I have an old Korean story for symbolizing Easter. Just fifty years ago, during the spring of 1964, I was serving my tenth year as pastor of Yang Yang, a town of mud walls and thatched roofs.
We‘d had the worst winter ever, and with people running out of fire wood and rice, the winter hung on forever. It was good for the dealers who were boosting prices out of sight.
Our church sat atop a steep hill overlooking the public school yard. Coming out from our 6:30 Mass every morning, I had made a habit of watching the struggles of a nine-year-old student with his book bag strapped to his back. While all the other kids plodded the path around our hill to the school, that little boy felt the need to climb up one side of our hill, then carefully step down the path on the other side.
One morning, I was watching the kid making his quick passage across to the down path, when I was surprised to see him stop and hunker for a bit at the edge of our yard. He then went on his way, and I went in for breakfast.
Then, at ten o’clock I had another surprise. I happened to glance out at the mailman making his passage across our yard. When I saw him stop and bend down at the spot where the little boy had stopped I walked out. He was a friendly fellow, so I asked what had caught his attention.
Running the yard’s rim there were the frozen remains of what thr year before we had dug up for a flower bed. Standing next to the mailman, I looked down on a single green sprout. It was like a single spike of asparagus, and the mailman said, “Paikhwa gotchida.” Or, “It’s a paik-hwa flower.”
Going into the house, and looking paik-hwa up in the dictionary, I found that it was a lily.
Then, through the day I saw one person after another stopping to look at the lily. They were not so much joyous over that single lily, as over the promise it gave that all of nature would come back to life.