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Lectio Divina: “tree”

Lectio Divina: “tree”

Gospel reading: Luke 13.18-21

[Jesus] said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’

And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’


Trees are marvellous beings! Spreading their crowns wide above ground, they hospitably provide niches for all sorts of other species. Oaks for example shelter “a colossal 2,300”. In our human frame, the stuff of hospitality is epitomised by bread, which is to be broken and shared around. So here in the two parables of the passage, there are two open and visible aspects of the kingdom – spreading and hospitality.

Then there is the hidden. The hidden spreading and growth of the yeast. The mycelial network below ground that connects trees and enables them to share nutrients and warn of pests.

Above ground and below ground.

These could be analogies for the active life and the contemplative life in the Kingdom. At present I am called to contemplation, to be hidden, below ground. I suppose that means that I’m called to be fungus! Its value is lesser known, more of a mystery. Which means that sometimes in my head I am uncertain that what I am doing or being is of value and making a difference. (Of value to others, that is. For myself I am embracing it!) But in my gut I am certain of its importance.

Maybe here there is also an analogy for the kataphatic approach to theology – trying to describe the Kingdom through a series of similes and metaphors, each inadequate in itself, but perhaps coming close to a description if enough are piled up – and the apophatic approach – realising that each simile is inadequate because the Kingdom is not a mustard seed, not yeast, not a treasure or a pearl. The kataphatic is on the surface in the light. The apophatic is hidden underground, grasping in the dark after depths that can’t be plumbed.

Compare these other verses in Luke’s Gospel:

“At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10.21; NRSV)

“But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Luke 18.34; NRSV)

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19.42; NRSV)

But in the end:

“For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.” (Luke 8.17; NRSV)


Since April 2020, I have been jointly hosting a shared Lectio Divina group on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. These are my reflections only, during the prayer session and as I wrote them up. Please see my separate commentary and leaflet for more information about shared Lectio.