Film Friday: Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

When four very different teenagers end up in detention, removing staples from magazines, they quickly get distracted by an old computer game. Before they know it they have selected character names and pressed Play. Oh dear. The box seems to misfire and one by one they are sucked inside the game. Welcome to they jungle. Now the fun starts. They no longer look like their former selves but have transformed into radically different avatars. The geeky Spencer is now the huge muscly Dr Bravestone, and the media socialite Bethany is now er… a middle aged bloke with a beard. And so on. These four disparate characters, who had little in common before the game, now find they must work together if they are survive the game with just three lives each, save a stolen jewel and return to reality alive and well. Here they are facing a deadly snake…

Inevitably the four of them start to change. They need each other, and though they would not have chosen the team, they each start to play their part in it. They are united by their situation. Even going so far as losing one of their lives for each other. Sacrificial living on a whole new live. They also get to see life through the eyes of others as they have to adapt to being different people in this virtual world.

Church (as in the people, not the buildings) is of course nothing like as exciting or action-packed as Jumanji. There are no albino rhinos, venomous snakes, or jewels to save. But we do find ourselves part of a team, united by a shared situation. We have been called to be part of the body of Jesus here on earth, his hands and feet and smile; and though many of us would much prefer to fly solo, like the teenagers in Jumanji we can only do this thing together. In one of his letters to the Corinthians the writer Paul draws a cartoon picture of the body of Jesus where the various bits refuse to get on. The hand stomps off, the eye sulks, the tongue gets the hump. It’s comical – and yet sad and true. We haven’t picked our fellow travellers, but we are on this mission together. It’s often not exciting, instead exasperating, and I’d sometimes prefer to sit at home and watch repeats of The Vicar of Dibley. But we’ve been invited into this thing, with its uphill struggles, and character-changing experiences. The first muddling disciples had no idea who else would be going along when they signed up to follow Jesus, and they might well have thought again had they known. Jesus knew we’d find it tough, why else would he have prayed, ‘Father please unite them, so that outsiders might see your love at work.’ He knew he needed to pray that, because he knew there was trouble ahead. It’s a roller-coaster ride. But Jesus also encouraged us to, ‘Remain in me…’ it helps us to bear fruit for him, and we do need one another; and I guess a big part of that is being part of his body. Part of his team. United sometimes by not a lot more than knowing him.

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