God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
The readings for this week are all about abiding in God, being part of and being powered by God through Jesus. And this theme continues throughout May – our theme for sermons is “foundations for the future”.
Covid is not over. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel – and we are all hoping it’s not the headlights of an oncoming train! That said, we seem collectively to be starting to look at what the future might look like. What will life be as we learn to live with Covid long term, whilst coming out of lockdowns and resuming life with one another, instead of cut off from one another.
The idea of ‘with’ as opposed to being separate is deeply rooted in the readings set for this Sunday. In the gospel, Jesus uses the image of the vine, and that we are all grafted on to him, that he is the life-giving stem in which we all live. St John talks of God as love, and that loving one another is the sign and proof that we live in God and God lives in us. It is this that signifies the Divine being present in us.
We are all individuals, we are all unique. But the experience of the last year has taught us in a deeply visceral way how much we need one another if we are to thrive. John Donne (1572-1631) famously wrote the poem which opens with the words, “no man is an island, entire unto himself”. How very true. We are not created to live in isolation, but in community and relationship.
We can exist alone. But it is existence. To live – to be fully, vibrantly alive, to be the best and most colourful and joyful version of ourselves – we need others. In essence, this is why God is Trinity. We need a beloved – that makes us two. We also need another to love, who can be the object of the shared love of two others. Like two parents loving a child, who can share their joy in that love with each other. Like a child with one parent, sharing in their joy at the loving actions of the other parent. Always, the fullness of love is found in the relationship of three, or more.
Jesus gives us the image of the vine, of abiding in God, and of love as the signal that God does indeed dwell within us – alive, creative, and growing, even as the sap in the stem of the vine brings life and growth and possibility to the leaves and flowers on that stem, so that fruit may come forth.
I leave you with the words of Donne’s poem in full. It’s beautiful, and so true.
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.
Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash