Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Mustard Seed

Our church is currently studying the parable of the mustard seed, which goes like this:

"Jesus said, 'What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.'"

I've been thinking about this parable quite a bit. The usual interpretations (such as it being about God using our small efforts to grow into grand outcomes) are no doubt correct. But all of the traditional interpretations haven't been able to fully satisfy what I think a deeper understanding of this passage would unveil.

So I emailed Jon, our online community's resident Christian mystic, asking him what his interpretation was. And like any true teacher, he tossed it right back to me with a Yoda-esque email that simply said:

"Mmmmmm, Master Jesus a koan has given you, yes? Work with it you will, mmm?"

So I did.

And here's what I've come up with at this point (not saying I've got it all figured out):

Jesus' disciples and the people of that time expected the Messiah to set up a new social Kingdom... where they would find happiness, fulfillment, and release from suffering under an unjust government. Jesus, in reality, flipped this around by telling them that the happiness, fulfillment, and release they were looking for was not in social structures but rather in a separate reality - which he called the "Kingdom" of God.

This Kingdom is two-fold. (1) In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says the Kingdom is already "spread out upon the earth, though men don't see it." Since all of creation is a manifestation of God, then the exterior world/universe is currently the Kingdom of God as well. The people were looking for salvation in the future, and Jesus was saying "Look around... the perfection and peace of God is now!" (2) Not only is the Kingdom of God all around, perhaps more importantly the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). It is an interior reality, where God dwells not out there somewhere but is the very Eye of your eye, Breath of your breath, Mind of your mind.

In this light, the mustard seed is the tiny, insignificant, personal self. The self is planted into God (through meditation, prayer or any other yoga, or method of Union with God), where the seed dies - then grows and expands into the grandest thing imaginable. As Meister Eckhart said many years ago:
"The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God."


Jon said...

Thanks, Trev.

Really good insights there!
(You saved me the work of puzzling the parable!)

Tricky the Frimster is!

Meredith said...

Sounds like you nailed it. Nice job, Trev.

I especially appreciate that notion that heaven and earth are not separate, that heaven exists right in our very midst. "Look around... the perfection and peace of God is now!" ...and within.

Namaste' my friend,

isaiah said...

Well said-

and I humbly add that as each of us are a god-seed, planted by our birth-there is nothing for us to do but sprout in the time of our season.

Mark Walter said...

I completely agree with your insight.