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  • Writer's picturercputz

Have you ever pondered the profound symbolism of the mustard seed and the Cedar of Lebanon in the context of our spiritual journey?

Have you ever pondered the profound symbolism of the mustard seed and the Cedar of Lebanon in the context of our spiritual journey?

Last Sunday, you heard the gospel parable about the mustard seed. Now, if you look at the lives of Joseph Cardijn, Albert Nolan, and others, do you see the work of being a mustard seed or a cedar?

In our own lives, do we desire to be more like the Cedar or the mustard tree?

Why did Jesus compare the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed that would grow into a mustard tree? What do you think was going through the minds of the people sitting there listening to Jesus talk about the kingdom as a mustard plant versus what they knew and believed from what you heard in the first reading from Ezekiel?

When you think of the Cedars of Lebanon, think of the Sequoias in California. These vast trees dominate the landscape and symbolize strength and prominence. 

The mustard seed is a weed. Grows into looking like a tree, but one of the key differences between the two is this: The Cedars of Lebanon, like the Sequoias of California, when they come down or are uprooted, they are done, now think of the mustard seed/tree and think of your garden, they are like Violets or even Irises. Both are of the weed family, and if you have ever tried to get them out, you know it is a struggle; they spread, they grow, and they don't give up easily. Even when you think you have removed the last one a year later, one pops up.

The Jewish people of Judea were expecting a kingdom of Cedars. This new empire would be strong and dominate the landscape. An empire that would "kick butt" with the Romans.

But what they heard from the person they heard may be the Messiah was a kingdom that was more like a weed.

What are you seeing and observing as you sit there and listen to Jesus tell this parable? You and your friends are sitting in the sun, and a breeze is coming off the Sea of Galilee.

Are you discerning what the parable means, judging the context of the meaning? Are you thinking something is just not right in this story? It is not what we are expecting. What is with this guy?

Remember that the parables are Oral stories that operate on additive rather than subordinative principles. Causation is rare. Events are laid one after another. People HEAR the stories. They don't read the stories like you, and I do today. 

Parables are examples of concrete thought, not abstract thought. Nor are parables substitutes for or even illustrations of abstract thought. Oral people think concretely. 'The kingdom of heaven is like ...' is not a simple way of talking to people but how an oral culture thinks. Reread that sentence one more time.

When we hear the parables, we must think about Living in a Reimagined World. Try some action here: Can you base your life on the reimagined world of the parables? 

My answer to this question is absolutely "Yes." The question we should be asking is not who Christ is, but the nature of the God Jesus hides in his parables. I use "hide" because God is no more the explicit topic of the parables than Jesus. The parables thus force another radical question: Why trust this reimagined world? Why trust Jesus? The parables teach us that if we listen to them, we have faith not in Jesus but in faith with Jesus. Think about that!

In the reimagined world of the parables, picture yourself again, sitting in the sun with the breeze off the sea of Galilee, listening to Jesus talk. We realize that we stand beside Jesus and trust that his world will work and that it can provide a safe space—the kingdom/empire of God—that resists all other empires. Jesus is our companion on the journey, not our Ceasar, not our military leader. He walks with us on the journey. 

Now, reread the gospel passage, but read it aloud this time. Listen to the words, picture the situation in time, and reimagine what the parables were saying to us then so we grasp what they mean today. See, judge, act. The parables are not easy to understand, but when we hear the word, we know what Jesus intended by the parables.

No parables are ever placed in Jesus' opponents' hands, nor does Paul or any other New Testament author use or create parables. The Gospel of John contains no parables. In the later Christian tradition, many different sayings of Jesus are reported, but no new parables are created. These are the WORDS of Jesus talking to his friends on a journey, reimagining a new world.

See-Judge-Act. Hear the parables. It is in the parables that we discover the kingdom of God.

If we HEAR the Parables: Will you and I ACT any differently?

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