What Does Baking Bread Have To Do With The Kingdom of Heaven?

Pay AttentionWhen God wants my attention, when He wants to teach me something, He pulls together random situations, conversations, and my own wandering thoughts.

Recently, fellow blogger James Pyles posted about a radio sermon he heard. He is having an issue with Christianese (as many of us do once we come to the full revelation that Yeshua was a Torah observant Jew.) The essence of the sermon was ‘Christ being formed in me.’

Around this time I was thinking about the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, liturgy, and non-denominational believers. A few months ago, we had a discussion on liturgy at our Sunday Torah study. One of my friends is a non-denominational believer. When the discussion of the Apostles Creed came up, he balked at any sort of liturgy or rote prayer. He soon stopped coming to the study, though had been a faithful attendee for a number of years.

As I was mulling over these things I thought, “Non-denominationalists would probably balk at reciting the Lord’s Prayer!”

This got me to thinking about the word ‘catholic’. Years ago a relative of mine balked at reciting the Apostle’s Creed at a church service because it says, ‘I believe in…the holy catholic church…’ I pointed out that it is a lower case ‘c’ and means universal. Yet something was nudging at me, so I looked up the etymology of the word.

One of the results was an article by Franciscan Monk Daniel P. Horan, ‘Catholic Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does’. Now, I’ve got to be honest, the article hinted at inclusivism which set off warning bells and red flags and…lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! (Or my paranoia got out of control.)

The nudge persisted.

Friar Daniel pointed out that to interpret ‘catholic’ as ‘universal’ suggests an architect’s compass used to make a circle around one point, segregating those who are outside from those within. (To me it suggested the one point is Yeshua, but I digress.)

He also said that the Catholic church has a word for universal, unlike katholikos. Kata or kath means through or throughout. Holos means whole. Therefore katholikos means throughout the whole. The author said that the ministry of Yeshua supports katholikos based on the parable of the yeast.

El KabongThat’s when I heard the crashing sound of guitar strings smacking me upside the head!

I’ve been thinking a lot about bread lately. I’ve missed baking challah and eating challah. The eating because I am on a never-ending diet that seems to do nothing more than pack on the pounds, and the baking because I just don’t have time anymore.

I really miss making challah. It speaks to me of Shabbat, of community, of our Father and Savior. The whole process causes me to slow down in my craze of preparation for the Sabbath, to stop and pray for my family, and friends, and children with EB. So when I read ‘Jesus likens the Kingdom or Reign of God to a woman who bakes bread’ I paid attention.

“The Kingdom of God is said to be like the yeast that is added to flour and is found ‘throughout-the-whole’ of the dough, building it up, not destroying or separating the flour, but becoming one-with, part-of, and mutually benefiting from and contributing to the life of the bread.”

In my mind, that started to answer James’ question about what ‘Christ formed in me’ could mean, though not completely because hametz/yeast typically represents sin.

Going to the Word didn’t yield a whole lot of answers. Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21 say pretty much the same thing:

He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like hametz, which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” (TLV)

Now this parable is paired with another that speaks of the Kingdom:

 He presented to them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  It’s the smallest of all seeds; yet when it’s full grown, it’s greater than the other herbs. It becomes like a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

It sounds to me like hametz (yeast) in this case is a good thing. So I dug into what, exactly, yeast does.

On finecooking.com, they have an in-depth article on yeast’s crucial role in making bread. The essence is that yeast does three things:

  1. Yeast makes dough rise

Enzymes in the yeast and the flour cause large starch molecules to break down into simple sugar. Yeast consumes sugar and excretes carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol into existing air bubbles in the dough, like someone blowing up bubblegum.

Immediately my mind sees God breathing life into Adam and Yeshua breathing on His disciples telling them to receive the Holy Spirit.

2. Yeast strengthens bread dough

When you stir together water and flour, two proteins in the flour grab each other to form a bubblegum-like, elastic mass of molecules that we call gluten. Gluten strengthens the dough and holds in gases that allow the bread to rise. Yeast helps develop the gluten network. Every burst of carbon dioxide allows the protein and water molecules to move about to form more gluten.

I cannot help but think that, as God’s breath is in us, it helps us develop into the person He created us to be – the strengthened Adam and Eve creation – clothed in light, able to walk and talk with God face to face.

3. Fermentation generates flavor in bread.

Big molecules in proteins, starches, and fats don’t have much flavor, but when they are broken down into their building blocks, they have marvelous flavor. Fermentation breaks down large molecules. Enzymes in the yeast break starch down into sugar. Not only does it use the sugar, but sets off a chain reaction that creates a flavorful byproduct.

In other words, God in us takes this unappetizing lump of dough and turns us into something desirable – a reflection of Himself. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Now, some fermenting happens without the aid of yeast. Flour and water, when mixed and kneaded, starts to ferment. The yeast could be said to knead on a molecular level. Once added to the flour, the yeast becomes part and parcel of the dough, taking it from a bland, struggling-to-rise-on-its-own lump, to a rapidly rising, sweet, desirable loaf of bread.

Yeshua’s prayer for His disciples – and for us who believed their message – is that we may be one – He in us and the Father in Him. If we think of Yeshua as the yeast, the life-giving breath of God in us, doing the job of the yeast in the dough, we can’t help but be one with Him. He is either in us – causing us to rise to life – or He’s not.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder why ‘three measures of flour’?

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