with Tim Werts
Together, we will explore Jesus's primary message about the Kingdom of God/Heaven (what is it? where is it? why is it important?) and his many parables about (or pointers to) this "Kingdom" and we will do our best to "sit" in that Kingdom.
Honestly, this will be a tricky exploration because:
- First, the idea of "Kingdom" may feel old and dated, even as a metaphor, despite the persistence of England's Royal Family.
- Second, scholars and Christian theologians throughout history still have not come to any conclusive definition on what exactly Jesus was talking about. Seriously?
- Third, Jesus' parables of the Kingdom do not describe anything remotely like a typical "Kingdom" and many find them confusing if not conflicting.
On that third point, these parables are short, often puzzling, statements that do not focus on kings, empires, armies, power, land, Game of Thrones or fancy costumes.
Instead, this Kingdom is "like", according to Jesus, yeast, fish nets, buried treasures, pearls, seeds of all sorts (including mustard), and also the odd visual of a camel going through the eye of a needle.
And ... in case that wasn't enough craziness, even more seemingly unrelated metaphors are thrown in the mix.
Jesus did not exactly provide a paint-by-number picture of this kingdom.
Well, did he at least mention how one may get to this Kingdom?
Yes ... apparently like a little child ...... Huh?
So in this class we will dive into this age-old confusion, connecting through modern technology called Zoom, to explore these teachings.
We can do no worse than the scholars did for the last 2,000 years.
The Kingdom of Heaven – When & Where
Nets and Fish: Do Nothing and Accept What Is
Seeds and Yeast: The Mystery of Transformation
This session we will explore the parable of the secret seeds, the mustard seed, and the yeast.
So far, here’s what we’ve learned thus far about “the Kingdom” from Jesus’ parables.
- First, it is Immediate; it is present. It is available to us now. That is the Good News.
- Second, we need a change of “heart and mind”, open to a different way to experience life.
- Third, Jesus guides us to approach and receive the Kingdom “like a child”, with fresh, open, imaginative Beginner’s Mind.
- Fourth, we meditated on the Kingdom by taking an internal posture of Receptivity based on the parable of “the net thrown deep and wide into the sea catching fish of all sorts”. We threw our net of awareness in the sea of consciousness and allowed experiences of all types, facing everything and rejecting nothing.
This week we will explore more aspects of the Kingdom with parables on seeds and yeast. Once we explore the parables then we will meditate together guided by the parable. For your convenience, this week’s parables are below.
Mark 4: 26: The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day he sleeps and wakes, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he knows not how. All by itself the earth produces a crop—first the stalk, then the head, then grain that ripens within. And as soon as the grain is ripe, he swings the sickle, because the harvest has come.
Mathew 13:31: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. Although it is the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows into the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.
Mathew 13:33: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened.
Treasure and the Eye of the Needle: The Paradox of Desire and Surender
In this session, we explore how the parables of the Pearl, the Buried Treasure, and the Camel and Eye of the Needle can help us with the paradox of direct awakening.
In addition to the parables, we will discuss the very interesting story of Rich Young Man who asked Jesus for the secret to Eternal Life only to be told to give up all his possessions.
Really? Everything? Kidding, right?
The story may provide a razor's edge path to what seems to be a paradox between great desire (wanting the precious pearl more than anything) and great surrender, giving up all you have (including the ‘desire’ of Eternal Life or Direct Awakening itself).
Spoiler Alert - I do not know the solution.
But here's a creative idea for resolving the dilemma.
Seriously, the 'answer' may be a mystery we must live into. I look forward to exploring this mystery with you in this session.
Primary readings for our exploration.
- The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and of the Priceless Pearl
- 44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.
- 45. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.
- 46. When he found one priceless
-- [a] pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it
-- [a] or very precious
- Possessions and the Kingdom
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
The Eternal Life – The Vine and the Branch
For this exploration, we will shift our focus from the three synoptic gospels to the fourth Gospel, John, where Jesus' primary Good News is 'Eternal Life' instead of 'The Kingdom of God'. So naturally, we will discuss if Jesus' metaphors for Eternal Life are related to his parables of The Kingdom of God and Direct Awakening. I must confess that I have had a 'love-hate' relationship with the Gospel of John over the years. I found the many mystical passages in John that inspired me located side-by-side with passages that appear harshly judgemental, often leaving me frustrated and confused. Thankfully, continued meditation and reading Christian wisdom teachers such as Cynthia Bourgeault and Richard Rohr have opened me to new insights from John.
Below are some of the readings from John's Gospel that we will explore.
- In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
- "I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
- “In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:13)
- "I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance." (John 10:10)
- "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you." (John 14:20)
- “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit." (John 15:5)
“Do You Love Me?” The Call to Ever-Increasing Compassion
Up until now, we have been exploring Jesus’ primary message, his “Good News” – to recognize that the Kingdom of God is here and now. No more waiting.
During this session, we will crystalize some of the core insights from our previous gatherings by answering the key questions that started us on this journey.
- What have we learned about this “Kingdom”?
- What, if anything, does it have to do with Direct Awakening?
- If so, what are its qualities and how may we realize it?
A remaining question that we will explore is how does one act in the world to grow and help bring a more realized Kingdom here on Earth? Jesus was not a navel-gazer.
To answer this question, we will read the story of Jesus and a few disciples having breakfast on the shore where Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?”. [Found in Gospel of John, chapter 21]
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