Practice

Book of Colossians Chapter 3 Verses 12-17   Newly Revised Standard Version

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Luke 2:41-52 The Voice

Every year during Jesus’ childhood, His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. When Jesus was 12, He made the journey with them. They spent several days there, participating in the whole celebration. When His parents left for home, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem, but Joseph and Mary were not aware. They assumed Jesus was elsewhere in the caravan that was traveling together. After they had already traveled a full day’s journey toward home, they began searching for Him among their friends and relatives. When no one had seen the boy, Mary and Joseph rushed back to Jerusalem and searched for Him.

After three days of separation, they finally found Him—sitting among a group of religious teachers in the temple—asking them questions, listening to their answers. Everyone was surprised and impressed that a 12-year-old boy could have such deep understanding and could answer questions with such wisdom.

His parents, of course, had a different reaction.

Mary: Son, why have You treated us this way? Listen, Your father and I have been sick with worry for the last three days, wondering where You were, looking everywhere for You.

Jesus: Why did you need to look for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be working for My Father?

Neither Mary nor Joseph really understood what He meant by this. Jesus went back to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother continued to store these memories like treasures in her heart. And Jesus kept on growing—in wisdom, in physical stature, in favor with God, and in favor with others.

What is practice to you?

Is it a noun or a verb? Does it sit up on a shelf or is it a part of your daily life? As Christians we are bound by our commitment to Jesus. But it takes practice. Weekly practice is this: the coming to church. When we enter through those doors we are saying that we want to believe.

Our daily practice is Love. Love takes on many forms.

There is guidance given like in the reading that Larry shared with you.

(The Message reads like this…) Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Love as an idea is easy. Love as an active part of every moment?

That is the one that takes practice.

My 20 year journey in martial arts has allowed me to witness the way that people practice. As a teacher I am somewhat obsessed with the way that people learn. I have found that there is a path, a common path that people take on the road to success. In a karate school a person’s belt rank indicates their level of Mastery.

White belts are nervous and excited. Their emotions make them vulnerable to making lasting decisions without all of the information available. On my first day here, at the Casco Village Church, the music was amazing. I decided to come back because it just felt right. I committed to the process, even though I didn’t know that Music Sunday only happens once a year.

Perhaps you haven’t begun your Christian practice yet and you have questions. Is this for me? Is Jesus someone I can believe in? Can I trust Him? Can I trust these people surrounding me? Will someone guide me? Can I get out without anyone taking notice that I was here?

My kids have grown up in the karate school. I asked them, “What is a word that describes yellow belts?” They agreed on…irritating.

OK. I am pretty sure they get the broken filter from me, but I get it. Yellow belts are actually pretty amazing. They are still excited about karate and not bored with the routine. They have had some initial successes and have been praised for their good efforts. However, they often seem arrogant because they lack the experience to back up their attitude of confidence.

When I was a yellow belt I was invincible. I thought I could handle myself. I knew self-defense.

I returned home from a business trip. Took the T to the end of the Red line. I was wearing a nice outfit and shoes, no sneakers, and trailing my wheelie suitcase. Instead of taking the bus or hiring a cab, I decided to walk the mile home. At night. By myself. On the bike trail.

Brilliant? No.

Hubris? Yes. Tempting the Gods. I am lucky to be alive.

The story we hear in Luke about Jesus staying in Jerusalem strikes me as a yellow belt moment for him. He is passionate, he is knowledgeable, but he allows his parents to leave without him. This would be like leaving your kid at the Fryeburg Fair. As a parent how would you feel about that? The child would focus on the things he wants, the Ferris wheel, the food, and the animals. But, does it feel like they are lacking the big picture here? The dangers. The expectation that you had about them meeting you at the car.

Can you just imagine a 12 year old Jesus? My son, Nick, is 12. I think Jesus would have been more serious, old for his age. But I think they both hunger for independence. It is the job of a 12 year old to challenge authority, to be creative with the rules and to generally freak out their parents.

At first glance I really did think this was a description of yellow belt arrogance. As a parent that is my assessment. But it is Blue belts who test their environment, ignore the rules and passionately delve in.

Staying in Jerusalem is a part of Jesus’ journey to Mastery. He is sitting in with the religious teachers as an equal. In scripture this is the only scene that we see of Jesus as a young person. His immersion as a student is necessary. Even Jesus needs to study! It is good for us to see Him intently building his own human foundation of belief.

