Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lenten Meditation--Sakura

This past Monday, as I was walking through the plaza at Christian Academy in Japan on my way to work, I spied a single white blossom in a nearby branch.  This sighting pulled me from my walking-but-not-quite-waking 8:00 am stupor, filling me with joy and excitement.

Most of the trees in CAJ's plaza are Somei Yoshino Cherry Trees, one variety of a larger family known in Japan simply as Sakura.

Forget groundhogs; forget robins--the pink and white Sakura blossoms herald the beginning of Spring in Japan.  When the trees are in full bloom, each tree, each limb resembles a vibrant cloudburst.  Each limb is filled with life and beauty.  The weather warms and people begin to venture outside for long walks and picnics under the blossoms.

This is why I was so energized and excited when I saw that blossom that morning: it was a promise; a preview; just a taste of the new season to come.  Almost every other branch of every tree in the plaza was still bare, as though dead.  The weather that day was just a little too chilly to feel Spring-like and wind-storm that night made it seem as though the weather was not improving but getting worse.  Yet, that blossom signaled something inexorable; something true and reliable: Spring would arrive in full and nothing could stop it!

We live in a rather extended version of this cool March Monday morning: the world is broken and so many things around us seem bare, bereft of truth, beauty and life.  Sometimes, it seems as though the world is simply getting worse.  Yet if we look carefully, we can spy the blossoms around us; those special moments of reconciliation, healing and restoration that hint at something yet to come.  

This combination of celebration and patient expectation is embodied in these days and weeks leading up to Easter.  Through His death and resurrection, Christ dealt a mortal blow to sin and death and the outcome of this ancient battle is now certain.  Christ will return to end the battle once and for all so that we can enjoy the fullness of victory in a newly restored Earth, and we wait for that day with earnest and deep longing.  It is perhaps all too easy to become impatient and to lose hope in the waiting, but it is essential to look for the first-fruits; those signs and signals that sin will pass away.  In time, the bare branches of this world will burst to life, beautiful, full and new.  In time, Spring will come.

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