Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Reading Ramblings – June 24, 2018

June 17, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 24, 2018

Texts: Job 38:1-11; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

Context: There are alternate texts available for this Sunday to observe the birth of John the Baptist, but I opted not to follow that line. The texts today lead us to wrestle with the otherness of God. We are not privy to much of what He does, or why and how He does it. At times this can make God seem very distant to us, despite his promises that He is always with us. We want to know more, but God is firm that it is not our position to question. As creations we are not privy to the mind of the Creator, but rather are called to trust in him based on what He has said to us in his Word, and what He has done for us in the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ.

Job 38:1-11 – Arguably one of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. After chapter upon chapter of Job’s suffering, we anticipate an encounter with God where Job’s questions are answered, his suffering is explained, and he is given the peace of both a restored life and better understanding of the ways of God. And while he’ll eventually have his health and life restored, he isn’t going to get any further in terms of an explanation from God. Instead, God shows up in power and majesty demanding that Job should answer him, rather than the other way around. Who is Job to make demands for explanation from God? Who is God’s equal to demand anything from him? What makes Job think that he will be able to understand what God would explain to him, even if God decided to do so? Job is only a man. His life a brief wisp in human history. God is eternal and the creator of all things, and owes explanations to no one.

Psalm 124 – A beautiful psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the God who did not prevent tribulation, but rather delivered his people rather unexpectedly in the midst of it. The psalm describes some sort of conflict. Might it be David’s personal conflict with Saul, which God preserved David in the midst of and through? Might it be some larger conflict after David ascended the throne? This is one of the songs of ascent, psalms typically recited by the Israelites on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It therefore has a corporate sense to it that makes more sense than simply describing the difficulties of David. Some scholars presume that the psalm was authored by someone other than David, at a date following the Babylonian exile, but there is no evidence for this. Perhaps the psalm is deliberately vague, intended not to reflect a specific event, but to be applicable to a variety of situations which, personal or otherwise, could still be a cause for corporate praise to God. The psalm ends with a statement or affirmation of faith and trust in God. His care in the past is ample reason to trust him in the present and the future.

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Although not strictly intended to work with the Gospel and Old Testament lessons, this section does indeed work with them. Paul commends to the Corinthians behavior he has modeled to them, behavior that seeks to be even-keeled in all situations and circumstances, always with an eye towards giving witness to Jesus Christ to those around him. His intent seems to be to encourage the Corinthians towards greater honesty or generosity with him (vs. 11-13). Paul is giving his all for the Gospel, and wishes the Corinthians to enlarge their participation in this as well, perhaps through ministry gifts for him. The Corinthians who have received the very grace of God through Paul’s preaching (vs.1-2) are encouraged to be equally gracious with Paul.

Mark 4:35-41 – The central tension here is not simply the danger of the disciples, but their shock or dismay or anger that Jesus seems unaware and unconcerned with their danger. Assuming a boat large enough to accommodate all 13 of these men, such fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee today purporting to be similar to the ones of Jesus’ day have benches along the sides and back where people can sit, and perhaps it is here that Jesus is sleeping, up off the main deck where the waves are breaking and beginning to overwhelm the ship. Some scholars point out that the water is often a symbol of chaos or even evil for first century Hebrews. While this may be true, we want to avoid attempts to make this a metaphor rather than an actual event. This is not a theological Q&A session about why Jesus doesn’t stop evil in the world, but rather an actual moment of fear and uncertainty for these experienced fishermen. How can Jesus sleep so soundly when they’re in such danger? How can Jesus be so unconcerned about their welfare?

Interestingly enough, this is not a question the disciples are rumored to have repeated later in their lives, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. By then, they did not doubt their Savior’s immense love for them even when their situations were dire and deadly. But here, early on in their experiences with Jesus, they are led to wonder whether He really cares for them. Surely the man who can cast out demons and deliver people from illnesses and disease must be able to provide some sort of protection for them in this storm, and yet He hasn’t!

