At The Movies: The Hunger Games

At The Movies

April 26, 2015

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Rachel Billups

Fear - we all experience it nearly every single day. Sometimes it motivates us, but most times fear steals us away from the life we were created to live. Perhaps that's why the clear message to Jesus' followers from the trough to the tomb spoke one powerful admonition: don't be afraid.

And God is still speaking this message today, often in the strangest of places. Join us this weekend as Pastor Rachel addresses fear - and faith - from the context of a fictional story with time-tested truths. 

AT THE MOVIES: The Hunger Games

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Today's Focus

Matthew 14:22-36 

Sermon Questions

At the Movies: The Hunger Games

Often society’s fears and personal fears drive our life stories. But throughout history and cinema, moments are made when displays of courage cause crises of beliefs. This week we seek to activate faith to deflect fear.  Daily devotionals that accompany each day's reading are also available on Facebook. They are created by a great Ginghamsburg unpaid servant team. You do not have to be a Facebook user to access them. View here.
Day 1: Read Genesis 20
Human nature fears. Define fear. What did Abraham fear in Genesis 20? How did his fear reflect on the maturity level of his faith in God? What do you fear? How might this be a faith issue?
Day 2: Read 2 Timothy 1:6-14
God gave us a gift, a good deposit, to combat fear. What is the good deposit given to us that should be fanned and guarded by the help of the Holy Spirit? How does having a seed of faith empower us to deal with our emotions?
Day 3: Read Matthew 14 
Peter was an emotional disciple who expressed both fear and faith. Jesus said to the disciples, “Take courage!” Define courage. How did Peter’s courage to act affect all the disciples’ fears and faiths?
Day 4: Read Psalm 23
Different life events require different kinds of courage. In what ways does King David acknowledge God’s provision? God’s comfort? God’s promises? How do these acknowledgments help you find courage, not just in death, but in life?
Day 5: Read Psalm 118
Psalm 118 is meant for community interaction in worship and is used at Passover. How do the first four verses demonstrate community? How does sharing this passage strengthen community to motivate courageous action over crippling fear?
Day 6: Read Deuteronomy 31:6-8
Before Moses died, he commissioned Israel and Joshua with God’s words. Compare the commands to the people in verse 6 to the commands to Joshua in verses 7 and 8? Whom do you lead? At home? At work? What fears relate to your leadership? Ask God for encouragement.
Day 7: Read 1 John 4:13-18
Jesus took courage on the cross in his father’s love. How does love relate to fear? Why is there no fear in love? Are you confident in the seed of faith God gifted to you? Pray and ask Jesus to help you “take courage” in the confidence of your faith.
(Read daily reflections at   

Sermon Transcript

April 25-26, 2015

Sermon Series: At The Movies: Hunger Games

Pastor Rachel Billups

Matthew 14: 22-36


(Story of Topher and David) What are you afraid of? What is it in life that really scares you? I know those are real fears, but I want us to dig a little deeper than that—what is it that really scares—the kind of fear that lead to paralysis—keeps us from standing up and stepping out; a fear that really keeps us from living? It doesn’t take me long to come face to face with my deepest fear, because its something I face everyday. I’m afraid to fail—to not be the Jesus follower, the wife, the mom, the preacher that God has created me to be. What if I make the wrong decision; choose the wrong path? What if I take a risk and land flat on my face? That fear can be so overwhelming—so intense that it stops me dead in my tracks. It keeps me from moving—from being who God wants me to be—because I am afraid to fail.  So what about you? What are you really afraid of? What keeps you from dreaming, moving? What keeps you from actually living your life? 


Fear is Satan’s weapon of choice! Since fear is so personal—it can wreck our lives, but clearly it doesn’t stop there. Fear-wrecked lives create fear-wrecked families—fear-wrecked families create communities, and on it goes until fear affects entire nations, the world.


