The Requiem Series – We Have to Be Carefully Taught

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 ).


Study #4

We Have to Be Carefully Taught

Read: Psalm 39:4-7

Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days….

Most of us go through life in various levels of denial about the fact that we are going to die. Teenagers are notorious for thinking—and acting—as if they were immortal. But most of us don’t like to think about our own mortality at any age. It often takes an illness or a tragedy to give us a “reality check.”

When the psalmist prays for God to teach him the measure of his days, he is asking for just this kind of reality check. It may seem like a strange request. Yet, we will often live our lives more wisely once we learn this lesson.

In Dickens’ famous short story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed by a vision of his own name on a tombstone. While most of us do not  experience such a dramatic personality transplant, a close brush with death will often produce a significant change in attitude.  We savor things we used to take for granted. And we know—as the psalmist does—that our hope lies, not in ourselves, but in God.

Prayer: Teach us, O God, that our days are numbered. But teach us, as well, that in life and in death, we are the Lord’s.

Listening option: Brahms’ Requiem, Movement 3