Jesus doesn’t answer their question, but rather eliminates the cause of their fear and doubt. They are left as they began – with him. This is the one constant in the whole scene, is Jesus’ presence with his disciples. And at the end, it is this presence – the presence of one who can still the waves and the winds – that is their new source of fear. It is only after the storm is dealt with that the disciples are said to be afraid. During the storm they could deal with the storm but not with their rabbi’s disinterest. After the storm they have to come to grips with who is among them – no ordinary rabbi to be sure! No simple healer or wise teacher. Here is someone with real and true power beyond anything they can conceive of. The divine presence is oftentimes a cause for fear – as per Job’s response to the Lord’s appearance in Job 40.

We are never to doubt or fear both God the Father’s constant presence and care as well as his good disposition to us through Jesus Christ. While we may not understand why He allows us to endure certain things, we can rest assured that regardless of the outcome we are eternally safe in his hands.


Your Family Altar – June 17, 2018

June 17, 2018

A Weekly Devotional Resource

  • Sunday – Reflect on this morning’s service & sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Job 38:1-11
    • Why do you suppose God shows up in the power of a whirlwind?
    • Why does God question Job instead of answering Job’s questions?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
    • Why is now the favorable time and today the day of salvation?
    • In  what circumstances have you been called on to serve God?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – Mark 4:35-41
    • When is the first time the disciples are said to be afraid?
    • What becomes the disciples greatest fear?
  • Thursday Psalm 124
    • How has the Lord delivered you from dire straits?
    • How does repeating verse 8 help in a difficult time?
  • Friday – Luther’s Small Catechism – Daily Prayers
    • Which prayer do you find most meaningful and why?
    • When do you find yourself most commonly praying?
  • Saturday – Hymn – O God, Our Help in Ages Past
    • How have God’s saints dwelt secure (v.2)?
    • How is God’s eternal nature a source of comfort (vs.3-4)?


Reading Ramblings – June 17, 2018

June 10, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost ~ June 17, 2018

Texts: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 1; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Mark 4:26-34

Context: What the Lord purposes, He can bring to fruition. No matter if it seems unlikely or impossible. Regardless of the odds set against it. And, most tellingly, in spite of our limited and feeble efforts. We tend to focus much of our attention on ourselves and what we are doing. We feel good when we feel we are being obedient and we are disappointed or furtive when we know we have failed to be obedient. But our real focus and emphasis should be on God rather than on ourselves; on his promises to us rather than on our efforts towards him.

Ezekiel 17:22-24 – Human power and achievement (or what we think is human power and achievement) is nothing compared to the power and purpose of God. It is our continual insistence in relying on the former that brings frustration and actually risks running contrary to the latter, and in such instances, we should not be surprised that the latter prevails over the former! God here foreshadows the (temporary) end of the Davidic line of kings who sought by diplomacy and various other arts to accomplish the security that was God’s alone to provide. Instead of the illusions of strength and power that they sought to convey to those around them, God foreshadows the way He will work deliverance – through someone small and insignificant (in comparison). God’s Messiah will lack the accoutrements of earthly glory but will reach a stature that can give shade and shelter to all who seek it. He will do this despite the seemingly small odds of such a plan succeeding, and history has shown his foresight to be surpassed only by his willingness and ability to bring his plans to pass.

Psalm 1 – The beginning of the psalms introduces the entire arc of the collection. Wisdom and blessedness comes not in human designs but rather in the study and application of God’s Word. This should form the central study and practice of our lives, to the best of our ability. Such a focus will ensure that God’s wisdom and therefore God’s power is always ours, lending a permanence to who we are that cannot be equaled or surpassed. Even the mighty will one day fade and be forgotten, but the one who dwells in and on God is never forgotten. The psalm presumes that judgment will come, a separation must occur between good and evil and it will be on that day that the fruits of God’s Word in us will finally be made fully evident. All other alleged alternatives will disappear.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Paul’s letter to the Corinthians echoes some of the sentiments in the other readings. He speaks metaphorically of our lives here (earthly tents) as opposed to our eternal lives in Christ (building from God, house). Note the difference – temporary versus permanent. Barely adequate versus fully sufficient. We long in our bones for who we are intended to be in Christ – immortal, perfected, returned to the state of innocence and perfection lost in Eden. Though we cling to this life fiercely, our real lives will far surpass and swallow up this one. This is our hope and encouragement. Life is not a gradual fading away into death, but rather a growing day by day into the true life we will receive in full in Christ’s return. We long for that day but we wait for it obediently, living our lives out here and now in imperfect imitation of the authentic life we will one day receive. Our obedience now is marred and flawed where one day it will be effortless and perfect. There is no disjunct between this life and eternity, despite death interposing itself between the two. We seek in our obedience now to be consistent with the people we already have been created to be in Christ.

