• Rev. Noah Carter

Where Are You Staying?

In ancient Judaism, a young man who wanted to become a Rabbi would become an apprentice or a disciple. He would study the scrolls with the rabbi, eat what the rabbi ate, sleep where the rabbi slept. He would accompany the rabbi in all of his tasks and duties. In a certain way, the student would take on the life of the rabbi: the student becomes the master. This was the fascinating dynamic that Daniel LaRusso had to learn which made popular the 1984 classic hit “The Karate Kid.” Recently, a sequel television series, “Cobra Kai,” was released that presented similar themes. As the series unfolds, the students become more and more like their individual senseis, and this forces the senseis to look at their own lives to see whether they are worth imitating.

If we are to be like Jesus and imitate him, we must be near him always. There must be a closeness that resembles a student to a rabbi, a Daniel to a Mister Miyagi, a seminarian to a priest. We see that relationship being formed in the Gospel today. As soon as two of the disciples see John the Baptist point to Christ, they ask him “Where are you staying?” They show their intention of following him, staying with him not just for a night, but for the long haul of training and learning.

In the current climate of our country, people are moving from bubble to bubble. So many go first to the “news bubble” for information. Then, if that isn’t baffling enough, they run over to the “science bubble” and get more information. But when their political certainties and scientific outcomes don’t measure up to what was promised, only then they MAYBE offer a prayer, go to church or open up a Bible. So many are looking around and asking, “How did we get into this mess!?” We ended up here because we have substituted our Savior for “experts.” We became anxious, fearful, and unwilling to suffer because we made a political candidate, news commentator, or medical expert our rabbi, our teacher. Like good disciples, we spend the whole day with these experts. We eat, sleep, travel, and lounge with them always talking in our ears. Similar to students studying under different rabbis or resembling karate students from different dojos, we even fight about who has the better way, brighter future, or better teacher.

“Better to take refuge in the Lord than to put one’s trust in mortals. Better to take refuge in the Lord than to put one’s trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). Mortals and princes make guarantees and offer paths forward. But our true Rabbi is calling us to draw close to him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24), and in these days it is easy to tell who someone’s master is.

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