Two parables of Jesus are recorded side by side in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both of them compare the Kingdom of God to simple realities everyone would be familiar with in Jesus’ day. The first parable is about how a tiny mustard seed grows into a fairly large tree:
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and birds of the air made nests in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19; cf. Matthew 13:31-32)
The second parable is about how a little bit of yeast can leaven a whole batch of bread dough:
And then he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21; cf. Matthew 13:33)
In both of these parables Jesus was teaching that a very small thing can have a surprisingly large effect. But in the case of the mustard seed, the end result is open, external and obvious — spreading branches, with birds flying in and out. By contrast, the leavening process is internal and invisible, even mysterious. In both Gospel accounts, the woman “hid” the yeast in the dough, and in the end, there was no yeast — it had become part of the bread.
We at ABC are involved in a self-study toward the goal of emerging in a new way so that we can minister more effectively to younger generations of believers. Right now, we’re asking everyone who is part of our current, active fellowship to respond to a simple survey designed to give us insight into how the church is perceived by people, both those at its center and those on its fringes. [Click here for the survey link]
What is our goal? Well we certainly would like to see our branches flourish and expand, attracting many birds to feel at home and settle down with us. But, maybe we should be more focused on the internal changes God would like to make in us, the leavening that can come from a new level of exposure to his gospel. That will not result in as noticeable a display, and it certainly can’t be measured. But in the long run the leavening process is likely to lead to more profound and lasting change.
I think I’m feeling some movement, some bubbles beginning to form under ABC’s surface. I’m looking forward to watching the bread rise in the months to come.
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In preparing for this article, I did a little research on yeast. It’s a microscopic, single-celled organism that can ride in the air and exist in just about any environment. I learned yeasts have been around for about 100 million years. That’s a lot longer than humans — or even mustard trees — have been on this earth. Yeast lives by breaking up sugar or other carbohydrate cells and using the energy that’s released. There are two by-products: alcohol and carbon dioxide. Humans have become addicted to both of these, drinking the alcohol in the form of brewed beer and wine, and waiting for the carbon dioxide to gather into bubbles that cause bread to rise. So, yeast has used its two waste products to make humans its slaves.
Yeast has the last laugh.
— Pastor George Van Alstine