Friday, February 19, 2016

Gazing Upon Our Homeland


Railway station filled with lovely local accents,
I go into the crowd and listen to them.”

ふるさとの 訛なつかし 停車場の 人ごみの中に そを聴きにゆく

This poem (called "tanka" in Japanese) was written by Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912, born in an obscure village in northern part of Japan) who had then lived in Tokyo. Struck by a heavy homesick, he went to the Ueno train station, which was filled with people from various regions, in order to listen to his local accents and to be consoled.

 

                                                                         Takuboku Ishikawa, 1886- 1912

When we speak in our local accents, don't we feel some kind of unseen bonds between us? Our dialects draw us to a sweet recognition that we are sharing the same "homeland."

And now, thankfully, we as believers in Christ, are no longer bound by such local, earthly attachments, but have become pilgrims who are wholeheartedly and single-mindedly seeking a heavenly homeland (Heb.11:16).

The writer of the book of Hebrews testified as follows.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.  Hebrews 11:13-16

But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:20a, ESV)

The revealed reality of the heavenly homeland here would deliver us from earthly bondage such as ethno-centralism, ultra-nationalism and so forth. And I believe that the more we'll be freed from these bondages, the more we've come to be one in Christ and to each other.

 
Railway station filled with lovely local accents,,

Just like the earthly local folks, we pilgrims also share the special "homely" dialect with which we can communicate in an intimate and deeper way. Yes, this is the "language" which is born out of the "fellowship of the Spirit" (Phil.2:1). And this solidarity is a powerful, life-filled koinonia (=fellowship) which surpasses any earthly alliance.

 
,,I go into the crowd

To me, this "crowd" in the railway station here means a secular world which shows no interest whatsoever in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the midst of these noisy crowds and its rush streams, sometimes, I am just overwhelmed by an acute sense of homesickness. And then, like an a little stray child, my heart yearns for my fellow pilgrims, running about in the railway station.

 ,,and listen to them.

Dear sisters and my fellow wayfarers, reading your devoted writings and listening to your testimonies always make my heart warm and calm. Though we are currently scattered across the globe, the day shall come that we will be gathered in one place.

O Lord, until that glorious Day, help us to gaze upon our heavenly homeland with our single and faith-filled eyes. Amen.