As I pour my measured yeast into a small bowl of warm water, I am ready to see it bubble and expand to fill the bowl, before I add it to my oat mixture.
This early morning baking has two root causes. One is that my wife and daughter are huge fans of fried eggs on homemade oatmeal bread. (Stop on over and try some!) And the second is that in my slow reading of the book of Exodus, I have reached the Passover. The instructions on unleavened bread have gotten me thinking about yeast.
The Passover – God’s rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt – required unleavened bread because of speed. “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.” (Ex. 12:11) They simply didn’t have time to wait from bread to rise.
Yeast takes time. Turning ingredients into loaves of bread is a process that involves hours. Granted, ancient bakers used a lump of fermented dough, but the principal is the same. In fact, I’ve tried that technique of leaven: it’s slower. An all-day kind of slow.
But given enough time, a leavening agent will do its trick. It will transform the dough.
I watch the yeast start to bubble and think about how Jesus spoke about leaven.
He warned his disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6) Bad teaching and practice, particularly that which is presented by leaders, can slowly grow to fill the lives of listeners with error. Hypocrisy is a key ingredient to this insidious, infectious religiosity.
But Jesus didn’t just use the effect of leaven as a harmful thing. There’s this:
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
What a wonderful, one-sentence parable! Jesus wants us to know that good can permeate and transform the whole just as much as bad. Two subtle things should be noted here.
First is the amount of flour. Jesus, as he often does in parables, makes humor by exaggeration. Three measures of flour is approximately fifty pounds! Think of that contrast: a tiny piece of leftover dough can permeate an entire sack of flour.
The second is the word hid. Any baker will laugh at that understatement. It takes a great deal of effort to get yeast to infiltrate four cups of flour, let alone fifty pounds. Hiding = kneading. Kneading = work
I am encouraged as I finally take my two loaves out of the oven. The kingdom of God may seem tiny at times in a age of unbelief and disregard for the Sovereign Lord, but it is quietly transforming this world. It doesn’t grow without effort, but the effort is worth the end result.
Because nobody makes dough but to make bread. Wholesome. Delicious. Inviting. Filling. Soul-satisfying. Great with eggs. The stuff of life.
Sounds like the Kingdom of Heaven to me.
Except for the eggs.
Lord, make us your lumps. Lumps of leaven. Infiltrating the world with your goodness and truth. Make us a part of your inexorable kingdom. Transform us to be transforming agents. For your glory.