Today, the church remembers John Donne, the great 17th century poet and priest. Probably the most famous phrase he ever wrote was this one:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
He wrote it in 1623 while he was very ill indeed- he thought he was dying of the plague which was sweeping through London, and in a state of delirium he had heard bells tolling and thought they were announcing his own death.
1623 sounds like a long time ago. A “history book” time. For many of us, and most of us who are under 75, existential threats to our whole community, like war and plague, have always been “history book” events until now. But today, we find ourselves caught up, sharing what has been the common lot of most of humankind for centuries.
And doesn’t it teach us powerful lessons about our connections to one another? “No man (or woman, or child) is an island”. How would we be coping today without the people who collect our bins, run our national grid and water services, farm our land, deliver our fresh produce, care for our sick and bury our dead?
We all belong to one another. We are all connected to one another. That’s why when Jesus says “Love your neighbour as yourself” he is not only giving us a commandment, but stating a deep truth: our connections are a fundamental and inextricable part of who we are. When we mistreat or ignore another person, we harm ourselves as well as harming them. When we nurture and cherish another person, we enable our own selves and hearts to flourish.
Let’s resolve to remember that when this time of crisis has passed, and let’s today give thanks for all those to whom we are now realising our connection for the first time. And if, today, you are feeling lonely, fed up, isolated or anxious- pick up the phone to someone else who might be feeling the same. Or pray for them. Or, even better, do both!