The Essential Ingredient

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Is there anything more welcoming to come home to than the smell of bread baking? That rich aroma that tells you supper is almost ready and not to worry, everything is going to be all right. I love to bake and the ritual of mixing and kneading is somehow very soothing to my soul. There was a time when I was a stay-at-home mom that I baked all of our bread. And these days, more than ever, perhaps because it doesn’t happen all that often, I enjoy the ritual even more.

Jesus is often called the Bread of Life. What do we mean when we say this? Let’s think about bread for a minute. What is it made of? Flour, water, sugar, butter, salt, and let’s not forget YEAST… the essential ingredient.

I think Jesus is more like the yeast. What would bread be like without yeast? Flat, hard, tasteless. Nourishing perhaps but without the essential something to make it life enriching. What would life be like without the love of God through Jesus? Would it be flat, hard and tasteless as well? It would be for me.

When you look at yeast, what do you see? There is certainly nothing very special about a spoonful of beige grains. But when you put them together with the right mixture of ingredients… The right amounts of flour and sugar and salt and water and let it sit quietly in the right conditions… Not too hot and not too cold, but just right, something quite spectacular happens. These ingredients change into a living, growing thing and that lifeless piece of dough is suddenly something much more than its individual ingredients. Those tiny grains of yeast, much less than one percent of the ingredients of the bread have done this. It had the right ingredients, in the right proportions, and the right conditions to thrive.

In our reading today from the Gospel of Matthew we hear Jesus talking about the Kingdom of Heaven being like yeast being kneaded with flour into bread. I think yeast is like love. I believe that yeast is to bread what love is to life. It is the essential ingredient.

It takes the right ingredients: respect, honor, truth, and the right conditions: safety, time, concern for love to grow. When the conditions are right, love can do anything. I believe that most of the problems of the world could be healed with love. Because what is ignoring poverty, hunger, injustice, abuse or environmental damage except a lack of love. When you care about someone, love is present. And when you love someone you want to do all in your power to heal their hurts. Sometimes it seems like no matter what we do it is not enough. At times like this I try to remember to call on the love of God and remember that I am not alone in these endeavors and that everything I do is with the understanding that its power comes not from me but from God.

I don’t mean that it is enough to say I love you and care about you, as it is to transform this love into action. Love without action is simply pity. But love with action can be transforming. That love is shown through our actions in our homes and in the wider community. How many of us contribute time, money and energy to organizations to try to play a part in the healing of someone’s pain. We do it not for the praise we may receive but for the hope of changing someone’s life. Perhaps one person at a time.
Supporting the Food Bank. Teaching Sunday School. Providing space for community groups. Mission and Service. The pastoral care team. Sponsoring refugees. These are all expressions of love, and they all started because someone cared enough to say, “I can make a difference.”

I like to think of God as a baker, mixing a batch of bread, perhaps sourdough bread, using us like grains of yeast. The reason I use sourdough bread as an example is because in order to make sourdough bread you need a starter. The prospectors used to make their own starter out of what they called “wild yeast.” This is a mixture of mashed overcooked potatoes and flour and a little sugar. This ferments all on its own and you can continue to use it for years, all you need to do is keep adding a little warm water and sugar to it. It is alive and active. It never gives out, unless you mistreat it.

And just as each of the ingredients in a loaf of bread is important and necessary, so each one of us is important and necessary in the context of a whole community. But we are not just this gathered community and family. We are also the family of all people. Each one of us has a unique gift to offer each other and the world. And being followers of Christ it is our privilege and our responsibility to share that gift with the world.

We are at the beginning of our ministry together. How will be yeasty people? How will we spread God’s love? Who knows where God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit may lead us? None of us know… but I am looking forward to the journey and the discoveries… 

In our reading today from Romans we hear Paul’s words ring down through the centuries, “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not trouble or hardship, or persecution or hunger or poverty. Neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future.” We often hear these words at funerals or memorial services. Yet each time I hear them I am struck at how reassured I feel that God’s love through Jesus is with us always. Not the promise of a trouble free life, but the promise of God’s unending love.

How many of us have been comforted in unexpected ways, just when the world and all the problems and concerns seem too much to bear. I know I have been. Sometimes it has been a hug, sometimes an ear to listen, sometimes financial assistance. But it started because someone cared enough to see the pain and do something about it. And that comfort has enabled me to comfort someone else, the care continues to grow, live and thrive. Just like yeast with the right conditions…

What do you see when you look in the mirror, do you see somebody ordinary, unremarkable? Someone who couldn’t possibly accomplish a whole lot of anything to heal the hurts of a world that is sometimes so painful? A world that too often seems to lack the leavening power of love. The next time you think, “What can I do?” Think of those tiny grains of yeast…that with the right ingredients… and the right conditions transform a lifeless lump of flour and water into a meal to feed the hungry…and that with love we can transform a home, a community, a workplace, and the world.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of being yeasty people. Amen.


Word cloud created from text of sermon.

Romans 8: 26-39
Matthew 13: 31-33
October 6, 2019
Stairs Memorial United Church

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