Willy Wonka, the chocolate factory and Jesus

Cindy McPeake

Willy Wonka, the chocolate factory and Jesus

Cindy McPeake with members of prayer group in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

I recently watched the new version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I've probably seen this movie a dozen times, but this time as I watched it, something really stood out for me.

At the beginning of the movie, after the Golden Ticket announcement has been made, Charlie receives his birthday present -- a bar of chocolate. This will be the only bar of chocolate he gets all year (though Grandpa Joe ends up buying him another one with his tobacco money), so there is always a lot of anticipation for this delicious gift.

After opening the package and not finding the Golden Ticket, he begins to share his chocolate bar with the rest of the family.

His mom tells him not to. It’s his only chocolate bar; it’s his birthday, and he should enjoy it for himself. Charlie says no, saying, "It’s my candy bar, and I’ll do what I want with it."

He proceeds to break off a piece for each family member. And each person does something different with it. One inhales the delicious aroma of chocolate, one takes a large bite and another one savors the flavor slowly.

Charlie didn’t keep this fantastic gift for himself, he gave it away for others to enjoy -- and they all enjoyed it in a different way.

Sharing the love of Christ

For me it was obvious to make a parallel between this moment and our call as Christians. We have received a great gift, and we are called to share that gift, the love of Christ, with those around us. We are Charlie.

But what wasn’t as obvious to me was the reaction of his family. Each member received and ate the chocolate in a different way. This is our world. We have all heard the message of Christ, but we all respond and live that out differently. We are also the family.

One goal of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program is to immerse ourselves in a new culture, a new way of living and a new way to living out our faith.

One example for me is the prayer meeting at the church I attend. Every week at Petagas there is a prayer meeting. A small group of people, of all ages, gather to pray for their church, community and world.

The night starts out with a couple of hymns and then we move into prayer. Normally, this is all done in Chinese. I went to the meeting expecting to, again, have some pretty good self-reflection time, but the pastor had translated all the prayers for me, and we sang songs that had English words. So great!

A time to pray

After the hymns, we moved into the time of prayer. We used the prayer request list from the weekend’s service, along with some additional prayers. They also took the time to ask me for specific prayers.

They prayed for: Christ’s presence in India; "Logos," a converted cruise ship that brings aid and medical assistance, which is in the area and will be docking in Kota Kinabalu very shortly; congregation members who are sick; congregation members who didn’t attend worship the past weekend; and the children’s program.

After talking through the prayers, we broke into groups and we each took a few intercessions to pray for individually (and out loud, something fairly new for me) and then we ended in a group prayer.

This congregation heard the good news and chose to respond in prayer for their church, community and world. They felt the love of Christ and made their ministry prayer -- they pray that other people will hear the good news.

Other congregations might focus on outreach, some focus on music ministry and still others focus on different things. They hear and they respond. They take a big bite out of the chocolate, or they savor it.

We all respond differently to the love of Christ, but we have all received the gift. We have all received the "chocolate," given selflessly, and all are called to respond. It has been an eye-opening experience to see the different ways people respond to this gift.

Sharing ourselves

In addition to their responsive prayer, their response to me was also a lovely experience.

At the beginning of the night, I shared a little about myself, including that I am from Wisconsin (Go Packers! Go Brewers!) and after the prayer session, many of them got up to look at the world map, so they could see where I lived.

Many had children in the United States. I also shared that my bed frame was bending and immediately had about four concerned "dads" and seven concerned "moms." All of them needed to see my bed frame, tried to fix it and then made a suggestion on what should be done.

It was great. I got four more handphone (cell phone) numbers that night too, along with invitations to dinner and to call whenever needed. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a community that cares, responds to need and shares love.

In the same way that Charlie offered his family to share in the chocolate bar, Christ invites us to share in God’s love -- how will you respond?

Editor’s note: Cindy McPeake is living and working in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, for a year through ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission.


Originally posted October 11, 2011, at
melepaskan. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Cindy McPeake’s blog melepaskan at Lutheran Blogs.

You might also want to read:
Raising funds for mission
Speaking the language of faith
Shards of glass

Current Stories