I remember watching the movie “Alive” when I was a young teenager, the true story of a rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972. Stranded in ice cold temperatures and snowy mountains for 72 days, the survivors were forced to unimaginable situations of eating the recently deceased in order to make it. It’s an emotional story, and there are some very raw moments throughout the film. (no pun intended)
One such moment I remember, comes when several of the survivors are contemplating the situation they’re in. They wonder if they’re showing disrespect to those who have passed by using them as food. It’s a very heart-felt moment where they face each other, and one at a time begin to say to the rest of the group, “If I die, I want you to eat my flesh to survive.”
I doubt I would ever use the film in youth ministry, and it probably wouldn’t make a great “Middle of an all-night lock-in” entertainment anyway. But the connections between this type of sacrifice, and our experience as the body of Christ is hard to miss.
People observing the growth of early Christianity probably had some of the same questions our children have today, when we talk about “eating the body of Christ”, and “drinking his blood”. It sounds like cannibalism, and I’m sure it gave those against Christianity plenty of fodder to use. But Jesus was making a very important statement – we are to literally become those who are alive as part of what He is doing – only as we accept Him as our source and foundation of being. To put it simply, “you are what you eat.”
As Craig Keen as written, “One of the peculiarities of (communion) is that we become the body of Christ by consuming it. Unlike ordinary food, the body does not become assimilated into our bodies, but vice versa… The fact that the church is literally changed into Christ is not a cause for triumphalism, however, precisely because our assimilation to the body of Christ means that we then become food for the world, to be broken, given away, and consumed…”
Will we use such language with our children? Probably not. But it’s helpful language for us to be conscious of, especially as our children grow older. May we form our family in such a way that we are consistently feeding on the bread of Christ, joining in becoming His body, for the purposes and activity of existing for the “coming to new life” of the world.
In that regard, how is your family already involved in “feeding the hungry”?