Mark 4:26-34 – God chooses to work through small and insignificant beginnings, humble and deceptive in their potential and their reality. Like a small seed that grows into an immense bush, or a clipping of a mighty tree that grows into a mightier tree, or like you and I in our weakness here and now, who will one day be revealed in the strength and perfection of Christ within us. We obsess over size and power, and so we continually speak in terms of strengthening and growing our faith. Jesus speaks in terms of receiving an almost imperceptible faith, and trusting that it will work in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. It infiltrates in small ways and grows to overtake reality, displacing the weak and imperfect and broken with the perfection of God’s presence and reign.

We are to take hope in this. While we seek to grow and mature in our faith and practice, we shouldn’t do so in terms of comparison to others. If their faith and practice is more consistent, then we pray that ours will one day be as well. The life of faith exists in trusting God to do what He has promised to do rather than evaluating one another in judgment. Our attention should be turned instead to doing the things daily we are led and called to do – study and meditation on God’s Word and putting that wisdom into practice in love towards God and our neighbor. These are the efforts that will be shown to last, and will bring with them blessings we are unable to even fully comprehend here and now!

Your Family Altar – June 10, 2018

June 10, 2018

A Weekly Devotional Resource

  • Sunday – Reflect on this Morning’s Service & Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Ezekiel 17:22-24
    • What do you interpret the sprig in these verses to be?
    • Who are the blessings of the transplant for?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
    • What is the tent which Paul talks about?  What is the house?
    • How do these verses guide you in how you live your life today?
  • Wednesday – Gospel  – Mark 4:26-34
    • Google a mustard seed.  How impressive is it?
    • Who is ultimately responsible for the seed’s growth?
  • Thursday – Psalm – Psalm 1
    • What is the source of blessing to the person described in this psalm?
    • What are the alternatives to this source?
  • Friday Luther’s Small Catechism – Sacraments – Holy Communion
    • What are the four things we receive in Holy Communion?
    • Similar to baptism, where is the power in Holy Communion?
  • Saturday – Hymn – Lord Jesus Christ, We Humbly Pray
    • What is the source of peace in Holy Communion (v.2)?
    • What is the source of Christian unity (v.3)?


Your Family Altar – June 3, 2018

June 3, 2018

A Weekly Devotional Resource

  • Sunday – Reflect on Today’s Service & Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament Reading – Genesis 3:8-15
    • Why do you think God addresses Satan first for punishment?
    • How is Jesus the fulfillment of 3:15?
  • Tuesday – Epistle Reading – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
    • Is Paul trying to ignore or hide his suffering?
    • How can Paul continue going despite the hardships he faces?
  • Wednesday – Gospel Reading – Mark 3:20-35
    • Why might the religious leaders assume demonic power in Jesus?
    • How do Jesus’ words in vs. 33-35 apply to you?
  • Thursday Psalm 130
    • What is the speaker asking mercy for?
    • Does the speaker receive what they ask for?
  • Friday Luther’s Small CatechismConfession
    • What are the two parts of confession?
    • Should we attempt  to uncover every little and last sin in confession?
  • Saturday –  Hymn – The Tree of Life
    • What did Satan use to tempt Adam and Eve (v.2)?
    • Note that two trees frame all creation history!


Reading Ramblings – June 3, 2018

May 27, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 3, 2018

Texts: Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 81:1-10; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6

Context: We now enter the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. We were also in this season briefly between Epiphany Sunday and the first Sunday in Lent. Ordinary time doesn’t have specific emphases compared to more specific seasons such as Easter, Lent, or Advent. As such, while the Old Testament reading and the Gospel will generally work together, the Epistle lesson will follow the lectio continua tradition of just working through particular books of the New Testament. Although we were working through 1 Corinthians at the start of the year, we’re now in 2 Corinthians. We also pick up more or less where we left off in our reading of Mark, the Gospel assigned for Year B of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary (LC-MS edition).

