Study Guide: Some Dance to Remember, Some Dance to Forget

Sunday October 17, 2004 | Thorsten Moritz

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Thorsten Moritz, a Bethel Seminary professor, opened with this challenging question: “Are we prepared to live 'creationally' (in tune with the Creator) in a world of idolatry?” Focusing primarily on child adoption throughout the message, Moritz wondered if the abandonment of the world's waiting orphans experience is the result of this idolatry. It reveals, he argued, that people are operating with the wrong priorities. How prepared are we to be the primary tool of God’s recovery of this fallen creation? Just as God adopted us, shouldn't we (biblically) adopt others?

Extended Summary:

This week Thorsten Moritz, a Bethel Seminary professor, gave us a thoughtful challenge entitled: “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget…reflections about the waiting children of this world.” After some preliminary remarks, he told a story that set the context for this message. Having been asked to teach, Thorsten was traveling through Romania by train when he encountered a man who appeared to have had a difficult life. Clearly, this man needed dental work and appeared to have other, mental health issues. This was apparent in the way he was staring at Thorsten quite persistently. This uncomfortable encounter called to mind a previous experience he had while visiting a student of his who was the director of an orphanage in Romania.

At this orphanage, Thorsten remembered some kids walking round in repetitive patterns and others teetering back and forth. When Thorsten asked the director of the orphanage about why they behaved in this way, his reply was: “Those children walk the rhythm of pathology and desperation; some dance to remember and some dance to forget…” It occurred to Thorsten that the director was quoting the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles, written by Don Henley. “Hotel California contains a critique of the meaninglessness we find in life and hints at underlying idolatry weaved into our way of life,” said Thorsten, who rephrased this biblically in this way: “Are we prepared to live ‘creationally’ (in tune with the Creator) in a world of idolatry?” The situation of abandonment those kids experienced is the result of this idolatry. It reveals that people are operating with the wrong priorities. Several questions emerged:

  1. How prepared are we to be the primary tool of God’s of recovery of this fallen creation?
  2. How willing are we to face up to the sad reality of those kids?
  3. Aren’t there serious biblical grounds to force us to ask why are we not adopting others who need it, just as God adopted us?

At this point the Thorsten stepped back to paint in broad strokes the biblical context into which this and all situations must be made meaningful.

  1. The Bible makes it clear that there is one God.
  2. This God created us (matter is not evil).
  3. God remains committed to this fallen creation and is committed to recovering it!

Briefly, we see this commitment made evident in the goal set for Israel and fulfilled in Christ: God would have a witness in the world that truly shows what a full life looks like. A sort of advertisement to the world that God exists and life can be full and meaningful if we life in the self-sacrificial way that God intended. We have Jesus as the fullest example of this life lived for the sake of others. But how driven are we by the Christ event? By living out Jesus’ subversive values (instead of romanticizing them) we are challenging the idolatry of this world. (Greg refers to this as having Kingdom consciousness, and dancing with God.)
Thorsten challenged us to apply this Kingdom consciousness to children waiting to be adopted, waiting for a chance at life. The way we treat the world’s waiting children says a lot about our priorities. We are the only hope that those children have. This question of priorities matters for all of our human interaction. Theologically and biblically speaking, adoption is a precondition of true life. God had to adopt us because we had, and still have “attachment issues.” Adoption is another world for restoration. Thorsten challenged us to consider what is holding us back. He identified a number of potential things:

  1. Our self-obsession (I, the individual, am the highest priority), when in fact our spiritual instincts should be to live for the other. The life affirming option (biblically) is to be concerned for others.
  2. Our propensity to defend our chosen lifestyle no matter what. Is this God’s priority? We should be helping the world recover true life. Our lifestyle is secondary to that.
  3. Our knee-jerk deference to “corporate priorities” (profit and so on). Big shots in the corporate world are sometimes brought into the church to share their “expertise” in the ways of the world. We should go to the world to subvert it, not to ask for its philosophy.
  4. Our reductionistic view of salvation. We sometimes delude ourselves into thinking that “it’s all about me.” The idea that salvation is about heaven for the individual only is a strangely reduced view of salvation. The Kingdom of God involves community and peace (shalom) in all the earth.
  5. Our concept of conversion as a “one off” event, as though from conversion forward we are in a waiting room of sorts where we await either death or Jesus’ return.

Thorsten also listed the excuses about why we resist responsibility to adopt the world’s children.

  1. Predestination as typically understood (fate) prevents this
  2. One day God will replace this world (Gnostic tendency)
  3. Faith in action is about our individual relationships with God (narcissism dressed up)
  4. What matters most is that we preach the gospel (armchair theology)

And finally, he addressed several misunderstandings about child adoption:

  1. We have “our own children” that God has given us. (Parents with both biological and adopted children don’t speak this way! Biologically based definitions about “our own children” are an embarrassment to the Creator because God claims us all.)
  2. Too old? Too expensive? (Maybe we have resources that we can share with someone else who will adopt.)

Thorsten’s final challenge was that the world’s children live in “Hotel California.” Life could be heaven, but often it’s hell. Let’s spread the responsibility out and invite the world catch up with us. Doing this would reflect Kingdom priorities and the spirit of adoption that God has toward us.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Give each person in your group a chance to respond to the strong challenge that Thorsten offered us this weekend. How did it strike you?
  2. Whatever else we think of adoption, surely all Christians can agree that God intends the Church to be “the primary tool of God’s recovery of this fallen creation.” Discuss in your group what this recovery might look like. Does it include the adoption of children like those Thorsten saw, who are waiting for a chance at life?
  3. The list of five things that “hold us back” apply to more than the Church’s failure to care for the orphans and widows. It applies to all of the ways we fail to live the radical life of self-sacrifice that God has called us to. Which of these five do you think you struggle with most?