From what I hear making bread is all the rage right now! So I thought it fitting to talk about the parable of yeast from today’s Gospel. I have never made bread so I called my daughter, Jennifer, who makes bread for her family almost every day. I wanted to find out how to make bread and also to find out more about yeast.
She told me that she uses about 4-5 cups of flour, water, and 1 ½ teaspoons of yeast to make her dough. The three measures of flour that the woman used in the parable is the equivalent of 128 cups of flour. That’s a lot of dough.
But the three measures of flour and all the water she would have added would be of no use without the yeast. In our parable, we hear the woman took the yeast and mixed it in. But the Greek translation for the word “mixed” is also “hid”. From the King James version, it reads the yeast “which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened”. The idea of the yeast being hidden in the flour and water is powerful for our understanding of this parable.
Yeast is a powerful ingredient. It is the yeast that gives the flour and the water LIFE. Yeast is a microorganism. Yeast is alive. But when it is hidden in the water and flour it really ceases to exist. As does the flour and the water. Together they become dough. A NEW creation that has the power to grow, to expand and to rise.
To make this dough requires work. There is much kneading, prodding, and pulling. The hidden yeast, that is now totally inseparably joined with the flour and water, does its work.
For the whole of the dough is now leavened. There is no part that is not affected by the yeast. The dough can never be UNleavened again.
Once the hard work is done it is time for the dough to be covered with a warm towel and to be set aside. It is time for the dough to rise. Hidden under the towel the dough grows, expands, and rises. It again changes. It becomes lighter! Because of the chemical reaction within the dough, there are small pockets of air. Air is breathed into the dough. The dough becomes lighter as it grows because of the hidden yeast within it.
Why would we say that the dough is hidden? Why would it translate that way? Because within the dough is hidden its source of life. Within us is hidden our source of life.
When God created the first human, Genesis says, He took dirt and formed it much like the woman putting together the flour and the water. But until God breathed into that pile of dirt, did we have a human that was the image and likeness of God. He breathed air into the first human, and He breathes into us. God is our yeast.
But our yeast is hidden within us. Once the yeast is hidden in the flour and water, that is our body and soul, the yeast is invisible, the same way the yeast is invisible in the dough.
Today, there is much that is invisible but that can cause destruction, fear, and confusion. The invisible can and has change our life. The coronavirus is a hidden, invisible virus. We see the blowup picture of this little microorganism everywhere. It is destructive. It causes fear. It confuses us and it has definitely changed our lives.
Invisible life prejudices, that we are not even aware of, can also cause destruction, fear, and confusion. We do not have to look far to find inequity in today’s world or in our reading from the Old Testament. Laban TOOK his daughter Leah, Laban GAVE his maid Zilpah, and Laban GAVE his daughter Rachel. These are words of possession and oppression. These women had no voice. They were marginalized.
This is not unlike our marginalized brothers and sisters in today’s world. There are invisible life prejudices that need to come to light.
In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke it is repeated again and again, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light”.
There is a lot that has been hidden that has come to light recently however there is also the yeast that is evident inside us that can come to light also. The yeast that creates the air within us, like it does within the dough, can grow, expand, and rise. That air is the Holy Spirit. Just as it was when God breathed into the first human.
At that moment God becomes an inseparable part of not only the first humans but all humans. An inseparable part of us. God always was, is and will always be a part of us. But like the yeast He can be hidden within us.
I had a parishioner tell me last week with everything happening in our country today they sometimes wonder where God is. Well, He is right here inside of us. It is our choice if we are going to knead, prod and pull the dough so that we can release the yeast within us. It is hard work. Sometimes, it takes more time then we thought. We need to do the work so that we can grow, so that we can expand and so that we can rise. So, we can have those small pockets of air within us to make us lighter. And like the dough, our rising process takes patience. But we will rise. And sometimes we will fall.
My granddaughter Kate also makes bread like my daughter. Kate loves to make rolls from the dough. But the rolls she makes rise twice. She lets the dough rise once and then she pushes it down, forms the rolls and lets the dough rise again. Sometimes we need to rise again after we have been pushed down. That’s okay because the yeast can not be separated from us. We are forever leavened. We can not be UNleavened. The yeast is a part of us. It gives us life. It helps us grow. It helps us to expand. It helps us rise.
We can rise again! And the air within us? That is “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” like the reading from Romans tells us. All things, the yeast, the water, and the flour, “all things work together for good for those who love God”. I believe that. I trust in that. I count on that. And so, should we all.
If God is for us, who is against us? Well, today we might say we feel like a lot is against us. But we unfortunately tend to look at our present physical world, we become overshadowed by its darkness. What is hidden will come to light. It is the hidden yeast that comes to light within us.
It is the air that fills us, the Holy Spirit that fills us to helps us with our weaknesses. It helps us to be the image and likeness of God. So that we can feel the air within us and look out at the world as a new creation. Because we are part of a large family, a batch of dough that has three measures of flour in it. A large family of whom the firstborn is Jesus Christ.
So, I say to you “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” Like the yeast that can not be separated from the dough once it has been hidden within it, so too for us. We are forever leavened. With the yeast of God as an inseparable part of us.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”