No matter how we live, we are woven into a tapestry of life with others. “No man is an island” is a famous quote used often in explaining isolationism as an unhealthy way to live and almost impossible. But, where did this phrase originate? “No man is an island” is taken from a 1642 sermon by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. The Dean happened to be John Donne, a clergyman who now, almost four hundred years later, is regarded as one of the greatest English poets.
It is often assumed that “no man is an island” is from one of Donne’s poems: it’s ironic that though he is the author of some of the finest and most memorable verses in English poetry, this phrase, not from a poem, but a sermon, is the most famous quote from him.
Here is the full John Donne quote from his sermon:
“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 any manner of thy friends 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.”
The words “No man is an island” were embedded in a deeply Christian sermon about how human beings are connected to each other, and how important that connection is for the wellbeing and survival of any individual. When you hear the church bell tolling for someone who has died, don’t ask who it is, Donne says, just know that it’s tolling for you too because you are part of the same society and the death of anyone takes a part of your own life away.
The sermon is noted, not just for “no man is an island,” but also the phrase “for whom the bell tolls,” which was used by Ernest Hemingway as the title of his most famous novel.
Ah, now we get it—we’re all a part of the same tapestry, something much larger than ourselves alone. We are all woven into a one simple but yet complex and beautiful masterpiece. But, what is most important to know and remember is WHO the weaver of this masterpiece is for only then will the tapestry make sense.
Colossians 2:1-5, The Message
I want you to realize that I continue to work as hard as I know how for you, and also for the Christians over at Laodicea. Not many of you have met me face-to-face, but that doesn’t make any difference. Know that I’m on your side, right alongside you. You’re not in this alone.
2-4 I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”
5 I’m a long way off, true, and you may never lay eyes on me, but believe me, I’m on your side, right beside you. I am delighted to hear of the careful and orderly ways you conduct your affairs, and impressed with the solid substance of your faith in Christ.
THINK ABOUT IT—
We are a part of a One masterpiece, woven into a tapestry of the love of Christ in us.
Each thread is tightly woven, coming alongside the other to form a work of art to be on display in God’s Kingdom.
Woven together we form the minds of the Weaver, Jesus Christ, who is creating the work. We are all a work in progress. The work will not be complete until we see Him face to face.
“All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are embedded in the tapestry of knowing Jesus who is the source of unconditional love, mercy and grace.
The tapestry begins and continues with faith in the Weaver, the solid substance of knowing, believing and following without seeing Him. But we know He is there working in and through us to finish the work He started in all of us.
Thank you. Thank you for saving my soul. Thank you for saving the souls of all who come to you, confessing and repenting, believing and following, without seeing you now with the hope of seeing you later. This tapestry you are weaving is indeed a masterpiece of everyone’s stories connected to Your Story of redemption! How beautiful You are, Lord. How beautiful is your work in us! Continue your work in me. I will be flexible and pliable, listening and obeying, for I know your workr is best. Help me to love others in the tapestry like you love me. Thank you for weaving me into this great work of love forever with others. Come alongside us as we come alongside each other. I know you will. I trust in you, dear Jesus.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen