One of the things everyone one should try to do before they die is to visit our nation’s capital in the spring. Each year, during the National Cherry Blossom Festival more than 700,000 people visit Washington to admire the blossoming cherry trees that herald the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital. I was there nearly twenty years ago, and the sights and smells of that visit remain a pleasant memory.
I was reminded of that this week, as the Associated Press published an article detailing the traditions of cherry blossoms in the nation of Japan. This article stated :
“For the Japanese, [this year’s cherry blossoms] will be a particularly poignant sight. Even in normal times, the flowers are a cause for rejoicing tinged with sadness, because they fall at the moment of their greatest beauty. They are the embodiment of a notion that is central to Japanese culture — “hakanasa,” a hard-to-translate word that conveys the fragility, or evanescence, of life….
“In this time of national grieving, the cherry blossoms will bring home the awareness of hakanasa with a strange kind of force…. The fragility of technologically-advanced Japan was exposed in the most terrifying way in the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast, leaving more than 10,000 people dead, some 17,500 missing and about a half-million homeless, and spawning a nuclear disaster.
“Hiroyuki Yoneta, a monger at Tokyo’s bustling Tsukiji fish market, reflected on life’s frailty ….
“‘Thinking about how these people living normal lives suddenly disappeared, you can’t escape the feeling that humans, like the flowers, are transient things,’ Yoneta said.”
As we continue in this season approaching Easter, it is important for us to reflect upon life, death and resurrection. None of us can deny the transitory and fragile nature of human existence after witnessing the recent events in Japan, but the Easter story shows us how human existence, unlike that of the flowers, has a higher value.
In the Bible story we read of a special relationship between mankind and the Creator, God. We discover how that relationship was severed through disobedience, and how God went about to restore that bond of affection. We read in the Holy Text of a Creator/God who loves mankind so much that he chose self-sacrifice as a means to rescue humanity from its bondage to sin and death. Those bonds were then broken in dramatic fashion in the Easter Morning Resurrection!
As I was watching the news from Japan, I thought about our late missionary, Delta Bond, and her heart for the Japanese people. Through her nursing skills she was able to bring the Gospel message of hope and resurrection to the people of Japan. Were she alive today, I believe her heart would be broken witnessing the awful destruction of that island nation. She would, no doubt, encourage all of us to pray for Japan and to help them in whatever other ways we are able. She would also be reminding us of the need for others to “fill her shoes” in the missionary work of spreading the Gospel.
Sure, human life is often bitter and sometimes cut short. James, the evangelist, wrote that our life was like “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The ever suffering Job was “comforted” with the acknowledgment that, “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward,” (Job 5:7) but that does not mean that we should live without hope. We, the church, have the hope born in the Garden when our Hope prayed, “Not my will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) We have the hope won on the cross when our Savior cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) We have the hope displayed for all to realize in the empty tomb where angels declared, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.” (Matthew 28:6) May we ever live as people of Hope.
Praying you fully realize Hope this Easter,