July 26, 2020 Worship Sermon - "Yeasty Christians"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
During March and April, when our whole country was under stay-at-home orders because of the pandemic, and people couldn’t go to movies or concerts, they started looking for other ways to entertain themselves; and one activity that really took off was baking. Baking is not only a fun thing to do; it produces products that are fun to eat: cookies, pies, cakes, and warm home-made bread. With so many people staying at home and baking, it’s no surprise that there was a yeast shortage. If you went into the grocery store looking for those little yellow packets of Fleishman’s yeast, you would most likely return empty-handed because they were no where to be found. Actually, though, while you would not be able to find yeast in the grocery store, there was still plenty of yeast available. Yeast is in the air around us. If you take a little flour and mix it with some distilled water and put it in a bowl and cover it with cloth, the mixture will begin to ferment on its own. If you keep adding flour and water to the mixture, being careful not to contaminate it with bacteria, after five days or so you will have a nice frothy bisque that you can use as a starter to make bread. You can keep adding flour and water to the starter so that you will never run out of yeast. And you can share it with your friends and neighbors so that they too will never run out of yeast.
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God with a woman who kneads a little yeast into a lot of flour. Three measures of flour is enough to make over fifty loaves of bread. But just a little yeast will do the trick… and even if you don’t have any yeast at all, God will provide it for you. It’s in the air.
Jesus’ stories about the mustard seed and the woman baking bread remind us that little things can make a big difference. A tiny mustard seed can grow into a huge shrub that becomes a home for a number of birds. A tiny bit of yeast can leaven enough bread to feed fifty households for a week.
The challenges our society is facing seem so daunting, it’s easy to give up hope. Racism, a pandemic, economic uncertainty, climate change: who among us is capable of responding to these monumental challenges? Jesus’ parables encourage us not to give up hope in the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God grows as a result of small, seemingly insignificant events that produce huge consequences. I may not be able to affect the lives of all seven billion human beings on earth, but I can affect the lives of the seven people I come in contact with on any given day; and they can affect the lives of seven other people. If you bless seven people today, and those seven people bless seven others tomorrow and the people they bless bless seven others the next day, and this multiplication of blessings continues day after day, in just eleven days every person in the United States will be blessed.
The pandemic has shown us how quickly a teeny little virus can spread. Well God’s love can spread even faster than that little virus. There’s no three-day incubation period for God’s love. And its impact can be even greater. In a world that is starving for hope, a little glimpse of the Kingdom of God can be so refreshing. In a world that is feeling so much stress, a little bit of grace and forgiveness can feel like a heavy burden is being lifted.
In addition to the parables of the mustard seed and the woman baking bread, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a merchant who sold everything he had in order to purchase a magnificent pearl. The merchant in that story reminds me of Jesus, who gave up everything in order to obtain the Kingdom of God. But Jesus doesn’t just keep the Kingdom of God to himself; he offers it to us. Jesus offers us the forgiveness and the healing and the liberation of God’s Kingdom. And because Jesus has offered it to us, we can offer it to others. Jesus kneads forgiveness into our hearts like a woman kneading yeast into flour. And as we share that forgiveness with others, there is no limit to how large it can grow.
Christ Lutheran Community Church