From Our Curate: A Holy Land Reflection

I recently embarked on a Pilgrimage to the land of the Holy one, Israel. Alongside my fellow Portsmouth Vicars I arrived physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. As well as my role Curate (Vicar in training) here at Christ Church I also have full-time secular employment, I run my own company. Like many, my job at times sees me working long hours, so an 8-day trip was time I could ill afford at such a busy time, so what is my reflection now I am home?

Stepping away from myself allowed me to see myself. What was I building? Whilst visiting all the Holy sites in this incredible land I noted two things. The commemorative buildings made by man to celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ lacked Him. Conversely, the 2500-year-old Olive tree, the sea of Galilee, the desert sands, things not made by Man spoke of the presence of Jesus in a powerful way.

I found myself reflecting: “it is not what we build physically that brings us closer to God, but rather what God build’s in us that brings us closer, how do these places point to Him?” I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place Jesus prayed before his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Before me stood a 2,500-year-old Olive, it would have been 500 years old in Jesus time, he may well have brushed past it, or even leaned against it to pray. This Olive tree stood faithfully just as Jesus stood faithfully. Like Jesus it to was scared and knotted. Like Jesus the tree had a vibrancy, a fragility, a vulnerability but strength. Its fruit, it’s green tips of new growth, offer hope. All sustained through deep roots that to an unseen source.

What am we building? Are we creating a man-made future? Is it an external beauty but lacks the internal heart? As I return home I carry the image of the Olive tree with me. If we want to live a Christ Centred life, a life free from exhaustion, we need to remain rooted, just as the Olive tree is rooted.

Prayer is the water that nurtures our roots. Jesus is the Son who shines upon & encourages growth. The Holy Spirit is the breeze that directs and shapes us. The Bible, the fertile soil that protect and nurtures as it pulls us into the unseen mystery of God. The Olives and its oil sustain and preserve us. We are the fragile green leaf tips that bring vibrancy and hope to others, eyes opened to Him. When we live grafted to the tree, to Jesus, the one true vine we flourish. In Him we remain connected to the very source of life, the beginning and the end.

We like Adam are found walking in the cool of the day in the garden, in Eden. As I look around at a City built by man & often destroyed by man this Olive tree remains untouched. I need not worry about what I build but instead focus on what God builds in in that I return renewed.


Revd Mark James

Curate, Christ Church Portsdown