That’s what happened in the Hunger Games. Fear has wrecked the world or at least the country of Panem. People are imprisoned by it—relegated to the districts they find themselves in—men, women, boys and girls—allowing their fears to keep them prisoner to the Capitol and President Snow. It’s terrifying. I remember my first experience with Hunger Games. It wasn’t the movie; no, it was the book. I couldn’t put it down—I stayed up until like 2am to finish it because deep down I knew this was a commentary on us. Panem is a post apocalyptic, prophetic warning for us. (Show Map of Panem) This is what happens when we allow ourselves to be overcome by fear! 


(Show Movie Clip—Panem Propaganda Video)


We can pretend we would never let that happen to us—never let ourselves be imprisoned by fear, but we know that just isn’t true. Why, because we are faced with fear nearly everyday. Fear is Satan’s greatest tool. Fear penetrates our hearts in the most vulnerable of places. The devil uses our fears to keep us from courage. 


No one ever told me that when I signed up to be a parent, I would receive a whole new batch of fears. The moment I came home from the hospital, I had this overwhelming fear since it was my responsibility to keep this tiny little thing alive! Well, it’s that same fear—fear of losing your child—

that the Capitol and President Snow use to keep the people imprisoned. Each of the districts are forced in the reaping to sacrifice one boy and one girl for the Annual Hunger Games, and these weren’t ordinary games—this was a battle to the death—24 tributes go in and one victor comes out. The people in the districts are so imprisoned by fear; they don’t think they have a way out.


(Show Movie Clip—Katniss and Gayle)


But there is a choice. We can grab on to fear, or we can grab on to courage! Turn with me to Matthew 14. The disciples have been out on a boat all night; and very early in the morning they notice something—there is something out in the middle of the lake and it’s moving, moving toward them.  They are afraid—so they yell out, “it’s a ghost!” But it’s not a ghost, it’s Jesus and he is walking on water. The first thing that Jesus says to them in verse 27 is, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!”  (Matthew 14: 27 NIV).


In other words—grab courage, be confident—take a hold of it! Church courage is more than a feeling!  It requires action! Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old heroine of the Hunger Games, finds herself in a pretty terrible life situation. She’s living in poverty, the only source of income, her father has died in a coal mine, and her mother is so riddled with depression that she’s emotionally unavailable. But Katniss does everything she can to help her family survive. So it’s no surprise that when the reaping comes—that moment we just witnessed during the offering song, when her little sisters’ name is drawn—it no surprise that Katniss reaches deep inside and discovers courage she didn’t realize she had.


When face to face with fear, even the fear of death, Katniss grabs on to courage. Prim is young and she is weak; Katniss realizes that the only hope of her survival is for someone to take her place, and that someone is Katniss herself. She is not going to let her sister die. If that’s my little sister, if that’s my kid—I’m not going let her die either! Perhaps many of us would make the same decision for a family member or even a close friend, but what happens when it comes to everyday life choices? We may not let a family member die, but how often to we let a dream die? What about a job promotion? A relationship? A calling? How willing are we to let our life go, because we allow ourselves to be imprisoned by fear?


Fear does not come from God! 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). God does not give us a spirit of fear! So why are we so afraid? Because although we believe in God, we don’t believe in ourselves—sometimes I don’t believe the Jesus in me! It’s easy to say that we trust God, until God asks us to do something that scares us to death—and then suddenly we have no faith, no courage in ourselves.


While in seminary at Duke Divinity School, I was asked to speak at Chapel. It was an honor—but I was afraid, afraid to fail, so I kept saying no. Besides I thought these opportunities were way beyond me.  Well a couple of years ago, Pastor Mike ask me to come and preach at Ginghamsburg Church—it was Mother’s Day weekend—let me be honest, I was scared to death! I didn’t want to fail, but in the middle of wrestling with whether or not to say yes, God reminded me of my previous no’s and said to me, “Rachel how many more times do you think I’m going to ask you to do these kind of things? Quit saying no and trust me with a yes.” Okay God I trust you; I grabbed on to courage. God, you did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind! That one yes, is the very reason I am here today! If I had said no, I would have missed the opportunity, missed the moment, and missed the calling! Don’t let you fear be bigger than God’s calling!


God has created you for a purpose and a plan—and that plan is to do nothing short of change the world—and it’s the everyday yeses that make that happen. Stop saying no!  So what are your no’s?  What have you been saying no to? What is it that God has been asking you to do; over and over again, yet you have allowed your fear to keep you from standing up and stepping out! 


