North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit

We are a discipleship movement shaped for mission

The first time I watched the film Groundhog Day I knew I was adding a new favourite to my list. TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is scheduled for the fifth year in a row, to cover the February 2nd Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, an assignment he truly despises. Waking the following morning to return home, he is incredulous that it’s February 2nd - again!  Gradually over successive re-runs of the day, Phil moves from bafflement to frustration, to self-centred hedonism and then into despair and suicide. He tries to tell his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), who is - reasonably enough - rather sceptical. Phil claims to Rita that he's “a god, not THE God, but a god” and hearing her gentle rebuff, he realises he wants more from life. He tries chasing Rita in a self-centred way - and fails multiple times; eventually he lives a day entirely for other people's benefit - and then the most extraordinary thing happens… If you’ve never seen the film, I commend you to have a look.
 So what? This year’s February 2nd was a remarkable palindrome 02022020, but seeing - and living - life the same backwards and forwards, day after day truly is the route to frustration and despair. The Old Testament writer of the book of Ecclesiastes examines many things people chase after and declares them to be “meaningless” no less than 33 times! Then in a remarkable turnround comments, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) - I wonder, where are you looking for meaning, truth and fulfilment?
This year’s Groundhog Day came at the end of a remarkable week. Monday January 27th was the 75th anniversary of the liberation by Russians troops of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The ceremonies to mark the anniversary were a potent reminder of the horror of fanatical and misguided prejudice worked out into political philosophy and practice and the human consequence is undiminished with the passing of time. However, as the last survivors of the death camps diminish in number, the increasing legacy of those who have turned their backs on sectarian attitudes reminds us that leaning the lessons of history can lead to a better world for all its peoples.
However, the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 did not lead to an endless story of progress and harmony - indeed it has been in conflict with its neighbours almost continuously - with wrong on both sides. As the past week continued, The United States Government proposed a plan aimed at ending the hostility between Israeli and Palestinian people; whether escape from a seemingly endless cycle of animosity can be accomplished and the intended outcome of peaceful co-existence will come to fruition is far from certain - no matter how much it is desired by all concerned. There are always choices to be made and St. Paul called Israel to harken to God’s calling to become part of His new community of those redeemed and transformed from old antagonisms (Romans 11:25-27).
Finally on Friday 31st January, The United Kingdom took a decisive step along the journey of leaving the European Union. Regardless of your view of this matter, it is a reminder that the only version of history we can ever know is the path that is taken, rather than the one that is not. All of us, whether instinctively “Leavers” or “Remainers” now need to live in the present and future reality we meet and shape. Writing to the first Christians in Europe, nearly 1900 years ago St.Paul challenged them to rise above self-interest and partisan gain and recognise how destructive they can be. He puts it pretty strongly before seeking to inspire them to follow a new, more wholesome and fulfilling path, “Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:19-22).

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In all areas of our private personal or public life, how willing are we to break the ultimately self-destructive cycles we follow and allow ourselves to discover the risky, but exciting adventure of allowing Jesus to lead us into the future with His clarion call, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).

Many Blessings,
 David Miller.