By the Reverend Sally Weaver
In the reading from the Gospel of Matthew that we just heard, Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven to the crowds listening to him. So what is the kingdom of heaven?
The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is like a code that Jesus uses: it means something special. We have codes today. For example, when you text a friend LOL, what do you mean? Right, laugh out loud. Well, when Jesus said “kingdom of heaven,” he meant a world where people allow God to be in charge.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Your will, God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus describes a world in which everyone actively seeks and works to do God’s will on earth. If that ever happened -- if everyone put God in charge rather than their own self-centered desires – we’d be living in the kingdom of heaven. And it’s our job as followers of Jesus to work to create that world, that kingdom of heaven, by the way.
Now, Jesus compares a bunch of things to the kingdom of heaven: a mustard seed, a net thrown into the sea, treasure hidden in a field. I’m going to focus on just one: yeast. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
So, when you combine flour with yeast, what are you likely making? That’s right, bread. And what happens when you put yeast in with flour? Well, let me show you. Here’s what happens. It gets all puffy; we say that it rises. So in this bowl I put flour and yeast and water. In this other bowl I put the same amount of flour and water, but I didn’t put in any yeast. Can you tell the difference? It’s flat, isn’t it?
So I think that Jesus was telling us that yeast is like God. When we added God to the flour and sugar, the results were big. The mixture grew and grew. Without God, without yeast, the results were much smaller and not as tasty.
When a group of people invite God into their work or their play or their thinking, they can accomplish things no one ever thought would be possible. God is like yeast, increasing people’s efforts.
Here’s another way that God is like yeast. So in this puffy loaf of bread, can we find the particles of yeast? No, we can’t. The yeast, like God, is hidden from our sight. What we see is the results of the yeast – the bread that’s risen, big and fluffy.
Some people say, “I don’t believe in God because I’ve never seen God.” Personally, I think that’s kind of a silly statement, because there are lots of things we can’t see but we know exist. We can’t see air. But when it’s very cold outside and we breathe, we can see our breath. What we see are the results of air – a cloud forms around our face as we exhale.
It is true that no one sees God directly. But we see the results of God. Do you have examples of seeing things that God has done, evidence of God? We can’t see God just like we can’t see the yeast, but we can see the risen bread and we can see God’s results.
So let me ask you: Can we remove the yeast from this batch of bread? No, we can’t. It is there and will always be there. And God is like that, too. God is everywhere and always will be. Can you name for me a place where God is not there?
No, you can’t. And guess what: Your parents, your teachers, nobody can. Because there is no place where God is not. Every place that is, God is there. So no matter where you go, no matter what you do, God is always there with you…and me, and everyone. God is there when you’re having a great time and you’re happy and laughing and enjoying yourself. And God is there, when you’re tired or sad or lonely or scared or angry or ashamed, or having a really bad day. No matter what, God is there with you.
But there’s one more thing about God we need to remember: God isn’t made of yeast. God is made of love. And God takes God’s love with God wherever God goes. So you are always and everywhere surrounded by God’s love for you. In another one of today’s readings we heard a very wise man, St. Paul, tell us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Ever. God’s love is with you always and forever; everywhere, no matter what. And that’s the very best part. Amen.
The Reverend Sally Weaver is co-priest in charge at St. John's.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at email@example.com