(Photo of St. Helena's church on the Island of Lundy, UK. From 1836 to 1919 the island was owned by the Heaven family, and they called it "The Kingdom of Heaven." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
Jesus put before the crowds another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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." 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." "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. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." 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."
Well, I'm glad the disciples understood it, because parts of it are not all that clear to me.
The first thing I did was dig through the Greek. When things are unclear to me, I often go back into the original Greek and Hebrew and try to figure out the context of the original words--not just in terms of their literal meaning, but also according to the custom of the times--the colloquialisms, euphemisms, and whatnot. I learned two interesting concepts about the words "kingdom" and "heaven" in the original Greek:
"Kingdom"--Basileia--(like St. Peter's Basilica) actually has as much to do with the right or authority to rule as it does a physical kingdom. It's as much about the management of the realm as it is the realm itself.
"Heaven"--ouranos--doesn't just mean "Heaven," it can also mean sky, air, and/or the primeval Greek god of the sky--aka Uranus. In the "birds of the air" part of this passage, ouranos is the word used, too. It's interchangeably used in this passage for "heaven" and "air."
In the pre-Galileo, pre-Copernicus, pre-Keplerian concept of the sky, it was a dome--a dome that had all the things within it--stars, the sun, the moon, and all the stuff of earth above ground level.
So in my mind, what Jesus was talking about was this interchangeable mix and match place that is made of of heaven and earth simultaneously. It's a place where the temporal (the birds of the air) and the godly coexist. It's the was, is, and is to be all rolled into one, and this "kingdom" is not just simply real estate--it's God's authority in managing the whole shebang. So what we do here has an effect on Heaven. What we do today, has an effect on tomorrow. Kinda like the Butterfly Effect. It's part of how I see passages like "the kingdom being among us" and "The kingdom of heaven is here."
The Butterfly Effect is a very accepted part of chaos theory. It's why we now state with some degree of confidence that we have little confidence in predicting the weather outside of a week or so in advance.
I've said many times in this blog that what we attribute to "supernatural" is, in reality, very likely an expression of the natural world that our finite brainpower can't understand.
What it means to me is this: What we do right now--in the here and now--has the power to change the initial conditions for a state in the universe that is striving to move to a steady state. It means that these small changes have the potential for a larger effect later on. It means we have choices in these things. It means what we do now can have a positive or negative effect on things around us that we cannot foresee. All any of us can do is try to make good choices, yet we have to let go any delusions we have that we control them once we have made our choices.
My belief is our good choices not only help those things we can see, but that it also expands Heaven in a way we cannot see, and, perhaps will only be revealed to us when we die.
Most importantly, it means every one of us has a stake--not just later, but now--in the Basileia of Ouranos.