The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus talks quite a bit about the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact he mentions it over 700 in the Gospels so it is a pretty important element of his teachings. Let’s take a moment and reflect on what he meant by the Kingdom of Heaven.
First thing to notice is that nowhere does Jesus give a geographic location for the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke in parables and metaphors because he understood that the experience of heaven is not an intellectual endeavor. Heaven is an experience that happens when we empty ourselves and seek only God. It is that moment of deep union with all that is holy and the realization that we can never separate ourselves from the presence of Spirit.
When he described the Kingdom of Heaven, he used images and symbols that the people who were listening could understand. He gave pictures of women baking bread and farmers planting their field. But, he challenged his listeners to go deeper into the symbolism of those things that were part of their routine. When he talked about the woman baking bread, he compared the Kingdom of Heaven to the yeast she added to the bread. What is interesting about this analogy is that yeast was considered a contaminate in ancient Jewish tradition. It goes back to the time when the Israelites fled the Egyptians under the leadership of Moses, they were commanded by God to bake unleavened bread to take with them.
He also compared the Kingdom of Heaven to the mustard seed which was also considered tainted at that time as well. Mustard would get into a field and take over, choking out the healthy plants. Consequently, farmers did everything they could to keep this plant out of the fields.
Jesus’ primary message when describing the Kingdom of Heaven was one of inclusion. He described a picture where everyone was included in God’s Kingdom. In fact, no one could get there until everyone got there. Our task then is to look around and ask “Who do we see as tainted and unworthy of a place in the Kingdom of Heaven? Who have we placed out of the kingdom of our hearts?” Because everything happens in consciousness first, we know that each time we exclude another from the God’s feast, we too will go hungry.
Then there are those parts of us we have determined are unworthy or contaminated in some way. Not only does Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of Heaven encourage us to embrace all of those around us, it also invites us to reclaim those parts of us that we have tried to eradicate from the Kingdom of our hearts.
As I read Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven, I incorporate a practice where I quiet my mind and search my heart for those aspects of myself and others that I have placed outside the realm of God. I then ask for God’s help to be able to see myself and others as God sees us, perfect and whole. As I do, I feel my whole being reenter heaven only to discover that I never left. In that moment, I realize that I am home in the presence of God, right where I belong. And that is pure heaven.