Try that one on folks who live in Upper Midwest. As I write this (Tuesday, January 31, 8 a.m.), the sun is shining and it is 21 degrees below zero in northern Wisconsin. Yes, Spring is coming, but not as quickly as the groundhog “Punk’s” worst scenario. Not here.
Remember the movie, “Groundhog Day”? Bill Murray plays an egocentric TV weatherman named Phil assigned to cover the festivities of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. An unexpected snowstorm requires that he spend an extra night in the boring little town. He wakes up the next day and discovers that it is Feb. 2nd, Groundhog Day, all over again. Everything is exactly the same. Soon he realizes that he’s in an endless loop of Groundhog Days. It’s the same day over and over again. It’s déjà vu gone haywire – a nightmare.
But there is one cool thing about it - as each day dawns – again – it’s as if nothing had happened the previous day. And for a while, Phil explores what life would be like if there were no consequences, no accountability. In the end, Phil learns the lesson that life isn’t all about him, and he gets out of Groundhog Day by realizing that, and by caring about others.
Did you wake up this morning with joy, hope, anticipation, expectation, and gratitude? Or did you wake up with fear, dread, discontent, and a feeling of overwhelm? How did you wake up yesterday? Same? How will you wake up tomorrow? Same? Is it the same every day? If it is, and your start to the day is less than upbeat, can you do something about it?
I’m an early riser and there are a key group of concerns that come after me in those first moments of the day:
- Concern (especially spiritual) for my beloved family and friends both near and far. Don’t “word-play” me here…It isn’t “beloved” family and friends vs. “not beloved” family and friends. They all fit in the “beloved” category!
- Uncertainty about what the future holds – financial, health, emotional, physical
- Concern about the continuing (not-unexpected) trajectory of the state of the world and our nation
- Ministry responsibilities and challenges occupy significant space inside my cranium
- Sin and its power and consequences; the devil works pretty hard at making this prominent
But my day doesn’t begin alone. Even if I’m the only human who’s awake at the time, I know Who is with me. I know to Whom I belong. I know Whose I am, by virtue of his claiming me through the water and Word of Holy Baptism and his continued nurturing of my faith through daily (can’t emphasize “daily” enough!) use of Word and Sacraments.
- He teaches me to say, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
- He teaches me, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
- The book of Acts reminds me that believers “Continued to hold firmly to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers….Day after day, with one mind, they were devoted to meeting in the temple area.” (Acts 2:42,46)
- The Lord reminds me of the power and importance of habitually being in the Word: “Let us also consider carefully how to spur each other on to love and good works. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24,25)
- And that sinful nature of mine? Drown the punk! From Luther’s Small Catechism, The Meaning of Baptism for Our Daily Life…Fourth: What does baptizing with water mean? Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
In those first moments of each day, I would be foolish to take on all of my cares and concerns by myself. The Lord is with me. He strengthens me. He forgives me. Amazingly, he loves me.
“Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?...What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:32,35,37)
Who knows? Maybe the “punk” groundhog won’t come out of his burrow tomorrow for the first time in 136 years. Fine with me. By grace, I can get on with my Jesus-filled day without him.
God keep you in his gracious care,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand