Insert text here.
Take three measures of flour (that's tripling the recipe). Stir in 1 tablespoon yeast. Be patient and wait. Then marvel at the outcome!
Another parable Jesus spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." Matthew 13:33 NKJV
Agent of Change
Jesus told a simple one-liner about a woman baking bread. Bread-making was a daily chore, people witnessed it every day. However this woman was making enough to feed an army. Some translations say 3 pecks of flour. Other footnotes explain it as 50 pounds or 160 cups. She really had her work cut out for her! I use 4 cups of flour for 1 large loaf. 160 cups would have produced 40 loaves! What's going on here? She would have needed a massive table top. And how would she have baked it all?
Maybe it's not a simple story after all. I have to admit, I sat here and laughed out loud at the thought of one woman using a 50 pound bag to bake some bread. Did Jesus intend to make people laugh! We do not know the inflection in his voice and whether he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye. My immediate reaction is to say, "You can't be serious."
But wait, I missed the first line. The kingdom of heaven is like the leavening agent this woman hid in all that dough. Probably similar to the sourdough used by our pioneering foremothers, the leaven was a small portion saved from the previous batch of bread and carefully preserved to keep the fermenting cultures alive. Then next baking day, it was kneaded into the new dough.
So now in our parable we have the picture of a small amount of sourdough which hopefully will be powerful enough to turn an enormous, heavy lump of dough into light, airy loaves. Want to make a wager? Will that small amount of leavening be able to raise that gigantic whole-grain glob on her table? Would anyone put down a greenback!
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, that little sticky piece of hope left over from her previous baking experience. The hero of this story is that woman who bet her 50-pound bag of grain on a small amount of leaven. Foolish? Or full of faith? The end result will determine that one. But since this is Jesus' story, he will have the last laugh. Surely she will bake those loaves, somewhere, somehow. Maybe in the homes of all her friends and neighbors.
The kingdom of heaven is like that. You don't have a breath of a chance, that's what onlookers would say. But somehow it happens. An invisible force penetrates, seeping through the entire dough, and starts to grow. Patience is required. The process is slow and tedious. But it will rise.
Yeast is the magic ingredient which makes bread what it is. The transformation comes from within, producing change, creating growth. It's just like God working in our world. Our heroine knew it all along. So she hid that leaven in her dough and waited.
The kingdom of heaven is present wherever God reigns and faithful followers do his will. It's called a kingdom because God is supreme, #1; it's heaven when all of us together learn to live God's way. The kingdom of heaven performs like fermenting yeast to transform our living from ordinary to extraordinary, from strife to peace, from apathy to love. Whether it's 4 c. or l60 c. of good whole grain flour, we trust the yeast and depend upon its unseen power to turn our raw dough into usable bread.
Here's another story about a lot of dough and no guarantee of success. A couple is selling their house in Phoenix with the intention of buying a ranch in Northern California. That ranch will be the Eagles Wings Youth Ranch, with a focus on helping kids with wounded hearts and spirits. This is done by rescuing and caring for abandoned or neglected horses and pairing them with a leader and a child. It's a venture of faith that the lives of these youth can be transformed. Primary to the whole undertaking is a belief this is what God wants them to do and God will be faithful in providing as they are faithful in obeying.
They just sold their house and are at this moment living, according to their own words, in "God's whirlwind." Sounds like the parable of the leaven. Will their bread rise? Will the kingdom of heaven take off and grow? I expect it will as they follow God's calling to love and heal in this unique way. And someday we will marvel at the outcome.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Pull something from your pocket, wallet or purse. Then ask group members to think of one way that item is like God's kingdom.
A little goes a long way. That's true not only in bread-making but in other areas of our life, too. Give additional examples where it only takes a little to make a big difference. In your brainstorming, be sure to include some intangibles.
List all the ways in which bread-making is similar to the kingdom of heaven. Select one of these from your list to observe this week and serve as a reminder of the kingdom of heaven in your daily life.
Yeast requires certain conditions for it to work; refrigeration inhibits its growth. Does God's kingdom also require certain conditions? If so, name some of them. What can you do to create a conducive atmosphere for God to function in your workplace, kitchen, or wherever you are?
What does it mean when you pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."?
Jesus wants more than passive listeners, he wants active participants. Name some specific ways you participant in the kingdom Jesus talked about? What are you and God working on together?
Describe one venture of faith have you undertaken as a result of God's claim on your life? Would you say it was a 4 c. or a 160 c. venture? How did you grow and change? Was it sudden or gradual? As you look back on that experience, can you identify the effects of "the leaven"?
When baking bread, you can picture the desired end result. Take that imagery and transfer it to your life experience. What is the heavy lump of dough you have sitting on your table today? Picture what it would look like if that situation turned out well? Saturate your thoughts with God working to bring that picture to fruition. Then be patient and while you wait, do everything you can to bring it about, while all the time believing someday, somehow, you will marvel at the results.