God and the Groundhog: Whom Do You Believe?
There is an unwritten rule in ministry that a pastor should not preach about Groundhog Day more than once in a career. So, since I invited Gabe the Groundhog to speak through his alter ego (Bill Braucher) a year ago, I will honor that rule and not address the issue again during our Worship service. I will, however, make mention of our furry friend and pose a perplexing question about our faith in this week’s Nutshell.
As you probably know by now, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow at Gobblers Knob on Wednesday morning, meaning that there will be six more weeks of winter. No surprise there. Did we really need a groundhog to tell us that? Probably not.
It does, however, raise the issue of silly superstitions and other sources through which people base their beliefs. Most rational human beings know that a groundhog has no special meteorological insight and therefore cannot predict an extension of winter or an early spring, yet hundreds gather well before dawn in frigid conditions every February 2nd to celebrate the occasion and to witness whether or not he sees his shadow.
It’s easy to mock and denigrate this annual event as nonsense, but perhaps we should take a step back and realize that many people view Jesus with that same sort of skepticism. After all, they say, why would a great and powerful ruler who has dominion over all of creation allow himself to be insulted, scorned, and crucified for our sins? To
them, it just doesn’t make sense. How can Christians believe this and then mark the
occasion every year with an event known as Good Friday?
If we step back for a moment, perhaps we can understand their perspective, but it is important for us to point out that the crucifixion, as compelling as it was, is only half the story. Just a few days later, Jesus, who was put to death as a human, overcame a sin-filled world with His glorious resurrection.
Granted, many reject the notion that Jesus rose from the dead, but the evidence is pretty persuasive, and in order to understand and accept this fundamental truth — the very foundation of our faith — it is helpful to delve into the Word of God by reading the Scriptures. For me, the most persuasive argument for this mystery of faith can be found in the Old Testament where the prophets, most notably Isaiah, tells the story of the Messiah well before it actually takes place.
Some say that Scripture is confusing, even cryptic — and it is true that there are passages that are a little more difficult to understand than others — but the truth of the
Gospels is undeniable, and our faith is strengthened each time we read and re-read the
accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If we take time to acknowledge a groundhog, certainly we can summon the wisdom to accept and embrace our Savior. As we look ahead to the Lenten season, let us all take time to review the Gospels and to pray for the eloquence to share the Good News in a loving, caring, compassionate way so that others may see, believe, and be saved.
Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John