Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sakura: Of Transience in Resurrection

Sakura is a particular season in the life of the people of Japan. It is the short period of time when the plum and cherry trees bloom. Because of the popularity of cherry blossom festivals now celebrated in other countries, that practice has extended far beyond of the shores of the Japanese islands where the tradition was born. 

Sakura is more than the advent of spring, or the marking of a change in seasons. It is anticipated, as people track the "sakura front" as warm air moves north through the seas around Japan as we would look for the blooming of daffodils and tulips in anticipation of Easter. The appearance/approach of one thing means another is coming...and for the Japanese it is the tradition of hanami, a practice of getting out of the workaday routines and spending time with family and friends while picnicking under the blossoming trees, surrounded by the color and scent of all those blooms.

A beautiful and romantic concept, but one that has a slightly unnerving twist. The practice of gathering to stop, rest and enjoy this too-brief season is also an invitation to ponder and embrace the impermanent and transient nature of life. Even as great beauty is marked and celebrated, it is a necessity to acknowledge that it is quickly fading and passing away.

Late evening: Cherry blossoms on a dog walk

One evening, while walking my lovely, old dog (she is 15 and her "walk" are really slow, short ambles down to our local park and back) I passed a neighbors house where a very ancient, twisted and apparently anemic cherry tree had that afternoon erupted into bloom. I stood beneath the tree, it's scent in my nostrils and the pale color of the blooms illuminated by an overhead street lamp in my eyes and felt that sense of sakura/hanami. Me, in early middle age, my dog in her superannuated state and those blossoms all gave me pause. Life is transient, and every moment is passing. It was beautiful.

But I wasn't sad. Instead, I found myself reflecting peacefully on the wonder that this moment comes to us when we as a Church are marking a season of resurrection. The overturning of the tyranny of death and oblivion with life and life eternal at that, in Jesus Christ is our reality. Mortality is just a portal, and no longer a demarcation between being and non-being. 

What resurrection isn't though is a new status quo for the here and now to the exclusion of what is yet to break over us as resurrection renews us. In fact, it is not static at all. It is dynamic, vital and it is happening all around us. It is on its way, and it beckons us for it to join it. It cannot linger, and it cannot rest. 

Resurrection is a provocation. A provocation to engage in life now, even as we anticipate the life to come.

Put it this way...sakura is beauty itself in a most precious and ephemeral way: It is overwhelming while at the same time being here and gone almost before we get a chance to notice it. The first taste of resurrection we have, in the narratives of Jesus' appearing to his disciples also have that sense of transience....while we would love this season to persist, we can't grow, evolve and bear the fruit of the kingdom until we are willing to let go of that moment and allow ourselves to move forward with the resurrected Christ into new life, into resurrection living.

Beneath that cherry tree, perhaps in the truest hanami moment I have ever felt, I finally began (I think) to get resurrection in a way that I have not been able to grasp in past Eastertides. Resurrection is more beautiful and fragrant than any cherry blossom...but in order to for us to continue in relationship to it, we have to be willing to let go our grasp on it being a moment and instead allow it to become a way of being through all the seasons of our lives: Both the one we live in the here and now...and the one we will share with Christ at the end of days. 

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