Fourteen years ago I went to a cherry blossom viewing party in north Japan.
For many people cherry blossom symbolise the fleeting nature of life and beauty. The Japanese phrase mono no aware (物の哀れ) refers to “the elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last.”
For me, they mean something different. Fourteen years ago, I’d just arrived in Japan to work with OMF missionaries as a Serve Asia worker. My three months in Japan gave me a love for the country and its people, an awareness of their spiritual need, and a longing to return. Every spring when I see the cherry blossom on the trees here, I’m reminded of my time in Japan.
Spring is also a reminder of resurrection. I often return to this apocryphal “Martin Luther” quotation that he almost certainly never said, but sounds Luther-esque:
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
As with the spring, so with cherry blossom: it is a yearly reminder that death is not the end of the story. New life is born from the midst of death. Each flower points beyond itself to the infinite day of the new creation, where “everlasting spring abides” (Isaac Watts).
Yes, the blossom is fleeting. So is this life. But today, on Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the defeat of death.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.Romans 8:19-21
The cherry blossom festival only lasts a few days. But Jesus’ resurrection means that one day creation will celebrate with us forever.