The shortest month on the calendar, but so much happens in this month. We start by celebrating the Feast of St. Groundhog’s Day, where we feast the four-footed animal that is the harbinger of warmer weather. Truth be told, February 2nd is midpoint between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. Someone just wanted to do something out of the ordinary to spur spring along earlier, and the friendly furry rodent of underground tunnels was the object of worship and affection by some weather forecasters that were tired of people asking them when Spring would come. Now they can blame it all on a scapegoat (or should we say ‘scape-groundhog?) when winter seems to hang on and on and on.
We also have Valentines’ Day, February 14th. But this year, having not happened since about 70 years ago, this day is also Ash Wednesday. We recall the purpose of being reminded that we are made of dust and to dust we shall return. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden becomes the focus of how sin first entered the hearts, souls, and bodies of humanity, and how we have been paying the price ever since. We can’t shorten the season of death; we are sentenced to die because of our sins. And what a beautiful way to remember God’s ‘Valentine’ to us in the gift of His Son Jesus!
Then, Presidents’ Day gives us time to honor and remember the Presidents of our country, particularly our first president, George Washington, and the first president to be assassinated, Abraham Lincoln. But what do most people anticipate? The Presidents’ Day Sales! No school (except for snow make-up days). A day without getting mail and all those bills.
We can probably add a number of other celebrations and events of note during this short month. But, guess what? (“What?” you dutifully ask.) There is one day (February 18, 1546) that connects with two other dates: November 11, 1483 and October 31, 1517. And if we were playing “Jeopardy”, the response in the form of a question would be: “Who is Martin Luther?” This year would mark the 472nd anniversary of his death. While we had quite a lot of attention to the Reformation’s 500th anniversary a few months ago, we have this echo of Luther this month.
But Luther’s teachings about Jesus Christ continue today!
Luther knew of a Substitute who did take on man’s identity and took his sins and bled and died for them on the cross. He confessed this Man to be Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This year, we return to remember Jesus and His life, passion, suffering, and death, as well as His resurrection from the dead. Beginning Ash Wednesday, we start our journey walking with the patriarch Job, a man who also had his sorrows and was acquainted with grief. We will wrestle with the questions about human suffering, the ‘Why?’ questions related to suffering, and how we today can manage our suffering in the light of Jesus Christ. What Job learned through his journey of faith he shares with us as we walk with him in the pages of the Old Testament which will equip us in our daily walk as we write the pages of our Testament, connected with Jesus in His Testament of Blood, shed for you and me.
Job learns that the righteous are vindicated in the end. There is a Redeemer-a Substitute-who lives. He gets us through our suffering, just as we will get through this winter, with or without a groundhog weather forecaster.
Ah, February. Let it come! But hang in there…Spring and the Passover come, then Easter. (And yes, it falls on April 1st this year, which your Hallmark Calendar also calls “April Fools’ Day”. I wonder what we preachers will do that day!)
Pastor Ron Brauer