Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mockingjay, Part 2

Last week, we finally witness the fourth and last installment of The Hunger Games movie series, based on the books by Suzanne Collins. It did not disappoint. This was a story that gripped me from the first chapter of the first book, and its echoes linger with me today. Unlike some other recent movie adaptations, this whole series captured the spirit of the original story. The finale was no exception.

 The interesting thing is that in my first post on this story (2012), I jumped ahead to Mockingjay because the themes of the story needed to be seen from the vantage point of their conclusion. In that post, I made the following observation:

Ultimately, the Hunger Games trilogy is a story of redemption, setting captives free, and standing up for "the least of these." And doing so at great personal cost. It reminds me alot of a true story, one that happened about 3,500 years ago.

And the final movie installment was true to this theme. It was powerful.


The highlight of the movie for me was the scene where District 13 President Coin (Julianne Moore) had gathered Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her friends in a conference room to discuss what to do now that the evil Capitol regime had been overthrown. How do you punish the oppressors? How does such a damaged society move on? Is there room for vengeance? How do you move on?

After the Exodus, the Israelites faced the same dilemma and they didn't handle it so well. They went through judge after judge, trying to find a godly leader to make them the people that God intended when he led them out of Egypt. But the subsequent history consisted of a repeated pattern of 1) promising to serve God and do things his way, 2) failing, 3) reaping the consequences, and then 4) starting over.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

And so, as the new makeshift council met, President Coin proposed the unthinkable. A new Hunger Games to kick off the new society, supposedly as a substitute for mass executions.

As the proposal was put to a vote, it was hard to imagine how anyone could even propose such a thing. We began to see in the eyes of Coin and Katniss the same thing, but from a different prospective. This government would be no better than the old. Symbolic gestures designed to keep the people under oppression.

Yep...Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What happened next gave me chill bumps. Katniss voted for the new Hunger Games, but with a condition. A condition that would allow her to put a stop to Coin. And then, in a marvelous piece of acting by the brilliant Woody Harrelson, Haymitch votes the same way with a look in his eyes that said, I don't know what you're up to, but I trust you."

Stories tell us about ourselves. This one told us about our self-destructive tendencies, our longing to overcome them, and our repeated failures to do so. But it also tells us about hope, about the need for someone to stand up and break the cycle. Thank God for the Messiah Jesus who came to break the cycle for us. If we will follow him, if we will trust him even when we don't know what he's up to in our lives, there is hope.

And for that I am thankful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Martian

I've always loved space travel. Not that I've actually done it, of course. But it has always fascinated me, and as a kid I dreamed that I would go one day. As a 10-year-old, I followed closely as NASA fought to get Apollo 13 home. And I thought sure I would be the first man on Mars. So that's why I was so excited to see The Martian.  

It was a fantastic movie, living up to the book by Andy Weir. There were so many things I loved about it. But I think there were three reasons that it resonated so deeply.
  1. It was based on science that seemed to be actually achievable in our lifetime, rather than being fantasy space movies like Star Wars and Star Trek (which I also love). If NASA were to get the funding to send someone to Mars, this is about how they would do it. So it reminded me of how I loved space travel as a child.
  2. It involved going to Mars, which, as I said, was a childhood dream.
  3. It was built around a rescue mission, with similarities to the real-life drama of Apollo 13. 
For those of you who don't know the premise, here's a trailer:

There were two strong themes that ran through the movie. First, there was the human spirit shown by astronaut Mark Watley (Matt Damon), who was trapped alone on Mars with no apparent prospect of escape. He proclaimed with determination, "I'm not going to die her." Then, there was the incredible teamwork back on earth (including multiple countries) and from the crew of his ship. So many people working overtime, racking their brains, investing unbelievably expensive resources, with the goal of saving one life.

Those two themes seem, at first glance, to conflict. A movie about individual determination, but also about working together and realizing you can't make it on your own. And yes, both are true.

This is the same apparent - but not actual - paradox we see in the 6th chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians. In verse 2, he writes, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." And then, just two sentences later (verse 5), he says, "For each one will have to bear his own burden."


Yep, it's true. In the movie, Watley had to take responsibility for his own survival. He had to grow food, chemically manufacture water, and use every resource available. But none of that would have meant anything if there weren't others taking responsibility for his rescue. Similarly, as I follow Jesus I have to take responsibility for my growth. I need to pray, study the Bible, and apply its principles to my daily live. But God didn't just called individuals; he has always been calling a people to be his. I can't do it on my own. I need brothers and sisters walking beside me, praying for me, holding me accountable, and enjoying God's creation with me.

So yes, both are true.

I'm glad God loves me personally, individually. And I'm glad he has called a people to be his and by having faith in Jesus I can be part of it. I pray that I will carry my burden in a way that glorifies him. And I pray that I will help my brothers and sisters bear theirs.

Will you join me?