[Jesus] spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matt. 13:33 New American Bible)
The words ‘leaven’ when used as a verb means “an element that produces a transforming influence.” Well, that seems about right when used as an example of the Kingdom of Heaven (which is synonymous with the Kingdom of God when used in the Gospels). SO here is “A Simpleton’s Guide to the Leaven that makes (the Kingdom of) Heaven” or my pontificating on the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus in this day and age (please forgive my simplicity and my impetuousness, I’m a work in progress):
- The word Kingdom comes from the Latin word “Regnum” which translated to English means (roughly) Kingdom, Rule and/or Reign. So the Kingdom of God is the Rule and Reign of God…the area, place and locale where God is King.
- Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within, so the Reign and Rule of God is within, so it is not ‘really’ a place that we see, but it is a reality we can see, feel, and experience and create (and it starts within and flows without).
- So hungering to be “good citizens”, we seek to follow the Rule of Law for the country of which we are citizen, namely the Kingdom of Heaven. So we follow the Rule and Law of Love: intimacy with God, compassion for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, binding up the broken and wounded, forgiveness to all, love of enemies, service to all, quiet (inner) prayer, not loving or seeking after money, but rather seeking after God’s Righteousness (a.k.a. the “Right Relations” that occur when the Rule and Reign of God are in full operation within the hearts, minds, and souls of its citizenry).
- So the Kingdom of Heaven is God’s Love and Law of Love ruling our hearts (the seat of action) so that as citizens of this New Kingdom, we are living by a new standard of Love, and not “Love” as defined by American values, the American way of life, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Rich, Corporate America, the Military, Hollywood, or Wall Street. No, we are living by another Way, a true counter-culture (not the sex-crazed liberal one of the Sixties nor the drug crazed ‘laissez-faire’ of the Eighties nor the selfish, isolationistic Tea Party/Coffee Party/gun-toting Minutemen agenda/values of our current day).
God’s Rule is not the American Rule, it is not the Western Rule, It is not the World’s Rule. In fact, it is the exact opposite. God’s kingdom is not merely conservative or liberal American values dressed up all pretty with the Cross of Jesus. Nope. In God’s Rule the poor are given good news, the broken are healed, our enemies are loved and even cared for, we strive for God rather than money or status, we seek community rather than isolation, we forgive even in the face of hatred, murder, differences, and pain and suffering. Like I said, almost the exact opposite of what I hear way too many American ‘Christians’ talking about….what Bible are they reading I wonder.
We follow a Messiah Whose love led him to the Cross even and especially for His enemies and for strangers He did not yet know: yes, Jesus has the exact same amount of love for you and me as He does for Muslims, for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans community and for atheists, agnostics, drug addicts and drunks.
So, if God is in our hearts, His leaven will begin to ‘rise’ in us, acting as the Ultimate Transformative power, turning us from one kind of people into a completely different kind of people.
So, I’ve got to ask myself: Is God’s leaven in me?
When dough is placed into the oven, it looks one way: soft, lumpy, malleable, and not so tasty. When the dough comes out of the oven it is almost another entity entirely: it has risen, spread out, become a bit more firm, and is oh so tasty.
Is that what my faith in Jesus is doing in and through me? Is that what our faith looks like?
Am I being so leavened by God’s rule that I ‘come out of the oven’ of God’s love a completely different person? Or am I just the same person, but ‘dressed’ up in Christian clothing? Do I really love my enemies? Am I really willing to surrender everything over to God, including my security, my safety, my reputation and my comfort? And to do so for even my enemies?
Am I so filled with the Spirit that I almost bleed compassion? Or am I a stone cold blathering idiot, more a fool because of my own stupidity rather than a fool for the Messiah?
Am I allowing God’s leaven to turn my life into a little slice of Heaven? Are we doing this as a Pilgrim People?
Is my life good news to the people that meet me? Is my life, by its very actions, a living Gospel? Can I be so bold as St. Paul and St. Francis and say to you: imitate me because I so imitate Christ? Well, of course the truth is: No!
But, I will strive passionately after God and his Rule over and in my heart. I will rest in the Spirit’s gentle power to transform me, you, us, into the leaven that makes a little Heaven.
So would someone please pass the butter?