by Rev. Philip B. Wolf
For many, it is the latest fascination. For those washed shameless in Gods Sacrament of Baptism, it is the latest divine dinner bell calling from Camp Calvary to us, the satisfied, to serve those yet unsatisfied with the permanent solution to their hunger for life and love. For everyone, its The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games is the first of the Suzanne Collins trilogy of books, which also includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and its fan base is large and pervasive, especially since the book is coming to the big screen this month.
While the hunger games actually started in Gen. 3:6 in the Garden of Eden (and in Gen. 3:23-24, immediately east of the Garden of Eden), this latest version takes place in the not-so-distant future in the fictional country of Panem. The science-fiction/action/drama novel and movie portray a war-ravaged Panem still reeling from the effects of battle. Nearly 75 years later, the citizens are still under the control of the Capitol, which overtook the 12 surrounding districts and forced them to support the Capitol with their resources.
Life is one long party of super-abundance and unbridled self-indulgence for residents of the Capitol. But those in the districts suffer great deprivation, little freedom and ferocious punishment from the Capitol peacekeepers for infractions of any sort.
To make matters worse, the Capitol keeps the districts under control in a horribly gruesome way: by annually reaping one male and one female from each district to serve as tributes in the Hunger Games. The games are annual reminders to the citizens of Panems districts that they are never again to rebel against the Capitol, as they did during the war.
In the Hunger Games, tributes compete in the gladiator-like, nationally-televised arena, where the last living competitor is the winner. This futuristic reality TV is graphic entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol but heart-wrenching, psychological oppression for the districts residents.
The main character of the story is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, whose 12-year-old sister, Primrose, is selected as the girl tribute from District 12 in the reaping. Katniss lovingly volunteers to take her sisters place. When Katniss leaves for the games with the male tribute from her district, Peeta, the movies tension skyrockets in the uncertainty of whether theirs is a relationship of love or not. Throughout the book and the movie, readers and viewers learn more about the hunger for real, true life and, therefore, also real, true love, both of which are universal and timeless.
This world’s original parents, Adam and Eve, knew this hunger from the moment they sinned in Gen. 3:6, and it only grew stronger by verses 2324. They did not realize they already had what they thought they were acquiring. Because of their mistaken and misguided hunger, they and all their descendants came to know real, true death and lovelessness. They were now in a survival situation along with the citizens of Panem and us.
Thankfully, we have the promise of ultimate survivor status. This guarantee was fulfilled in Luke 2:11 and John 19:30. We see in Rom. 5:111 that the one, truly sufficient tribute justly due God has been paid by Gods Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us while we were yet sinners. The waters of Baptism have washed away all the damning shame of our sin. God declares us just, as though we never sinned. We have peace with God in His Son, Christ Jesus, and in the sacrifice of His life-blood on Calvarys cross. His empty tomb on Easter is our receipt from God, guaranteeing that Jesus eternal life is also our eternal life with Him in heaven. Because God gave us faith at Baptism, we are guaranteed survivors of our hunger games with all their life-threatening perils. But thats not all. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:37)
Real life and love seemed more like fiction than fact to Katniss in The Hunger Games. Things seldom were the way she thought they should be. She was confused and unsure of herself throughout The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
But by God’s grace, we stand in certainty of Gods gift of His eternal life and love. Because of our Baptisms, we are perfectly confident that we have Gods eternal life and love in faith in Christ Jesus. And since we are so confident of being far more than survivors of this lifes hunger games, we are free. We are free to witness our new hunger for Gods Word of life in His Word and Sacraments, which most certainly give Gods real, eternal life and love.
Here, all hunger for life and love is satisfied in Christ. Here, life and love are not games at which we play. Here, life and love are pure, perfect reality with no uncertainty, no illusions or deceptions and no fine-print escape clauses. Here, Christ stands in our place. Here, we are blessed.
About the Author: The Rev. Philip B. Wolf is pastor of St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church, Purdy, Mo.