Groundhog Day and Easter



Guys quote movies — we know this. In my opinion, one of the most quotable is the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray’s venerable comedic talents have never been on more conspicuous display. There are so many great lines: “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” Or how about, “This is pitiful; a thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat — what a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You’re hypocrites, all of you!” Murray plays weatherman Phil Conners who has become trapped in the same day, over and over — Groundhog Day. No matter what he does he wakes up the next morning and its still Groundhog Day. A friend promises him he’ll feel better tomorrow to which he replies, “What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!” What if there is no tomorrow? Actually that sounds familiar.

We live in a “what if there is no tomorrow” kind of world. Cynicism is the flavor of the week, every week, every year. As a response to the “what if there is no tomorrow” mentality I gave up cable news (along with beer and chocolate), for lent. I unplugged from the hatefulness and dissension which is our national discourse and it was transcendent. It actually began as a reaction to the furor surrounding Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. However, after a few trips around that merry go round I realized, “this isn’t going anywhere new, just around and around,” like Groundhog Day. I don’t want to be a member of the church of “we’re right and you’re wrong.” I needed to unplug from the religious squabbling, so I decided to turn the page.

Our national discourse isn’t any less problematic. As a part of Lent I made the promise to turn the page, change the channel, or switch the station every time I notice the author, talking head, or politician tell me why the sky is falling. It’s been amazing how little I can read, listen to, or watch. I’ve really gotten a lot done around the house.

What do we do when those on both the right and left of the political spectrum constantly tell us, “You have to vote for us or there will be no tomorrow.”? They sell us fear and blame day after ubiquitous day and we buy it up like it was half-priced Wal-mart stock. Try this experiment: spend fifteen minutes listening to the shrill tones of twenty-four-hour cable news and scream “Yahtzee!” every time they predict doom and gloom or make a cynical comment. Your friends, family, and possibly your neighbors will think you’ve gone round the bend. Cataclysm is the only game in town, but it’s a tired script. We’re all tired of it.

The Christian story is very peculiar in its essence. Millions will gather this week to celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God. What is most peculiar about this story is that it’s not bounded by the rules of the Groundhog Day. Easter means the future of God, the end of time; it has come rushing into the present. Through Jesus, the world made right and perfect has now begun to break into the world of ever-present cynicism — and nothing can stop its coming. We believe in resurrection. And this resurrection does not only await us in the end of the story, but it has actually shown up in the middle, helping us makes sense of the whole thing. The image for this which Jesus used and the early Christians picked up on was “new birth.” We don’t have to be trapped, stuck, and mired in the same Groundhog Day over and over. Tomorrow doesn’t have to be a repeat of today. Today doesn’t have to be a repeat of yesterday. There can be a new start — a new way to engage the world around you whether you love Rob Bell or can’t stand him; whether you are on the left, the right, or in the middle.

We believe in resurrection. Our world could use a little resurrection.

Who we are as a human family, who we are as Americans, how we relate to the “other” whomever the other may be — these are questions worthy of discussion. We don’t have to agree, we can’t always agree! We need to talk, and argue, and wrestle with the difficult issues of our time. But we should reject the Groundhog Day mentality of false dichotomies and polarizing rhetoric. The idea that we are stuck in this terrible reality where the sky is falling and there is no way out simply runs counter to the Christian narrative. The more the lie is repeated, the more we believe it.

Resurrection breaks into our “what if there is no tomorrow” world with the promise that there will — in fact — be a tomorrow, and another after that. And with every new tomorrow the kingdom is coming and there’s nothing we can do to make it stop. So, we can look for the hope which has broken into the hopeless. We can dream about the new possibility and reach for the third way of seeing things. We can look for the heaven that has broken into the earth and is making all things new and thankfully — although we only have to celebrate Groundhog Day once a year — Easter never ends.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.


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