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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Promise of the Sensei

You know the scenario – it’s been the staple of so many movies that the industry gives it an acronym: COA (for “Coming of Age”).

It starts with “the Kid.” Young, male, lots of promise, but no experience. Still wet behind the ears, and caught in a situation that has put him waaaay over his head.

You know – like Luke Skywalker. Or Daniel LaRusso in “the Karate Kid.”

Anyway, the Kid needs help – and that’s where “the Sensei” comes in. The teacher. The grizzled old vet who’s been there, done that, and survived it all.

You know – like Yoda. Or Mr. Miyagi. Or John Wayne in one of his later films.

And once the Sensei is on the scene, the rest of the movie writes itself:
  • The Kid meets the Sensei.
  • The Kid is not impressed by the Sensei.
  • The Sensei does something that makes the Kid realize he’s got a lot to learn.
  • The Sensei reluctantly takes on the Kid as a student and teaches him The Way of the Warrior (which can usually be summed up in a single phrase, i.e. "trust the Force" or “wax on, wax off.”)
  • And then the Sensei steps back just in time for the Kid to win the final battle all by himself.

    Sound familiar?

    Good – because I want you to remember that scenario as you teach this week’s lesson.

    That's because you’ll be focusing on John 14: Christ’s promise of the paraklete, i.e. “the one who stands beside us.” (The lesson doesn’t make it clear that you should focus on John 14, but trust me – that’s where you need to be this week.)

    Now the key to John 14 is finding a good way to translate paraklete in a way that makes sense to your class. Go with “Comforter,” after all, and they’ll think the Holy Spirit is made of goose down. Try “Advocate,” and they’ll flash on Perry Mason or Boston Legal.

    (And believe me – you don’t want use the original Greek; try it, and your class will spend the rest of its collective life thinking of the Holy Spirit as a small, brightly colored bird that is fascinated by mirrors.)

    But the promise of a Sensei – the promise of someone who can teach us how to fight life’s battles . . .

    Well, you loved the movie.

    Now’s your chance to try it out in real life.

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