Dear St Matthew’s,
I write on Groundhog Day. A day of rodents predicting weather and a day now code for situations repeating themselves. Every year, this interesting, albeit odd, day rolls around and a group of top hatted individuals in Pennsylvania declares whether Phil the Groundhog has seen his shadow or not, and whether winter has come to an end.
In the US, we’ve recognized Groundhog day since the 1880s. But there are even older traditions for this day which is situated halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Halfway through winter, halfway from the shortest day to the day balanced between day and night. Follow the link in the footnotes to read briefly about some of those older traditions, including Candlemas, that looked at, prepared for and predicted what was next to come post February 2.
We are by nature drawn to wonder what is next. When will we get through what we are in the middle of? When will this end so that we can finally get to…fill in the blank. Sometimes it feels like we are stuck, repeating situations and scenarios, unable to get to what is (or we think, should be) next.
Reading the news headlines, it can feel like we are caught in a groundhog day, caught in the same situations over and over again. Caught where it’s impossible to move to the future let alone predict it. Caught once again reading the same heart wrenching news. I could point to the number of dead in Ukraine or the re-ignited acts of revenge in Israel/Palestine, the multitude of people at our southern border, another mass shooting, the beating and killing of an unarmed black man. Over and over. Repeat. Replay.
With each repeat, replay, a little more humanity is flattened, a little more of our spirit deflated. We sit in all of it and try to respond in faith and Christian love, and so often we wonder what that even means. We sit in all of it and recognize we don’t necessarily know what to do. Maybe that’s our start, recognizing that it’s quite possible that doing is not the first response. Instead, the first response may be to just lament, to acknowledge the sadness, anger, horror, and shame. We do this not to draw ourselves into some depression, but instead to recognize that the only way forward is the way through. By going through it we begin to understand more fully what it is and how to call it by its right name. I’d suggest that this is Luther’s theology of the cross in action and lament… recognize the pain, the suffering, and the loss, and call it what it actually is.
May we be brave enough to sit in this space and believe that God is present to us and amongst all that causes us to lament these days.