Groundhog Pandemic

by the Rev. Nicholas Beasley

In a recent Facebook Noonday devotion, I compared our present situation to the 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, in which Murray’s character finds himself in a terrible loop of time, one that requires him to live the same February 2 over and over again. Murray plays Phil Connors, a cynical Pittsburgh television reporter in the movie, dispatched to cover the Groundhog Day events in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He thinks the event very much beneath him and describes the people of the town as “hicks.” The next day (and for many days after) he is awakened to another February 2, with the same awful assignment of covering Groundhog Day, signaled by Sonny and Cher cheerfully singing I Got You Babe on the clock-radio, day after day.

Connors takes advantage of the situation to treat himself to various kinds of misbehavior, sensing that he has the advantages of a seer over others and that he is freed from the consequences of his actions by the suspension of the future. Eventually, the terrible malaise of a repetitive and ill-used life sets in, and Connors decides to use his situation for good, helping his neighbors with the particular sense of the day’s coming events that only he has.

You must be tired, as I am, of increasing totals of COVID-19 cases, suffering and death, screeching news reports, and anxiety about the things we are usually looking forward to at this point in the summer. These are the endlessly-looping elements of our days in the Groundhog Day phase of this pandemic. Most of us, thankfully, lack the malicious insight to use COVID-19 to our advantage, but as disciples of Jesus, we are blessed with an indwelling Spirit who can guide us to use even these crappy days to the glory of God and for the good of our neighbors.
In the film, Connor’s eventual freedom from his cynicism and bad deeds is the thing that knocks time back into gear. Having been made new, a la Ebenezer Scrooge, time begins to pass again, and he is freed from the dungeon of Groundhog Day and wakes up to February 3. We might sense some of the basic things we need to do to get out of our own seemingly eternal February 2, like washing our hands, wearing masks, and avoiding indoor gatherings. Until there is a vaccine, our fate seems to be in our hands. The good we do or fail to do will prolong or decrease this season.

February 3rd has me thinking of the Resurrection of the Lord, on the third day, as the Creed says. A day will come, a Resurrection day, when death and suffering will be no more, when even the passing of time will be drawn into God’s eternal changelessness. The third-day life the Lord Jesus was given will be given to all of us, when the eternal third day dawns. This nasty virus and this unpleasant time will be forgotten in the light and life of that resurrection glory. Let’s do what we can to get time moving forward again, always looking forward to the horizon, over which Jesus prepares to complete his redeeming work.