This process. The one we continue today. Sitting together. Sharing lessons. Dissecting. Testing. Challenging. Debating. Arguing with each other about our beliefs. These are the steps to becoming an advanced student of Christ.

My instructors used to always say, “Green belt is the first recognized belt of advanced rank.”

Green belts are talented. They have great skill. They have seen most of what there is to see. They are the disciples. They have great knowledge but they still have doubts. Doubt often manifests itself as blame.

In Mark Chapter 4, Jesus Stills a Storm.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with them. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In this one story we can see Jesus transforming from teacher to Master. From earthly to Godly.

We witness the disciples as they grapple with this changing scope of who they thought Jesus was. I have this picture in my mind of a bridge. The Disciples are in the middle. On one side of the bridge is belief, on the other is faith. Every time they witness Jesus’ acts of love they take another step toward faith.

We are disciples too.

No one starts with Faith. Faith is a process. A practice.

Trusting in Jesus when we feel afraid takes practice. Practice is the means for traveling across the bridge. It can be a difficult and messy journey. Doubt and fear can freeze us or send us stumbling backward. Giving and receiving love propels us forward.

Jesus is telling the disciples that they have the tools to deal with the situation. He acknowledges their doubt, and protects them anyway. It inspires me to know that they experienced stormy times in their lives and in their thinking. It makes it ok for us to do the same.

In martial arts we have a saying: Mizo no kokoro, Mind Like Water.

Water is a representative for the way that we think. If our thinking is jumbled then the water is tumultuous and wavy. When we are able to calm our thoughts the glassy surface of the water will reflect our surroundings with clarity.

The disciples are surrounded by a storm. They still have not understood the power of the One who is resting within the vessel.

Jesus reprimands the wind. 

The disciples are asking themselves, “Who is He to tell the wind what to do? To claim dominion over the forces of nature?”

Peace be still!” And the waters calm.

Peace be still!” I was at the helm.

Peace be still!” If you truly believed you would not be scared.

Peace be still!” If you had the peace of my love in your heart you would see that I was here all along.

Peace be still.” The storm is within you.

Peace be still.” Believe in Me and the waters will calm.

When the waters are calm you will be able to see clearly. Believe in Me and I will defend you, and even when you doubt Me, you can ask for help and I will protect you.

The focus of Brown belt rank is refinement of technique.

In this stage of development for the disciples they witness many things: they hear him preach so they know the words to say. They see him heal so they know the actions to take. They see him perform miracles so they know of the infinite possibilities. Their belief is solidified into faith by experiencing the actions of a loving God. With each step that they take across the bridge they are less believers; more faithful servants.

Finally, Jesus commissions them to go out as apostles, as teachers. In karate they would have reached Shodan rank, or first degree black belt.

Let’s review.

White belts are excited, nervous and emotional.

Yellow belts have hubris. They tempt the Gods with their arrogance.

Blue belts challenge authority by creatively bending the rules.

Green belts are talented, but blame others for their failures.

Brown belts take responsibility for their actions and continue to build

on their foundation.

Black belts teach.

However, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a black belt test,

you will invariably hear a member of the testing panel tell a newly minted

black belt, “Now your learning can begin.”

Jesus is the Master.

Tsuki no kokoro. Mind Like Moon is reserved for the Master practitioner.

Imagine yourself outside on a cold Maine night. The air is crisp. You pull your jacket closer around you and the moon is shining. Can you see your surroundings? Are you surprised by how well you can see at night?A mind that is reflective like the moon can see all things, even in darkness. The vantage point is other worldly. Time is irrelevant. Deep knowledge of past and present allows him to know what will happen in the future.

Bu Shi Do. The way of the samurai.

A master warrior who spends his life pursuing the art of war. A master student. He pursues the art of calligraphy and meditation with equal focus as he pursues combat training. He knows his opponent and he knows himself. He can predict the actions of an attacker because he possesses full knowledge. He is calm in the face of death.

Jesus is the Master teacher. He understands what it is to be human.

He follows an earthly practice to a Godly place.

Let us follow His example.

Let us study together.

Let us challenge one another.

Let us be Humble.

Let us be thankful.

Let us forgive.

Let us Teach Love by Giving Love.

Let us go out and Practice.

Amen.

Posted in Art of Teaching, Stages of Mastery, This is Karate and tagged , , , , , , , .

2 Comments

  1. What a thoughtful message, Lisa! I enjoyed reading your perspective on following Christ’s example of sacrificial love through practicing not only what He said, but what He did in dying for us. Thank-you for writing this.

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