By Pastor Jeff Jacobs
Unity Lutheran Parish –
St. Paul, Saetersdal and
St. Matthew’s, Granger
A few days ago, Punxsutawney Phil, Jimmy the Groundhog and other whistlepig prognosticators gave predictions about what season to expect in the next six weeks. Yet I’ve long been bemused by the groundhog’s curious logic.
If the groundhog sees its shadow, we’re in for a longer winter; if it doesn’t see its shadow, we’ll have an early spring. That seems the opposite of what to anticipate – shouldn’t a cloudy day mean more dark, cold weather and a sunny day suggest a quicker return to brightness and warmth?
Whatever the folklore behind this, it does rather align with the paradoxical vision of Christian faith. Because Easter is early this year (March 31!), Lent begins soon on Ash Wednesday as the Church enters its most somber season, tracing Christ’s path to the cross.
It was for him a dark journey through tremendous suffering and a horrific death. Yet we do not call the day of his crucifixion “Tragic Friday,” but Good Friday, because it is by that death we receive the hope of new life.
Paul wrote in Romans 3:23-25, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”
Thus, even as the groundhog conversely points to the coming of spring on a cloud covered day, what appears to be dark and hopeless is actually the sign of forgiveness and light. God makes Christ’s cross, a cruel instrument of painful death, the means for us, by grace through faith, to have everlasting life.