Most of us have jobs as vocations that simply mitigate the effects of the fall. Whether we are doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, soldiers, etc., we try to triage all the hemorrhaging, dying and societal ills of the world around us. Most vocations address the ugliness of the fall. As a specialized geologist I’m constantly trying to fix environmental disasters and impacts that threaten human health and the environment. All of these are effects of the fall. These vocations will be over at the end of all things and be no longer needed—hard as that is to imagine.
However, there is a category of vocation that truly finds and more expressly displays its meaning and purpose in the resurrection—the arts! Whether it is music, theater, visual, dance, food, etc., their existence only finds validity if there is a resurrection.
In the 1997 blockbuster movie “Titanic” there is the scene when the Captain orders the ship’s string quartet to play in order to calm the people while they attempt to board the life boats. Other than the attempt to soothe the passengers’ increasing panic of imminent doom—and given we know ahead of time how it turns out for most of the Titanic’s passengers—no act could seem more pointless. In the context of nothing but a horrifying death by drowning in the absolute hellish cold darkness of the North Sea, the playing of a string quartet seems to, at best, add mockery to suffering, or worse be the madness of Nero fiddling while Rome burns!
If there is no resurrection, then we have no true hope, and the arts above all vocations would be the folly of follies.
The arts appear completely foolish under such circumstances in a world whose fate is nothing but death. The arts would truly be the vanity of all vanities in this life if we were either headed to annihilation after death with no God, or worse if God was such that we had to work our way into His favor—for we would surely fail and be lost and condemned. If there is no resurrection, then we have no true hope, and the arts above all vocations would be the folly of follies. For what would be the purpose of beauty, imagination, wonderment, and joy? There would be no light in the world, only darkness.
Paul makes this very point, “…if Christ be not risen again, your faith is in vain, as we remain eternally condemned in our sins” (1 Cor 15:17).
The arts would be in vain if it were not for the forgiveness of our sins, the inevitable resurrection, and eternal life that we have as a sure promise in our baptisms (Acts 2:38, Rom 6:4-5, and Titus 3:5-7).
Easter is the high Christian holy day about the risen Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we’ve probably never thought about it, but Easter is also the Christian holiday about your resurrection and my resurrection in our baptisms. Christ is risen indeed and our baptism guarantees we, too, shall rise again on the last day! Resurrection through our baptism changes the vocation of the arts. Indeed, with the resurrection in sight, all of our vocations are changed from pointless efforts in a world without hope to one of a certain hope. The works and beauty of our vocations point to a joyous eternal ending, the resurrection of all who put all their eggs into Christ’s Easter basket.