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A Karate Kid Musing

Do you remember the movie The Karate Kid? Now I am talking about the original movie, not the numerous sequels or even the current Netflix TV reboot. I am talking about the original one with Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi.

Everything about that movie was great.

It had the classic storyline of good overcoming evil when everything says the bad guys should win.

Think of it - the seemingly hapless victim Daniel, the high school transfer student outsider. He literally has sand kicked in his face, and later, against all odds, he literally picks himself up off the mat to win the All-Valley Karate Tournament. Daniel gets his girl and a pristine bright yellow 1947 Super De Luxe Convertible, and he does all of this accompanied by a great soundtrack.

Of course, Daniel can only do this because of the training he receives from the most unlikely of characters – Mr. Miyagi.

Mr. Miyagi is the unassuming old Asian-American apartment handyman with Bonsai trees growing in his workshop. To everyone’s surprise, Mr. Miyagi is a great karate master and hero from World War II who, through his unique training methods (wax on – wax off), helps Daniel-son go from 98-pound weakling to the hero who represents underdogs everywhere.

In one of my favorite scenes in the movie, Mr. Miyagi instructs Daniel on the importance of having “Balance!” He explains that without balance, one’s life is never really quite right, and in fact, a lack of balance can lead to disaster.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, just after Jesus is baptized, he is led to the wilderness, where he fasts for 40 days and then is tempted.

The Biblical text says this:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward, he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

This text contains several lessons, but central to them all is the idea of the importance of balance.

While Jesus was certainly physically hungry after 40 days of fasting, he knew that he needed not only physical nutrition but also to be spiritually fed. Jesus was explaining that it was not one or the other but that both were essential needs for humanity.

Later, when teaching his disciples how to pray, he says we should first ask for daily bread, which, if I understand the text, encompasses both physical and spiritual sustenance.

I know nice folks who do good deeds, but often those deeds and their work comes and goes based upon whatever is the cause of the moment for them. Everything is done on a whim. There is nothing that spiritually guides and grounds them.

I also know other folks who never get their hands dirty or sacrifice anything. Instead, they offer only thoughts and prayers. These folks are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.

Jesus is instructing us in this passage just as Mr. Miyagi instructs Daniel. By Jesus’s word and witness, he declares that we need to take care of both body and soul for a full life, including both physical and emotional health. Friends, we need to pray for one another and care for folks’ spiritual needs, and we also need to engage in acts of mission and ministry.

It is not an either-or but a both-and.

Our lives and our service must be balanced. Jesus prayed and served. He spent time in discernment but also engaged in action.

May we seek to be like Jesus as we walk our daily lives, even as we yearn for that promised day declaring, “Come Lord Jesus.”

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.


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