This is the introduction to a sermon that I preached this morning at Park Avenue UMC in Minneapolis.  It is a little long to post as one blog post, so I’m breaking it into a couple of parts.  Enjoy. 

Photo Credit: Toni De Gea

Yesterday, as soon as I got out of bed, I got up and went to the store to pick up The Hunger Games on DVD.  I watched it about an hour after I got home.

Many of you I am sure are familiar with the story, have seen the movie or have read the book.  Some of you I am sure are not.  But there is one scene that I want to share with you this morning.  The basic setting of the Hunger Games is a future North America, the country of Panem – a name that means “bread” in Latin.

Syrian Bread Oven
Photo Credit: Alsalam

This country is incredibly poor in the outer districts, and the residents are exploited by a very wealthy minority in the capital.  While in the capital there is excessive waste and a focus on fashion, luxury and entertainment in the districts there is almost constant hunger and daily struggle to survive.

The heroine of the hunger games, Katniss Everdeen, comes from district 12, the coal mining district in Appalachia.  She has a younger sister, a mother and a father.  When her father dies in a mine accident, her mom shuts down emotionally and it becomes Katniss’ responsibility to feed and take care of her family, though she is just a child.

On a rainy  day at the end of winter, Katniss goes through the back alleys of the block where the merchants have their homes and businesses, picking through the garbage hoping to find something that could ease the hunger of her family.

When the Baker’s wife finds her she yells at Katniss, Katniss being exhausted, collapses and just sits in the alley.  The baker’s son however, Peeta, purposefully burns a few loaves of bread, he too gets yelled at and hit by his mother, who tells him to feed the bread to the pigs.  Peeta starts feeding the bread to the pigs, but when his mother has gone back inside, he throws the loaves to Katniss.  Katniss has food for her family. She has hope. The next day, she sees the first dandelion of spring and remembers that she can harvest the leaves of the plant for food.  through the bread and the dandelion, Katniss finds hope.

Food is such a powerful symbol.  Hope.  Sustenance.  Life.

The Bible even starts with a story of eating – “you may eat any fruit in the garden, but do not eat that one.”  “You should eat it.” “Did you eat it?”  “She made me eat it.” “He made me eat it.”

It was for grain that Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt.

It was Manna- the mysterious bread called   “what is it?” that sustained the Israelites in the Exodus.  The same Israelites grumbled about missing garlic while they wandered the desert.  Temple worship included lots of offerings of grain, bread, oil, meat. The promised land is described as flowing with Milk and Honey. Jesus’ first miracle is turning water into wine.

I’m working on an inner-faith project for youth from Park Avenue, Mt. Zion Temple, and the African American Registry.  The youth will be exploring the history of Jim Crow Segregation and the Holocaust of the Jews.  Ben, Kate, and Ana, the other adults on the project, are all Jewish.  I am the only gentile in the group of four.  On our first meeting, Ana declared, “We are Jews, and Jews cannot have a meeting without food.”  Thus far this seems to be true.  I’ve had delicious honey cranberry pastry, lavash, hummus, strawberry lemonade and more to come I’m sure.

In Jewish culture, now as then, food was incredibly important.  One of the easiest ways to start learning any culture is to eat.

It is powerful then that Jesus calls himself “bread.”

Some of my thinking around this introduction comes from Julie Clawson – from “One Hand Clapping” and her book, The Hunger Games and the Gospel.

Disclosure: The links for movies, dvds and books will take you to my Amazon affiliate page.  You pay the same price that you would elsewhere, but I get a very small percentage of the money that Amazon takes.  Don’t feel any pressure to buy, I just like these things. 

The Hunger Games and the Gospel (Study Guide Edition): Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games [2-Disc DVD + Ultra-Violet Digital Copy]