Greater Love Has No One
In September 1665, George Viccars, an apprentice tailor living in the Derbyshire village of Eyam, unpacked some cloth, recently received from London. It was full of fleas, plague-carrying fleas and within a few days George was dead. The infection, nearly always fatal, spread to other villagers and then seemed to quieten down as winter took hold. But in the warm months of 1666, it returned with a vengeance.
The newish Rector of the Parish, William Monpesson, came to the grim belief that the village needed to put itself into quarantine. Together with the recently ousted former Rector (that’s another story) he put the case to the villagers. Amazingly they agreed to follow this course of action, so in June the entire village went into voluntary isolation - a huge act of self-sacrifice. By the time the plague was over, 260 villagers had perished - including Monpesson’s young wife. One third or maybe one half of the village were dead. But who knows how many lives in the surrounding towns and villages were saved because of their courageous action?
At the heart of our Christian faith is the truth, seen especially in Jesus, that ‘greater love has no one than he lay down his life for his friend.’ Today as our city, nation and world face the epidemic crisis, we can both pray and do what we can to help our neighbours, whoever they are. Best of all, we know, that whatever happens, we need not ‘fear the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.’ (Psalm 91).
An adapted version of that psalm is available for you to read, use and share with any who are fearful.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save me
from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover me with his wings, and under them I will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be my shield and buckler.
I will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at my side,
ten thousand at my right hand,
but it will not come near me.
If I say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and I make the Most High my dwelling,
no harm will overtake me,
no disaster will come near my tent.
For he will command his angels concerning me
to guard me in all my ways;
they will lift me up in their hands,
so that I will not strike my foot against a stone.
I will tread on the lion and the adder;
I will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because you love me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue you;
I will protect you, for you acknowledge my name.
You will call on me, and I will answer you;
I will be with you in trouble,
I will deliver you and honour you.
With long life I will satisfy you
and show you my salvation.”