Teachers/About Us

THE MUSTARD SEED VENTURE

Mission Statement

Seeking to deeply understand, collectively experience, and freely extend what the historical Jesus referred to as “the kingdom,” by following his teachings and by drawing inspiration from anywhere that we see the kingdom manifest.

Being in the Kingdom

We believe that entering the kingdom means living in a state in which we rely implicitly on the goodness of God, in which we are free of care and anxiety, and in which we extend love and caring to others unhindered by the usual considerations of merit. We believe that as we live more fully in the kingdom, we will encounter one another in a way that reflects the deep, compassionate love that Jesus spoke of. We seek to know each other as God knows us, which means valuing and celebrating each person’s worth as a unique, beautiful soul.

A Pre-Christian Approach

We are taking what one might call a pre-Christian approach to Jesus. We are not affiliated with any church, practice no rituals, and hold no services. Rather than worshipping Jesus, we attempt to answer the question “What would it have meant to follow Jesus’ teachings during his lifetime, before Christianity?” We lean on the findings of modern scholarship, which has concluded that Jesus’ authentic message was not about himself, but about following a “way.” We focus especially on particular teachings in the gospels which scholars have concluded most likely trace back to Jesus himself. Here, for instance, is a favorite of ours:

“Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you,
so that you may become sons of your Father,
for he raises his sun on bad and good
and rains on the just and unjust.”

— Q 6:27-28, 35, The International Q Project

Our outlook has been particularly influenced by the Jesus Seminar and by scholars such as Marcus Borg, James Robinson, Stephen Patterson, John Dominic Crossan and John Kloppenborg. Click here for information about the scholars that we have brought to Sedona. But we also see their bias against miracles and against the resurrection as a limitation, and so on these topics we have benefited from the work of conservative scholars like N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, and Gary Habermas.

Based on these teachings, we see Jesus as a wisdom teacher and a social and religious revolutionary. Parting company with many of the Jesus scholars, we also see him as a spiritual master. One of our founding members, Robert Perry, taught a long series of Mustard Seed classes aimed at helping us to apply the teachings of Jesus in our lives.

He has also written a chapter for an academic collection called “The Healing Power of Spirituality: How Faith Helps Humans Thrive”, edited by J. Harold Ellens. In this chapter, “Loving Our Enemies: The Core of Jesus’ Vision in the Sayings Gospel Q,” Robert attempts to draw out the meaning of the opening sermon in the Sayings Gospel Q, which is largely an elaboration on the injunction to “love your enemies” and which goes to the heart of the historical Jesus’ vision.

We also derive inspiration from others throughout history, from any religion and from no religion, who have embodied something of the way or path Jesus taught. These include people such as St. Francis, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Antonia and Peace Pilgrim. We also have been influenced by wisdom teachings that contain themes similar to the teachings of Jesus, such as the contemporary spiritual path A Course in Miracles. In addition, we find value in the experiences of others that have entered the kingdom, if only for a brief period of time, such as people who have had near-death experiences and/or other spiritual experiences. These kinds of experiences can be hugely significant and life changing. For example, it was a spiritual experience that occurred many years ago that led Alexandra Fraser, our president and founder, to eventually establish The Mustard Seed Venture.

Our Name

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us what Heaven’s imperial rule is like.” He said to them, “It’s like a mustard seed. (It’s) the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.” (Thomas 20:1-4, Scholars Version)

This saying, with its vision of a small seed that ends up providing shelter for many, captures our sense of our calling. We call it a “venture” because it is uncharted territory for us, as we try to bring this vision into form.