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 ).
The Trumpet of God’s Triumph
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised….
1 Corinthians 15 bears witness to a God who not only comforts us in the face of death, but is actively doing something to defeat it. The trumpet blast signals not just creation’s re-birth, but also the “death of death, and Hell’s destruction.” Paul turns it into a kind of taunt when he asks, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
John Donne’s well-known sonnet, “Death, Be Not Proud,” takes a similar tone:
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die.*
Donne had reason to resent death’s arrogance. Much of his preaching spanned the ears in which London was ravaged by the plague. By the time he was forty-five he had lost his wife and five of his children. No wonder, then, if this poem—like 1 Corinthians 15—takes on a note of hard-won triumph.
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Almighty God, help us to know that not even death can separate us from your love.
Listening option: Brahms’ Requiem, Movement 6
*John Donne, The Holy Sonnets, number VI in The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1, edited by F. Kermode and J. Hollander (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 1052.