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Death be not proud

God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. Acts 2.14a, 22-32 ( NRSVA)
Last week we looked at one of the passages in The Acts of the Apostles in which Luke sets out ‘The Kerygma’, the first proclamation of the Gospel by the Early Church. This is another of those passages. It comes from the section of Acts which describes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians, and that’s where we normally focus our attention, but this is actually the first declaration of what the Early Christians believed about Jesus. 
This sermon is very similar to the one we read on Easter Day, but two things stand out. Peter stresses that the betrayal and execution of Jesus wasn't an accident, or even a victory for evil over goodness. It happened ‘according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.’ It was intentional. Second, he zooms in on the resurrection; ‘God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.’ For added effect Peter paraphrases Psalm 16.10, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
In the television adaptation of Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning, the main protagonists, Guy and Harriet Pringle, flee from Greece ahead of the invading German army on a battered cargo ship. Suddenly it’s threatened by a marauding u-boat. The engines are cut and everyone has to stay absolutely silent to avoid detection. As the sun sets the only sound is Guy, reading quietly - but still audibly - the words of John Donne’s poem, ‘Death be not proud.’ It’s a memorable image, although in the books Guy is actually a committed atheist.
‘Death, be not proud,’ writes Donne, ‘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.’


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