We’ve lived so long in the age of supermarkets that we forget what life must have been like for those who baked their own bread. But for the pre-industrial world, baking bread is a skill necessary to human survival. What makes bread “rise” is the presence of yeast. Yeast, as you might know, is a fungus. Not the most pleasant of words, but, well, that’s what it is. When the yeast organisms get to work, they break down larger compounds (like sugar) and release carbon dioxide through a process called fermentation. When this gas is released, the “pockets” of carbon dioxide cause the bread to rise and expand.
So…that’s what causes dough to rise? Fermentation? Fungus?!? Well, if you’re going to put it like that, then…yes; yes it is. Drill down to the core essentials, and life rarely seems all that pretty. But the process is necessary if you enjoy—I dunno—sandwiches, bagels, or pizza.
Jesus therefore uses this same process to illustrate the growth of the kingdom
33 He told them another parable. “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)
By now you may be getting a bit sick of reading this one-sentence parable. But let’s take a closer look. In his book Thy Kingdom Connected, Dwight Friesen sees the “hiddenness” of the kingdom as “best understood in relational terms:”
“Interpersonal relational connections are rarely flashy events or big programs; rather, they are the relatively mundane stuff of life – connecting with your neighbor and bringing them a casserole when a grandmother passes away, or building a friendship with the older man whose cubicle is next to yours. Simply connecting while living in the way of Christ is how the kingdom of God transforms the world. (Dwight J. Friesen, Thy Kingdom Connected, p. 39-41)
Stop and think about this one: in what ways might you see the growth of God’s kingdom through relationships and community?
Like the process of fermentation, the details are rarely pretty. Spend enough time with people, and they grate on your nerves. We’re all a little broken, you see. Some of us more than others. And we’re all loved. The church has rightly been called the “body of Christ.” Alone we can do little—if anything. Together we can represent the hands and feet of the Savior. Living among one another gets us close to the (ahem) “fungus” of personality quirks and sinful vices. But it’s also a chance to see grace grow and flourish between human beings.
And that process should cause all of us to rise.