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 – This section of Deuteronomy is a recap of the Ten Commandments first given in Exodus 20. The particular verses have to do with the Sabbath. After hundreds of years in Egypt, many of the later ones in slavery, the Israelites are gifted with one day a week that is their own. Modeled after the Lord’s own respite from creation in Genesis 1-2, the Israelites are to honor God by observing a day of rest each week. The purpose is to remember that the Lord has brought them out of slavery, out of a condition where they owned nothing, not least of which their time. But now one day every week they can rest and give thanks to God for his provision for them. Moreover, this is not just to be an observance for the Hebrews alone, but for anyone within their communities. Although eventually the Sabbath becomes more of a burden than a blessing, here it is clear that the intent is for relaxation and rest and enjoyment rather than worrying about what constitutes work or not.

Psalm 81:1-10 – This psalm pairs very well with the Old Testament lesson. God is to be praised rather than feared for giving the Sabbath, the embodiment of freedom. Yet perhaps his people have forsaken this generous and gracious God in search of other gods (v.9). They are exhorted to faithfulness, remembering the blessings of their God, undoubtedly in comparison with the non-existent blessings of their false gods or idols. We are called to worship God for specific acts of mercy and graciousness, chiefly the forgiveness of sins in the incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Son of God. Compared to this vast gift, what can the world or other contenders for our affections and loyalty offer?

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 – Believers in Jesus Christ carry a treasure within them, an intimate knowledge of God’s glory as expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. We carry, as it were, a light that cannot be dimmed by any darkness on earth, and that promises to illumine every path in every dark hour. However this treasure is not discernible to others easily. It does not exclude us from the pain and suffering common to our broken world. Yet it does enable us to deal with such pain and suffering in a different manner, so that whatever we suffer does not claim us, does not mark and identify us in any permanent sense. We belong to another. And that other shines through us even as we suffer and are oppressed. It is our glory and privilege to allow Jesus to shine through our brokenness, so that all those around us – including those who are causing us pain and suffering – might see him. Paul can say that although he faces death, it has enabled him to show Christ to the Corinthians, so that now they possess true life.

Mark 2:23-3:6 – A repeated complaint about Jesus is that He violates the rabbinic teachings regarding the Sabbath. It’s one thing to say to abstain from work, but how does one define what is work? When is one about to cross the line from work to leisure and violate the third commandment? Clearly Jesus’ detractors feel He has crossed that line to some degree, though their tempered response to him seems to indicate that even they realize that there is room for interpretation and reinterpretation. And this is what Jesus does. Is it wrong to feed oneself on the Sabbath? Is gleaning a few heads of grain to be compared with harvesting a field? Jesus refers to 1 Samuel 21, when David requisitions holy bread from Ahimelech, which was not permitted for him or his men to eat. Yet Jesus expects that his critics will not condemn David’s behavior, as David is revered as king.

Similarly, when his critics stand ready to condemn him for an act of healing, He breaks down the Sabbath to it’s original intent – to do good to God’s people, rather than to do harm to them. If Jesus has it within his power and will to heal this man, it would be harmful for him not to do so, even if it is the Sabbath. In a very literal sense, Jesus is saying, the Sabbath is intended for just this sort of thing! His critics are missing the point of the Sabbath by turning it into a regulation that prohibits good being done, as though such good could violate the intent of the Sabbath law.

Although protesting Jesus’ violation of the Law, his critics demonstrate their own sinfulness in going out to plot his destruction, a violation of the fifth commandment (as per Matthew 5:21-26) as well as the eighth commandment against false witness against your neighbor. Clearly they are not really concerned with propriety and keeping the Law or they wouldn’t engage in these activities!

Your Family Altar – May 27, 2018

May 27, 2018
A Weekly Devotional Resource
  • Sunday – Reflect on this morning’s service and sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Deuteronomy 5:12-15
    • How do you interpret verse 14?
    • What should God’s people remember on the Sabbath (v.15)?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
    • Who is Paul a servant of (v.5)?
    • Who is to be glorified in our suffering (v.7)?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – Mark 2:23-3:6
    • Why are the Pharisees unhappy with Jesus and his disciples?
    • What does verse 27 mean to you?
  • Thursday –  Psalm 81:1-10
    • What do you think verse 6 refers to?
    • What problem do vs. 8-9 reveal?
  • Friday Luther’s Small CatechismSacrament – Baptism
    • Where is the source of power in baptism?
    • What does Luther mean by “the old Adam”?
  • Saturday – Hymn – Feed Your Children, God Most Holy
    • How is God’s feeding a source of comfort to sinners?
    • What is our ultimate goal in having God feed us?


