May31SunMay 31, 2020 by Curtis Boehm
John Donne “No Man Is An Island”
In the winter of 1623, the English poet John Donne wrote these lines in his “Meditation 17:
No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any 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 thee.
Donne’s words address social isolationism and express our human need for community. And they ring especially true during this recent time of social and physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past three months, we have taken some extreme measures to preserve the physical health of as many people as possible in our society. We are also learning again what John Donne knew in 1623, that physical health is only part of our well being, not its entirety. At some point, we will remember that we need each other, emotionally, socially, spiritually. And despite the risk to our physical health (which we will try to minimize) we will meet together again. \
The Apostle Paul expresses this truth in a well developed metaphor in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Paul expands on this metaphor in the verses that follow, pointing to the need for unity among God’s people even as they rely on each other’s unique gifts to be one whole people. The point is that nobody can claim to be completely independent and self-sufficient apart from other human beings. We need each other. We are in this together.
But lately it has seemed as though the whole body were a nose, potentially breathing in germs, and spreading them to others. Since we have been taking such care to slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, wearing masks, gloves, and other protective equipment, and since we have been trying to maintain a two-meter distance separation from other people, not touching anyone to shake hands, or hug anyone who needs encouragement, it is possible to start viewing each other simply as potential carriers of disease. This would be a tragedy and would lead to much worse problems than more people contracting the virus.
Boy do I ever miss seeing your faces and shaking hands or sharing hugs after worship! Do I ever miss gathering as the Body of Christ around His table, to be fed with the true food of forgiveness. We’ve figured out a few things about technology and have done our best to connect with each other through the internet, but none of that is a replacement for gathering together like we used to do. Dear friends, what I am writing to you is not new. We know this! We know that we need each other. We need the diversity of the body of Christ, for none of us are complete on our own.
Therefore, as spending time together slowly becomes possible this summer, let's continue to do our best to keep each other physically healthy. But let's also put our hearts and minds toward the health of the whole body of Christ. Pick up the phone and call someone who is alone. Get to know someone you’ve been curious to talk to. Plan an outdoor picnic and bring your own food. It might take a little more creativity, but we need this.
Eventually, we will carefully and safely resume the group activities we all need, to keep the whole body healthy. So let's treasure the privilege of cooperation. Let's savor the blessing of community, and let’s not ignore our deep and desperate need for each other! God bless you and keep you until we can share some time together. And thank you for your prayers and cards, emails and texts and phone calls. They have kept this lonely pastor from giving up.
With the love of Jesus, the Lord of Life,