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"Sermon" Meditation XVI: Kingdom of God

He said, "What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard which a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches."

He also said, "The kingdom of God is like yeast which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until it leavened the whole mass."--Q1

In the kingdom of God, a little goes a long way.  The kingdom of God is small and does great things.  The kingdom of God works naturally and miraculously.  Its like the Tao, little is done but everything gets done, the wise man does nothing yet there is nothing that is not completed.  It is the way of nature, and it is miraculous.

Before reading the Tao te Ching and the Dhammapada, i could never appreciate Jesus' parables about the kingdom of God.  I knew them, memorized them at one point, but they really didn't have much meaning for me.  Onward Christian Soldiers was our hymn; I guess we were going to take heaven by violence as the gospel has Jesus suggest.  The idea that what we had to do was simple, simpler than simple, never occurred to us although Jesus left plenty of clues, including his descriptions of the kingdom of God.

A mustard seed just lays there and lets nature take its course; it does nothing except become what it is intended to become.  Now, i've never seen a mustard tree.  I doubt that it is very imposing, though it left enough of an impression on Jesus to allow him to use it as a metaphor for the kingdom.  But growing quietly from almost nothing, it becomes sufficient to be useful, at least to birds.  Doing by not doing.

The greatest spokespersons for all the great religions, and the small ones too, ask us to meditate.  Meditation looks like doing nothing, in some kinds of meditation, one is supposed to be doing nothing.  Yet this urged on the best of us as the best thing we could be doing.  then we go out from this doing nothingness and do things almost as simple: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless (including illegal aliens!), visit the infirm and imprisoned, comfort those who mourn, forgive the guilty, stand by the weak, be fearless for the fearful.  You stand up for things that need standing up for and get out of the way of people exercising their God given freedom and pursuit of happiness.  (If in the process of pursuing happiness they become oppressors of others, you go back to step one.)

If any part of the hagiography of the desert fathers and mothers is to be believed, the kingdom of god was brought to western Egypt for a time in the fourth century when solitary Christians lived with prayer, poverty and compassion and spread their influence like a leaven through the society and culture.  Solitaries, i am told, are like Taoist sages, they play no role, have no purpose, do no great deeds.  They just live quietly in the kingdom of God, reminding the rest of us that it is here, within us and among us, and showing by example how to live in that kingdom.

If the kingdom of God is within me
it must be smaller than a mustard seed
Well, now, that;s a thought

I am the flour that the leaven will raise
perhaps that leaven is within me too.

I can do less than i do that is contrary to the kingdom
and then i can do even less and with even less
until i have done less than i can even imagine,
and done it with nothing but the grace of god.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
I've always been bemused by the parable of the mustard seed. I've grown mustard greens in my garden, and let it go to seed and keep growing. It doesn't become a bush, much less a tree. It has no branches, and birds couldn't possibly build nests in it.

So reading your post I decided to Google it, see if there's some other kind of mustard grown in the holy land that grows into a tree or large shrub. Nope! I like this explanation: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that grows into a large tree; i.e., it grows way beyond reason or expectation. It grows supernaturally. If this is right, same must be true of the yeast parable; I wonder what measures the original referred to? It would have to be a tiny bit of yeast for a very large amount of flour to parallel the other parable.
Aug. 14th, 2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
I also googled mustard tree after posting on it, and found some interesting details, It has nothing to do with mustard except that the color of its leaves resemble the color of mustard. It actually produces a fruit which is sweet. People in north Africa and west Asia use its twigs to clean their teeth. It grows easily without much care and it does provide a good source of shade,
Aug. 15th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
I am enjoying this style of post, in which you are reflecting and then writing a piece of your own poetry. I also really like the yeast metaphor with the kingdom of god. the kingdom of god is in a way such a mysterious notion. I was taught about it in a parrot-like way and now I realise that it is probably what I am always hoping for and working for, in other terms. I am trying to introduce that leaven, but being aware that it takes some time to produce results in the earth.
Aug. 15th, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
:-) I much appreciate your appreciation.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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