Original Hospitality

May 22, 2018

As I’ve noted several times over the past few months, it’s been a challenging year.  It continues to be challenging, but either I’m getting used to that or they’re becoming easier to deal with.  Much is still yet unknown, but then that’s life for you.

One of the outcomes of these five months is  a very good reconnecting with my wife about the visions we once held for ministry and life together.  Visions that have never gone away completely, but in the starting and raising of a family and vocational changes and moving hither and yon across the country are easy to put on the back burner.  Visions that we have lived out in some ways all along, but that are larger than what we’ve been able to do so far.

Those visions center around a singular aspect of the Christian life, one that I argue is easily the most overlooked and neglected, and that is the gift/discipline/tradition of hospitality.  I still remember one of  my seminary professors, while explicating 1 Timothy 3:1-7 explained the requirement of being hospitable to mean basically being open and friendly.  While friendliness is certainly helpful in being hospitable, it showed me just how little – or how little valued – this aspect of Christian faith has become in our culture.

So I’m beginning some theological reading on the topic.  My wife beat me to the punch in starting the book I’m most curious about, Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes with a House Key.  We were both very impressed with her earlier book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.  This book demonstrated the powerful role Christian hospitality can have.

So while she reads, I’m working on Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl.  So far I’m not overly impressed with her treatment of Biblical or early Christian sources on the topic, but I’ll wait till the end of the book for a final review.  She comes at it from the idea of hospitality having to do with providing for the needs of the less fortunate, ie. the poor, refugees, etc.  I dislike the way this frames hospitality in terms of the haves and the have nots.  Certainly in Butterfield’s case, she would not have considered herself marginalized or needy in any way when she accepted a pastor’s hospitality.  I don’t plan on coming at hospitality from Pohl’s angle (at least as I understand or see her angle thus far), but of course it is one aspect or facet of hospitality.

The Biblical text that gets the ball rolling in terms of hospitality for many scholars is Abraham’s hospitality to three strangers in Genesis 18.  But it strikes me that really, hospitality begins literally at the beginning in Genesis 1 & 2.  In creating the universe and humankind, God instantiates the first instance of hospitality known to us.  He provides us with food and lodging in terms of creation itself, with himself as the host and Adam and Eve as the honored and beloved guests.  The entire parameter of existence in the Biblical tradition is one in which we extend hospitality to others because of this primal hospitality that we exist in, as well as the later formulations and witnesses to God’s graciousness in human history.

We can see an instance of hospitality gone awry in Genesis 3, as Eve extends to Adam what ought to be the hospitable gift of food, but which instead is the essence of disobedience.  Eve as host here, and Adam in his willing complicity to disobedience, demonstrate failed hospitality as they seek to mimic God’s hospitality to them, as well as the primal example of the bad and ungracious guest who seeks to take advantage of the host’s generosity and openness.

How do we model hospitality in a culture where it is no longer valued other than as a means for demonstrating one’s abilities or material wealth, or as a means of providing for the needy?  How do we not only model hospitality but teach it to others as a means of creating relationships wherein the Gospel can be shared and the Holy Spirit at work?  How do we engage in hospitality as a means of honoring the command to love our neighbor as ourselves?  How  do we learn to love and honor others even if they don’t think or act like us?

These are all themes that my family has been working with in various ways ever since my wife and I got married.  Some episodes were more memorable than others, but I can honestly say that this is one area we’ve been dealing with consistently all our lives together.  It’s the area we want to continue dealing with for however long God grants us together.  And it’s the area we want to continue to draw others into for experience, discussion, and the celebration of God’s great hospitality to all of us.  I look forward to seeing what that will look like!

