Friday, August 20, 2021

New Olive Tree Ink and the Color of Peace: Another Tattoo for the Rev

“We believe in justice. One day we will see the Son of Justice rise again.”

I’ll never forget hearing these words from Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian whose family lives in the West Bank on an olive tree farm called Tent of Nations. After sharing stories of peaceful resistance in the midst of occupation and terror, including one about Jewish partners who helped replant over 250 trees after they were burned down as an act of Israeli intimidation, our group of pilgrims was invited to purchase one of our own in solidarity.

So I sponsored two. 

And the olive tree, for me, became a favorite symbol of resilience and resurrection, courage and care, hope and redemptive love.  

Olive trees can grow in uncommonly dry spaces and are known for their longevity of life, some say these trees never die but are eternally reborn out of the same root systems. Olive trees are the first named arbors in Scripture, whose leaves were plucked by the dove as symbol of new life after the flood. Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish writes, “The Olive Tree is the color of peace, if peace needed a color,” calling to mind the interfaith stories past and present that have leaned on the witness of these trees as they resist violence and pursue a better way.  Olive trees are also responsible for one of the most vital harvests in the Mediterranean, olive oil, made from a process of repeated pressing that is sacred imagery across faith traditions and an invitation to endure the struggle. Olive trees in Gethsemene, meaning “oil press,” even served as sanctuary as Jesus prayed with persistence and his disciples slept on assignment, only for the Messiah to call them thrice to “keep awake” and remain vigilant. γρηγορεῖτε (gregorēite) in Greek; my name thrice spoken among the olive trees where I pilgrimaged in 2019.

Now, every time I look down at my right arm, thanks to @billyhaines, I see not only my invitational name, but also the stubborn yet beautiful tree whose fruit will be pressed but not overcome. I will remember a rootedness that endures forever and nudges us to color the world justly and peacefully as we wait for the Son to rise again. We certainly need all of this and more in these pressing days.