Three “Happy Trees”

Susanne and I are in Kyoto, Japan for the last meeting of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations. The last because this commission has been rolled together with the doctrinal one due to budget constraints in the Anglican Communion and, ostensibly, because the line between ecumenical and inter-Anglican relations has become increasingly blurred in recent years and the thought is, one group should attend to both.

I’m not sure this is a good idea because there is so much going on ecumenically around the world that I think we need a discreet body to meet annually and serve as a clearing-house and think-tank so that our ecumenical work has some consistency and cogency around the Communion. For example, are we saying the same thing to Methodists in the US as the Church of England is saying to British Methodists in ecumenical agreements? Perhaps the new group can do this, but I wonder if the work load will just be too heavy and scattered.

Today we were able to to tour Nara (not far from Kyoto) and visit a Buddhist temple (the largest wooden structure in the world) and a Shinto shrine the grounds of which were covered by over 1,000 tame deer (preserved because they are seen as sacred in their ancient mythology). The peace and serenity of these holy places was palpable, even with hundreds of tourists and pilgrims walking about.

My favorite learning was that the three primary types of trees in Japan have symbolic meaning. The pine represents “long life and eternal youth” because of its ever-green nature. The bamboo represents “honesty” because it stand tall and straight. The plum tree represents “courage” because it is fruitful even in winter. They are called the “three happy trees” of this land!

May we find our happiness in such virtues as long life, honesty, and courage!

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