Your Family Altar – May 20, 2018

May 20, 2018
A Weekly Devotional Resource
  • Sunday – Reflect on this Morning’s Service & Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament Lesson – Isaiah 6:1-8
    • What specific descriptors of God are given?
    • Which person of the Trinity do you think Isaiah sees?
  • Tuesday – New Testament Reading – Acts 2:14b, 22-36
    • Does Peter assume his hearers already know something about Jesus (v.22)?
    • What is the specific reason for Peter’s conclusion in verse 36?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – John 3:1-17
    • Who is Nicodemus and where else is he mentioned in Scripture?
    • What is the basis of salvation (v.15, 16)?
  • Thursday Psalm 29
    • Who do you think the heavenly beings are in verse 1?
    • How does God turn his strength towards us so we don’t fear him (v.11)?
  • Friday Luther’s Small CatechismSacraments
    • Who is supposed to be teaching these lessons and to whom?
    • What is the definition of a sacrament?
  • Saturday – Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy
    • Why do you think  the saints adore God (v.2)?
    • What darkness can hide God (v.3)?


Cultural Appropriation

May 16, 2018

Much fuss has been made in the past few weeks, both pro and con, over a young woman’s prom dress choice.  A girl in Utah chose a traditional Chinese dress as her prom dress, and after posting pictures online was accused of cultural appropriation, igniting a storm (well, a brief storm) of controversy over whether a non-Chinese person can wear a Chinese dress, which is really just a small scale discussion over whether anyone can utilize anything that is not from their own culture.  It sounds insane, I know.  But people apparently have a lot of time on their hands and they peruse it on their smart phones while they walk and buy groceries, looking for things to be outraged by.  Major news outlets picked up the story, so it must be important, right?

There are, admittedly, some terrible prom dresses out there.  Don’t just take my word for it.  But realize that you can’t unsee some of these things.

It got me thinking about the issue of cultural appropriation, something that has clunked around the back of my brain for decades now, courtesy of one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury.

I’ve written before of his ability to foresee issues that evolved well after the time of his writing.  Brighter readers than myself agree.  But the story that came to the forefront of my mind in regards to this prom dress debacle is one of his more obscure short fiction stories written in 1953 called Sun and Shadow.  I’m not sure if this is a legal online reprint or not, but you can read the story here.

I prefer Bradbury’s treatment of the topic to the Twitter storm associated with the prom dress.  There are related themes but he takes the time to flesh them out a bit, driving the point home solidly in the closing paragraphs.  How easy is it for us to turn locations and people and fashions into backdrops for our own enjoyment?  Very.  So easy, in fact, that I’m not sure it can be avoided.  History is one long cultural appropriation.  From one group to another.  One nation to another.  One continent to another.  And back again.  We are forever taking ideas from other people and other places.  Sometimes it can be done well and beautifully and sometimes it is merely exploitative and tawdry.  But it goes on constantly.

Is it possible in any given instance to give full appreciation to the sources, the founts from which we draw our spur-of-the-moment decisions in fashion or photography or even literature?  I strongly doubt it.  I can hope that it is done well rather than poorly, but beyond that there is no clear way to limit a dress or a photograph.  Movies are rebooting themselves at a dizzying rate.  Everything we do or say is impacted to some degree by everything and everyone we’ve seen or read.

We can get past the potential anger at such appropriation by remembering that the whims of fashion and culture are not purely our own devices, but rather are made possible by so many factors that all ultimately find their anchor in a common Creator.  A Creator who endowed us with great creativity of our own that matches – in an appropriate lesser degree – his own creativity.   I can appreciate a palm tree as well as a fruit tree, a hedgehog as well as a kangaroo.  When I see these as gifts of the Creator rather than some kind of cultural heritage for me to protect from everyone else in the world, it reduces my angst quite a bit.  Likewise, if we can appreciate fashion from China as well as from Mexico, it should be something that elevates and makes all of us better, drawing us closer together rather than providing a point for further dissension and disagreement.  Finally, if I can see even my cultural heritage as a gift rather than as a commodity, this should free me from seeing it as something in need of protection.

As a Christian, should we find it wrong to sing an African spiritual hymn if we’re predominantly a congregation of Western Europeans?  Is it likewise wrong to teach a traditional German hymn to a group of recently baptized Syrian refugees?  Or should we be able to celebrate the creativity of God expressed through a still-very-much-at-work Holy Spirit?  Should we not join hands in repentance as we continue to learn to see God from one another’s perspectives as guided by the Biblical witness?  If this is our goal and methodology, is it possible for us to still see other cultures, other histories, other fashions, other architecture as simply something to exploit for our own benefit or enjoyment or profit?

I think not.