I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to run out of places to shovel snow, especially around the foot of my driveways (I’m blessed with two, living in a house on a corner lot). I’m ready for a good, long thaw, though only the onset of spring in a couple of months seems to bring any hope of that.
Speaking of which, I note that this coming Monday brings that most sacred of feasts, Groundhog Day. Each year on February 2nd, two notorious groundhogs – Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil – make their way out of their subterranean winter nests to make shadowy prognostications about the coming of spring. Of course, their accuracy is more than a little suspect, but hundreds of people (perhaps more) keenly await the predictions of these diminutive, furry Nostradami each year.
Why? Perhaps, inspired by the commercials that inundate us with visions of warm, sandy beaches, people want to put their hope in something that will bring about a (mercifully) quick conclusion to what conspires to be another record-breaking winter. Perhaps, as my friends in Bruce County may remind me, people may want to support the tourism economy of two small communities.
Truthfully, I suspect the former. (Sorry, all you folks who live south of the Checkerboard.) People just want to put their hope, their trust, in something.
If putting one’s hope or trust in an albino rodent seems far-fetched, let me remind you of a story in the Old Testament. One time, when Moses was up on the mountain having a conversation with God over rules for living, Aaron (Moses’ brother) was left in charge. The people, who were frustrated with Moses’ leadership (and his faithfulness to God), instructed Aaron to make an idol for them to worship. Spineless wimp that he was, Aaron gave in, and told the people to bring him all their gold, and he would make an idol. “He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’” (Exodus 32.4, NIV).
Now, we’ve heard the story before. We know how it ends. Upon reading this, our only reaction is to say, How stupid can you get?. But that’s what our inner drive to worship will do. They knew that it wasn’t some sort of golden calf that protected them against Pharaoh, parting the Red Sea and bringing plagues. But in the absence of true leadership, the people had forgotten their God, and crafted one for themselves.
It would be foolish of me to go so far as to suggest that anybody actually worships Wiarton Willie. I know there are some folks who are pretty fond of him, but saying they’re worshipful is a bit much. But do see what I mean when I suggest that, if even out of a wintry desperation, some folks are hoping in Willie? Just hoping his shadow’s absence will hasten the onset of a vernal thaw?
We all have an innate desire to hope in another, to trust something greater, to worship. Let’s put our focus of praise in the right place. “But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way” (John 4.23, NLT).
God’s best for your weekend – and happy Groundhog Day! (Happy Candlemas to you higher church folk.)