Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cherry Blossom - A Glorious Life

Cherry Blossom - A Glorious Life

The blossom of the cherry tree (sakura ), as many people know, is the national flower of Japan. The white blossoms appear in poetry, historical tales, and prose throughout Japanese history. They burst into clouds of brilliant white blossoms in early April to thrill the hearts of people with their ancient glory and liveliness. Banks and banks of rivers are adorned with the pretty blossoms and the streets are flushed with them.

To honor its beauty, and short life span, the Japanese celebrate its arrival with a yearly festival. It is a familiar sight in Japan during the early days of April to have families, couples, and friends picnicking beneath the blossoms in the spring. They brought about a lovely custom that brings families, lovers, and friends together to marvel at the yearly renewal of nature, appreciate one another against the backdrop of silent beauty. The cherry-viewing time became a time when people would take time from their busyness and spend time with their loved ones.
The cherry blossoms are the coronation of spring, drawing hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers for cherry viewing, for the flowers come out only during this time and will soon be scattered away. Brilliant, splendid, but short-lived.

The cherry blossoms symbolizes the samurai spirit of the Japanese, because the life of a samurai in feudal times was proverbially compared to the short-lived cherry blossoms, for a samurai was always ready to sacrifice his life for the cause of his master. To a samurai, there was no glory superior to that of dying on the battlefield like scattered cherry blossoms. Resplendent in full bloom, cherry blossoms are seldom known to last more than two weeks. They are easily swept away with one strong wind, a fleeting beauty that also means transience, melancholy, and the honour of graceful resignation. Like the life of the samurai, though short, is nonetheless a glorious one.

Japan has absolutely no lack of lovely blooms of other kinds, but it is certainly true that the Japanese love the cherry blossoms more than any other flowers. When anyone there speaks of flower-viewing, they are referring to viewing the cherry blossoms, and not any other flowers. Though the cherry blossom may have a short life compared to other flowers, it remains the most highly valued. Similarly, though the life of a samurai may have been short, it is one remembered in glorious admiration. We would think that the cherry blossom among flowers is like the samurai among men.

The Japanese have their cherry blossoms and their Samurai. We have that equivalent in our Christian context as well. Remember Jesus Christ, our Lord who lived a short life of thirty-three years. Though the Lord spent only that short span of time on earth, it was however a life that will be remembered and admired by those who know it.

Besides coming to die for us, Jesus also came to be an example of how we ought to live this transient life on earth before we all enter into eternal life in heaven. He came also to show men how we might live a victorious and well-spent life over our short length of stay on this planet. All of us are created for eternity, and eternity knows no limits. Our time on earth is a short span compared to the eternity of time that we have been made for. During this short span here, we can either choose to live a cherry blossom life – a truly stunning and outstanding one, or live a life of average – a mediocre and unmemorable one where it really wouldn’t have made any difference to anyone whether it was there or not.

The Lord’s life actually mirrors that of the cherry blossom. He reconciled us to God through His sacrifice, united man in the bond of love, and worked incomparable wonders and miracles for all time. And it is this cherry blossom like and Christ like life that we are called to live now. Like them, let our life be a cause for jubilation for people around us, and let us bloom when God calls us to, the length of time regardless.

A Meaningful life

In history, many heroes of faith have lived out a “cherry blossom life” and brought blessings that continue to be enjoyed by several generations after them. Abraham, the father of faith, set an example for us to live by faith. Because of his life that was so yielded to God, we who are his spiritual children are able to live under the blessing made between God and him. Moses was an example of meekness and humility, teaching men to rely on the omnipotent God always. David’s story was a warning against the frailty and weakness of the flesh and an encouragement of how God’s everlasting love and mercy can erase all transgression and make all things new. David’s son, Solomon, showed that there was nothing under the sun that was exactly worth living for save for the sum of man that is to fear God and keep His commandments wherein lies the true joy and meaning of life. And the several New Testament apostle and other men and women of God whose lives and faith continue to inspire us and bring great blessing to us.

There is no life so exciting, so wonderful, and fulfilling as living a godly lives. We can all experience the glorious life of the cherry blossom, of the samurai, of Christ, but in any of these truly outstanding lives, the one requirement is that we must be willing to be a living offering or a living sacrifice. It is God’s desire for every one of us to be an offering that brings Him great delight. The one thing however is that we be brave like the samurai and as unflinching as the cherry blossom – willing to be used supremely yet ready to surrender when the season closes in.
Israel was a nation specially chosen for this purpose. Though a relatively small nation, she was, in spiritual significance, born an aristocratic race like the cherry blossom among flowers. She was designed to be the place of worship of the Lord, where He would reign, and where the people would reflect His ways by theirs. They were to be the distinction among men, the light in the world of darkness. The Lord reserved rewards for them – those who obeyed would enjoy unending blessings and benefits – their diseases would be divinely healed, peace, joy and prosperity were there to dwell with them. The promise of God’s blessings resided with them so that through them all the peoples on the earth would be blessed.

They were the cherry blossom that was supposed to be outstanding among flowers, and the candle among the several lampstands that would keep a brilliant flame right to the last of their wick. Israel, however, grieved that predestination of God and lived contrary to what God had designed for them. Therefore, the privilege of being the light among nations went to the gentile race instead, which in today’s context, is the Christian race. We are now given the opportunity to be the distinction in all of God’s creation. God will lead us as how He would have led Israel. Will you be led by Him this way?

In 1 Cor.10:11, after Paul gave an outline of Israel’s experience in the wilderness he said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come”. Israel’s experience was meant as a lesson to all who wants to be led by the Lord to be a truly exceptional distinction in His creation. If you have decided to let the Lord lead you to live the glory that He designed for a special race, then learn from Israel’s lesson and do not squander the call of God upon your life.

Over a conversation with my friend in Japan, he quoted a Japanese saying that went like this: “Would you be a cherry blossom that burns bright and strong as a candle even if that meant a speedier end, or would you rather just flame at leisure but lifelessly and indeed meaninglessly?” The idea there is simple: we either live a life that bears no significance or we can choose to live a glorious one by being the distinction of the Lord.

We are called to be God’s channels of blessing to this dark and confusing world. The seed of Abraham was called to be a blessing to all of the families on the face of the earth, so it becomes our calling to be a blessing to everyone around us. Like the Cherry Blossom is the Flower among flowers and the Samurai Man among men, let us, Christian brothers and sisters, be the People among people. Live out a glorious life for Christ and for others, Amen!

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