The Death of Death

In light of some recent happenings in the congregation, I once again come back to that very famous poem by John Donne:

Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

The texture of the entire poem is rich and full of images worthy of note. However, I come to that last line: “And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” What does it mean for death to die? We have the images found throughout Scripture of the world to come — the kingdom of God that is at hand — but far too often I think that people really envision this as a continuation of life as we have always known it. Ironically, life as we know it is a life defined by the knowledge of death and the passing of time. When death dies, I think, the words of John will be truer than we can imagine: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” -1 John 3:2

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