Remember that Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old kid, but a 16-year-old kid who has gifts. Perhaps her greatest gift is that she is defiant. I know, we wouldn’t always characterize defiance as a gift, but call it bravery or call it willingness to stand-up on her own; this is a gift. Not only is Katniss defiant, but she is pretty clever when it comes to the outdoors and she’s incredible with a bow and arrow—she is so poor she’s spent her whole life surviving in the woods! Her hard life has prepared her for this. Now remember Katniss is in a battle to the death. There are several other gifts that I would like to have if I was in a battle to the death like extra strength, the ability to wield a sword or throw a knife, but not Katniss. She does not focus on her limitations, the overwhelming odds against her or the inevitability of impending death; rather she focuses on what she can do using the unique gifts she’s been given!


(Show Movie Clip)


That’s courage. She doesn’t focus on her limitations! How often do you find you are having a pity party for yourself, because you can’t do what other people can do? Get over it! I’ve got to get over it too! The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us fear, no the spirit, God’s Spirit gives us gifts! God wants to use your gifts—you’ve got gifts—our gifts to change the world—but in order to do it, we’ve got to let go of fear and grab on to courage. 


Go back to Matthew 14. Jesus is out walking on water, and Peter decides he wants to try it. He’s ready to grab on to courage, to stand up and step out! So he does! Peter—regular old Peter—is walking on water; but it doesn’t take long for him to realize that waves are moving and the wind is blowing. He is overcome with what? Fear!


Matthew 14:30, “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted!” (Matthew 14: 30 NIV). You stopped stand up and stepping out! At the first sign of hardship—when we start sinking—we want to quit, but we can’t. This fear thing isn’t one and done! We face fear every single day of our lives, and the way that we handle it as followers of Jesus is with faith. To trust that the same God who helped Jesus walk on water—the same God who resurrected Jesus from the dead—is the God who will help us overcome our fears! God never leaves us.


In fact, we experience the presence of God in our lives in the most unexpected of ways through unexpected gifts. Throughout the movie, Katniss is given gifts through sponsors—gifts that heal her and help her. Once she burns her leg so bad that without the gift of medicine she would not survive, but these sponsor send her gifts.


Church, the Holy Spirit sends us gifts every day; miracles that heal us and help us through some of the toughest moments—the epic battles of our lives. In the middle of the storm, you receive a surprise check in the mail, that unexpected phone call of encouragement, that time your neighbor cuts the grass—think about those moments in life when you are in the heat of the battle—and some one or something shows up to bring you a little relief. Hear these powerful promises from God – words cling to when fear sets in: 


“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31: 6 NIV). 


Psalm 118:6-7, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies” (Psalm 118:6 NIV).


“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NIV).


We will face fear of some kind every single day for the rest of our lives. Expect it! If we are really following Jesus Christ with all that we are—were all in—then Satan isn’t going to be too happy about it.  He’s going to fight and remember his greatest weapon is fear! But our greatest weapon is hope! Hope! 


(Show Movie Clip—Snow and Game Maker)


Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 10-13 NIV). We are at war! God is looking for a few good men and women to stand up, step out and face their fears!


How? Keep walking, keep stepping towards Jesus. When we are in the middle of the battle, when we’ve stepped out of the boat; we’ve got to keep moving towards Jesus. Yes, your marriage is in crisis, you’ve been given a diagnosis you didn’t expect, you kid is making some really poor choices or you just found out your significant other has a secret addiction. In these moments of life, we have a choice to make—we can quit, we can run away from God and from others—or we like Peter can call out “Lord Save me!” Save me from my fear! What fear are you facing today? What is it that you need to let go of? Place your fists on your lap and close your eyes. Imagine that fear that has you imprisoned is right there in your fists—we are going to pray to let that go. You can’t grab on to courage until you let go of fear! 


Send Out: This is the Kingdom, this is not the Capitol, so everyone on your way out you can grab a piece of candy to remind you we all have access to God’s Spirit—to God’s love. 

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