Experience the Hunger Games and Holy Week

Katniss finds Peeta, cleans him up, and as the sun sets they have to plan for a brutal reality: if someone isn’t keeping watch at night, you are as good as gone. Someone has to keep watch. As odd as it might seem, we have a close parallel in Holy Week.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, he took the disciples to a solitary place and asked them to stay awake and pray… to keep watch. There were not a dozen teens with weapons gunning for them, but things were not nearly as calm as they may have seemed. While the disciples were dropping the ball and falling asleep, Judas was betraying them, the temple guard were suiting up and marching out with trumped up charges, and the priests were looking for blood. It was the disciples last chance to pray with Jesus before the cruxufixion and they came up short.

I’ll be honest, I enjoyed the hunger games trilogy. It was exciting, engaging and full of danger, but my affection for the book pales in comparison to how much I love holy week. I love the fact that every year, I get to spend a week thinking through and reliving this key moment of scripture and history. I love holy week because in some mysterious way it helps me immerse myself in the story. No longer is it another passage of scripture. No longer is it their story; it’s my story. And that’s it right? What makes the truth of the Bible so powerful is not that it DID happen in the past, but that is does happen now. That’s why fiction like Hunger Games can contain truth even though the events never occur. The truth? I break commitments to Jesus. I come up short. And I live with regrets for those moments when I missed an amazing opportunity because I gave in to my humanity.

So, how to experience this truth presented by both Suzanne Collins and the Gospel writers. I bet that some of your churches are most likely going to celebrate the event that precedes the fail in the garden, Passover, but what about trying another interesting way to engage with this not-so-positive moment of holy week through the Maundy Thursday prayer vigil. The idea is as simple as it is powerful. As an act of repentence for disciples’ narcolepsy (and all the times we’ve epically drop the ball since) we stay up all night praying (watching) with Jesus.

If you happen to be in a particularly holy part of the country who makes Holy Week a holiday, you can have everyone come up to the church, but if not, ask your students to sign up for certain hours and then pass the torch via text message with each person texting the next person in line when their hour or two is done.

And here’s the best part of all: before you begin take a moment with your students to process a profound question. Throughout the scriptures we are told that Jesus took time away to pray. What do you think he prayed? What do you think he prayed on that Thursday night?

The main question I’ve gotten from students when we’ve talked about prayer vigils is: What am I going to do for an hour? The simple answer: get creative. You can pray off the top of you head of course. You can pray pre-written prayers from a great prayer book. You can create a piece of artwork that expresses your prayer visually. You can post your prayer on facebook or twitter. You can make a video mashup that conveys that prayer and post it to youtube. You can write a prayer poem. You can… do whatever you want to converse with GodOnce they have to break out beyond the few words that they can produce off the top of their heads, they open up to a world of creativity in conversing with their creator.

Now, I don’t know if you call it a Mockingjay prayer-a-thon or something equally cheesy, but I hope you can take hold of this great opportunity to nurture the souls of your students. May this Maundy Thursday be a moment of renewal in your students’ prayer life.

Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister  at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL.  He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations.  You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at  JeremyWords.com.

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