The Requiem Series
This 8-part series explores the contours of grief and Christian hope, and highlights the biblical passages interpreted by Johannes Brahms in his classic chorale work, A German Requiem. For a deeper dive into both the Bible and the music, see Carol Bechtel’s curriculum, Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy: The Bible and Brahms’ Requiem (Kerygma 1996; Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy ).
Read: Isaiah 40:6-8
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Traditional requiems focus on the peace of the dead. Brahms’ Requiem focuses on the peace of the living. Yet, what will it take for those living with grief to be truly at peace?
Brahms answers this question with these verses from Isaiah 40. They remind us that true peace lies not in delusions of our own strength, but in our relationship with an eternal God.
I learned something about this contrast the day I visited the funeral home for Annie, a young girl killed in a snowmobile accident. At one point I noticed Annie’s father slipping away from the long line of mourners. He bent over his daughter’s casket, stroked her hair, and gently planted a kiss on her forehead. The image of his fresh grief has stayed with me ever since, in part because it struck me as such a beautiful expression of grief held in hope’s strong embrace.
The death of a child is a cruel reminder of how quickly the human “flower” fades. Yet, peace is possible even in midst of pain when we realize that our fragile lives are rooted in God’s eternal grace.
Prayer: In our frailty, oh God, we surrender ourselves to that love that will not let us go.
Listening option: Brahms’ Requiem, Movement 2.