Tea Ceremony

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”     John 4:14

Tea ceremony

As a lesser evolved member of the human race otherwise known as a “guy,” I sometimes failed to appreciate the subtleties of Japanese culture and nowhere was this more apparent than the intricacies of the Japanese tea ceremony. Growing up in the South, my only experience with this common beverage was ice tea and its preparation was purely functional in nature. In contrast, the formal Japanese tea ceremony known as “sadō” or “chadō” (茶道), meaning literally “the way of tea,” involves a very precise ritual for the brewing and consumption of green tea.

It is believed that tea was first imported to Japan from China around the 9th century through a Buddhist monk and was enjoyed exclusively by the nobility before eventually gaining popularity among the masses. The Japanese tea ceremony that is commonly practiced today was greatly influenced by Zen Buddhism. Four key concepts capture the tea ceremony’s overarching objective. These are “wa” (harmony), “kei” (respect), “sei” (purity) and “jaku” (tranquility) and they are subtly cultivated throughout the sadō ceremony by means of ambiance and carefully orchestrated actions. This includes the construction of the tearoom, display of artful decorations, arrangement and handling of the utensils, specialized vocabulary, scripted etiquette and the formal attire of the tea ceremony master. There are several historical schools of Japanese tea ceremony that differ in procedures and it takes several years of diligent training to qualify as an instructor.

To the untrained eyes of an outsider, the slow, deliberate, yet graceful protocol of a formal Japanese tea ceremony may appear boring and incongruent with the normal pace of life, but the ceremony’s unhurried pace actually serves to highlight its purpose. Some tea ceremonies may last up to four hours, providing participants a rare and needed escape from the noise and demands of everyday life. The following video provides a condensed visual portrayal of the stylistic intricacies that compose a Japanese tea ceremony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wQVxj_0Mdo

To my knowledge, Jesus never hosted a Japanese tea ceremony, but He did offer liquid refreshment of a different nature to a spiritually thirsty woman. That well-known encounter is recorded in John 4 where Jesus wearily paused by a local well on His journey through Samaria. There Jesus surprisingly initiated a conversation with a Samaritan woman addressing His physical need (water), which He gently turns to her greater spiritual need (salvation). While this encounter was not scripted like a Japanese tea ceremony, the subtleties of God’s passionate love for all manner of people is evident throughout this simple, but profound story. Jesus came to offer us life eternal so that we may never thirst again. That is the overarching objective of Jesus’ life that no tea ceremony, no matter how perfectly executed, could ever provide. Living water is freely available for all who are thirsty.

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