Slideshow image

From Intern Quentin . . .

Grace and Peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ

I think one of my favorite story tropes is the unexpected hero. When the character who saves the day turns out to be the most unlikely person to do so. When we look for it, we can find that trope throughout the Bible and our Lutheran faith tradition. In the Bible, we see countless stories of God working through unlikely people and places to bring about good news or justice for the sake of God’s people and the world. Our Lutheran faith reminds us of this powerful way that we see God at work by pointing us toward the most powerful way that God does that by taking an instrument of death, the cross, and bringing about salvation for the world today. The fancy academic phrase for this trope in the Bible and faith is called Theology of the Cross. I think a great example of that Theology of the Cross, God working through the unexpected, comes from Kung Fu Panda starring Jack Black as the large, clumsy, main character Po the Panda, who ends up saving the world. 

The film begins when Master Oogway has a vision that a former student who fell to darkness will return to destroy their home, the Great Valley. To prevent this from happening, Oogway and his student Shifu set out to find the Dragon Warrior who will fulfill a prophecy to bring peace to the Great Valley. The place they search first are the Furious Five, five legendary warriors of the Great Valley, where Shifu believes one to be the promised Dragon Warrior. However, during the ceremony for Oogway to select the Dragon Warrior from among the Five, a large and clumsy panda named Po falls from the sky in front of the Five and is selected to become the Dragon Warrior. 

After Po is chosen, Shifu tries training Po in the ways of kung fu so that Po is prepared to fight the former student coming to destroy the Great Valley. At the start of Po’s training as the Dragon Warrior, Shifu makes Po’s training unbearable and horrid so that Po would quit and one of the Furious Five can take his place. Po is an unlikely candidate for the Dragon Warrior because he doesn’t meet Shifu’s expectations of who and what the Dragon Warrior should look like and be. In private talks with Oogway, Shifu complains that Po, a large and clumsy panda, cannot be the Dragon Warrior because he is nothing like the legendary warriors whom Oogway and Shifu have trained in the past. 

Even when Shifu manages to train Po in the ways of kung fu, Shifu and the other warriors still don’t believe that Po is the prophecy fulfilling Dragon Warrior because he is still a large and clumsy panda instead of a strong and mighty warrior. However, when the former student comes to destroy the Great Valley, Po is the one who defeats him and brings peace to the valley as the Dragon Warrior. Po didn’t win by being a great and mighty warrior, but instead embracing who he is and trusting that while he may not live up to everyone’s expectations of the Dragon Warrior, he trusts in who he is and believes that he can try. 

That trope of the unlikely hero is a great reminder that you don’t have to be special or powerful to change the world. Instead, it’s trusting that we can save or change the world as ordinary people because God is at work in unlikely and unexpected ways both around and through us. Even though Kung Fu Panda might be a silly and unlikely place to uplift something like Theology of the Cross, that God works through the unexpected and unlikely, I think it is an amazing place to remember and challenge ourselves that God does work in places and people we least expect. As we go throughout our day in this month of June, where do you see those unexpected places that God is at work around you and through you today? 

Peace and Blessings, Fraternally Quentin Surace