Mustard seeds, yeast, treasure, pearls, fishnets and scriptures. The kingdom of God so described is predictably prolific, an agent of ferment, pirate booty, jewelry, a deadly trap--and something that one can be trained for! Jesus' first parables remind me of Thich Nhat Hanh's famous illustration of "seeing the clouds in the page you are reading" (and by extension the rain from the cloud, the tree that grows with the rain and the wood pulp from the tree used to make the paper in the book). Can we see the shade cast by the tree in the seed? The smiles and contentment of lives nourished by the bread made with the yeast? The thousands of lives, some wealthy, some exploited, required to produce the inexpensive commodities that we take for granted? The kingdom of God is the real value, Jesus illustrates, not simply in the seed, the yeast and the treasure in and of themselves. Our value is discovered in our interrelatedness, our inter-being, the way that in even the smallest thing, God unfolds an economy, an ecosystem, a galaxy, something impossible to predict or control, which asks us to look more closely.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (NRSV)
31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;
32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."...
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;
46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;
48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes."
52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."