When I first arrived at Olive Place I wanted to find some connection in Scripture with the church’s name. It needed to be more than name recognition. It needed to proclaim the church’s distinctiveness and personality. Psalm 52:8 was that verse— “But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God's unfailing love.” In the light of the surge of evil and godlessness in our world this verse needs to define the church today.
Olive trees are not the most attractive. It isn’t very tall. Its trunk is short, thick, irregular, twisted, light gray and full of bumps and cracks, especially as it gets older. Its leaves are evergreen with a whitish tint on the bottom-side which protects it from cold in winter and heat in summer. It’s tenacious in growing and producing fruit in almost any condition—on hills, in valleys, rocky or fertile soil they are virtually indestructible (it was, after all, an olive branch that a dove brought to Noah after the flood; Genesis 8:11). The olive is its fruit and has played an important role in the daily life of Israel for nearly 6,000 years. The olive is a staple food and its oil is used for cooking, lighting lamps and medicine throughout the Mediterranean area. Ok, where’s the point in this biology lesson?
The imagery of this specific tree is rich in significance for us. The characteristics of the Olive tree are to be the qualities found in the Christ’s church and its individual members— evergreen, hardy, remarkably long lived, practical, versatile, life-sustaining, life-enhancing with fruit that is valuable. This is who we are! We may not be the most eye-catching organism out there but because of the characteristics of Christ Jesus brought out in us by the Holy Spirit we are the most gifted at facing the challenges of this world.
Christ-follower you have a field of vision coming from God that understands the source of evil as well as right. That makes you like a strong well planted olive tree in the eternal economy of God. The world, on the other-hand, boasts in its own resources of righteousness as the solution to the problem of evil. They refuse to acknowledge the wiser world view, which takes God’s truth into account. The consequence of this godless system will result in being like a withered tree snatched, pulled, and uprooted from the eternal. You are of a divine family and you can’t be uprooted from it. Being near God (thriving in his house) insures safety and happiness despite all the maneuverings of your enemies. Despite the surrounding conditions you continue to bear fruit even when your foes boast about their evil purposes because your confidence is trusting in the eternal and perpetual mercy of God. That’s the truth—start living it—the testimony of His faithful people who trust in His great name and praise Him forever and ever. Amen.