let it die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
ring, happy bells, across the snow:
the year is going, let it go;
ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
for those that here we see no more;
ring out the feud of rich and poor;
ring in redress to humankind.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
the civic slander and the spite;
ring in the love of truth and right;
ring in the common love of good.

In fact, holy cow, this hymn was written for today.

I did finally realize this is a setting of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, which I immediately looked up. There are a few more verses, all equally powerful statements against greed, abuse, hatred, and callousness – and ends with a plea for peace, kindness, compassion, and “the Christ that is to be.’

Wow. Why are we not singing this hymn every week? Are others using this hymn right now in this strange time in our history and I’m just late to the party? Are they waiting to use it in December? I’m thinking now about how this would fit in, because we need to ring out a lot of things right now to make room for “truth and right” and “the common love of good.”

It’s time to ring the bells.