Diane and I are watching less and less national news; it’s just too upsetting to daily life. The poison seeps into your mind. “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Years ago Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”
You can think of life as a tragedy. Here we are on this beautiful earth, with its amazing forms of life, especially the abilities and beauties of humans. There’s talk about colonizing Mars. Who’d want to live there? Think about all the photographs you’ve seen of beautiful Earth from space, but down here so much is so, so wrong, so evil, and news national and news personal tempts us to despair. The view from space leads us to believe that our life on earth is a tragedy.
These days campus is filled with visitors for our annual Theological Symposium. This year’s topic is the cross. Jesus’ cross and our cross-carrying is the only thing I know that makes sense and gives purpose to life. The cross is about selflessness. “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45). You and I are called to the exact opposite of the smothering “me first” around us. “Most human unhappiness is the result of self-service and the result of the very flawed assumption that other people exist primarily for the service of oneself” (Daniel Deutschlander in Mark Mattes, Concordia Journal, Summer 2018, 72). The Jesus of the cross calls us to follow Him into lives of service to others. And remember, on the other side of the cross is resurrection.
“Is that all there is?” Peggy Lee’s song gives no hope. Jesus does. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Martin Luther puts it this way, “The cross alone is our theology.”