Without a doubt, the lost art of breadmaking was rediscovered in lockdown. The Hoi Polloi tuned to Tik Tok for sourdough and other homey delights. The competition was fierce – a badge of honor to prove your domestic game.
Why bread? In an age of gluten-free carb haters, this would seem highly counterintuitive, but do not underestimate the enduring comfort of home-made, piping hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. There is something viscerally elemental about the moist, yeastiness that wafts up to you like an affectionate greeting from a childhood friend. Wonderful is crisply breaking open the loaf to smear it liberally while it’s still hot enough to melt the butter on your knife.
I come from a long line of robust Teutonic peasants who made a hard, multitasking day of laundry, gardening, cleaning, cooking and bread-making look like Domestics 101. I cut my eye teeth watching my mother fiercely pummeling dough in a massive bread pan, carefully mixing, kneading, shaping and slapping perfect rounds into submission. I am genetically and culturally predilected to churn out the tastiest of yeasty morsels, so I have no excuse.
Though I, personally, never got into sourdough, recently I’ve tackled focaccia, scones and bagels, finding an absurd amount of primitive joy in the mastery. The secret of course, is making sure yeast is fresh. Stale leaven is a sure-fire disaster. I’ve pondered the marvels of this incredible, almost magical substance, so it’s not hard to see why Jesus uses it in His parables. Several times, He references the forceful actions of leaven, both positive and negative.
The Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took,
and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Matthew 13:33
The Lord likens leaven to the powerful, pervasive and often underestimated influence Christians have on situations we enter. We will be the yeast of righteousness to all around us, ushering the kingdom in as agents of change. Jesus also warns that entering certain cultures puts us at risk to menacing dangers. There are strongholds at work that hold these enclaves in bondage, and if we stay too long or form complicit agreement with them, we become compromised.
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
The cultures around us produce powerful gravitational fields difficult to fully comprehend. Keep your spiritual antenna fully extended, because dark principalities control human societies. Additionally, simply being part of fallen human nature immerses us in leaven so familiar, we may have discounted it. Malice, cynicism, criticism, skepticism, deception, greed and narcissism are the covert iniquity which underscore almost every human interaction. Only the mighty ferment of the Gospel has the ability to cleanse and transform us. Only the ongoing discipline of walking in the Holy Spirit saves us from the poison.
Perhaps it's the long lockdown, but we've all spent increasing amounts of time on the Internet and television. Consumption has increased by a phenomenal extent, and the industry has rushed to serve up the themes social media generates. What's becoming glaringly apparent is that Christian values and moral touchstones are no longer the dominating societal standard, even nominally. What I am seeing, watching, has become grossly degraded in the last decade. Television programming, even on mainstream channels, is marinated in the prevailing explosion of violence, occult fascination, LGBTQ+ issues and sexual perversion. There is simply no escaping the "Prince of the Power of the Air" in modern media. If you uphold godly beliefs of purity and virtue in any form, you are now an outsider.
Never were the words of Jesus more significant than as we face the rapid disintegration of ethical order in our age. We are being internally compromised in ways we cannot even measure. I’m rapidly coming to the conviction I can no longer watch the ‘entertainment’ proffered. There is no viable excuse. You can’t have it both ways. Leaven, intrinsically, always brings change, whether redemptive or corruptive. Impossible to resist. What would happen if Christians everywhere simply had the conviction to turn off the television for one week in protest?
Baking bread can be such a sensual pleasure. You learn the consistency of the dough, how proof it, shape it. To handle leaven effectively, properly, produces the most tasty and gratifying results. How sumptuous to always enjoy the fresh feast of the Kingdom, prepared daily for us.
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-23
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