“. . . like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” – Matthew 13:33
Of all the millions of food recipes there are in the world today from every ethnic origin imaginable, there are few as ancient as that of baked bread. Today, bread in its many forms and flavors is so accessible from store shelves and bakeries we hardly give it much thought. But to make it ourselves – from scratch – is an experience that brushes against some of the deepest roots of our humanity.
Once, many years ago, I became fascinated about bread and decided I would try my hand at making it. It happened at a time when I was between jobs for a couple of weeks, and during dead of winter when our kids were in school all day, so I had plenty of time on my hands. During those two weeks I baked bread almost every day. While it was not so good for my waste line, it did wonders for my soul; for, as I learned, breadmaking is as much art as it is science. And since art imitates life, as they say, I discovered some great life lessons through my breadmaking experience.
While the basic ingredients are pretty simple: flour, water, milk, shortening, butter, and a dash of salt, there remains this mysterious item called yeast, and it is in working with the yeast that breadmaking becomes art. Or, as the old classic cookbook The Joy of Cooking describes it: “If you have never made real bread, behold one of the great dramas of the kitchen. Every ingredient is a character. As producer-director, assemble your cast. Yeast is the prima donna. Her volatile temperament is capable of fermentation only within limits of heat – and does she resent a drafty dressing room!”
Although yeast looks like a minor ingredient, yet it permeates the dough causing it to rise to become a scrumptious loaf of bread. Just like us, there is that little temperamental ingredient that permeates our soul forming our values and character, without which we are unable to blossom as we were intended, into the image of God. Jesus understood the value of small ingredients. “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed . . .” He said. “Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree . . . [or] like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”