Last month, I discovered “The Great British Baking Show” on Netflix.
I am not typically a fan of cooking shows, but I found it to be absolutely delightful, and after binging the first season, I was inspired to do something crazy. I decided that I was going to try my hand at baking homemade bread.
If you’re wondering why baking bread is something crazy — let’s just say that I am a disaster in the kitchen. I could be a contestant on that “Worst Cooks in America” show.
So when my bread turned out to be edible, it was a shock. The fact that it tasted good was even more of a surprise. And the most incredible part of it all? I really enjoyed doing it.
Me — the woman who once set an oven mitt on fire while baking cookies — loved making something. In fact, I liked it enough to stop buying grocery store bread and to start baking bread on a weekly basis.
It’s fair to say that I have been bitten by the bread bug.
And it’s all this bread making that I have been doing lately that has really got me thinking about the parable of the yeast that Jesus tells in the Gospels.
Matthew’s version of it from chapter 13 says: He told them another parable: “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.”
I’ve often heard this parable interpreted to mean that small things can make a big difference. And there’s plenty of truth to that. Yeast, as tiny as it is, is what makes a lump of dough become a loaf of bread.
And we see all the time that it’s often the little things in life that end up making a difference — someone offering you encouragement on a bad day or responding to your whining kid with love, when all you really want to do is lose your ever-loving mind.
But this interpretation assumes completion. It assumes that we get to see how our little acts of love contribute to the building of the Kingdom.
And that’s not always how it works. So I wonder if there’s something here about waiting, and if that’s the point that Jesus was trying to make.
You see, there is a lot of waiting around when it comes to baking bread. First you put the yeast in some warm water — and then you wait. After that, you stir in some flour and honey — and you let that mixture sit for 30 minutes. Then you add in more flour, some salt, butter, and honey — you knead — and then you wait again for an hour or so to let it rise. And then after that, you punch down your dough, separate it, put it in pans — and wait some more so that it can rise again.
There is more waiting around than there is activity. So, is this parable telling us that we need to reorient the way that we think about living as citizens of the Kingdom?
That maybe, right now, it’s not so much about the completed product and our contribution to it — and that maybe it’s more about simply being a part of the process that we have been invited to take part in?
I’d like to think so. I look forward to the day in which all will be made whole as much as anyone else.
To use a lame bread metaphor, I’m excited for the day in which we stop baking and we will all be risen and golden and fluffy. But I’m also very drawn to the idea that perhaps we become most immersed into the Kingdom of God during the waiting.
It’s a relief to me to know that it really doesn’t matter if I had the most impact on the most people — that’s not grace. What will matter is that I lived faithfully in the time here that I had — doing the best I could with what the circumstances that I was given.
It’s freeing to walk away from our results-oriented culture, and to instead immerse ourselves in the beautiful truth that the Kingdom of God is in our midst — in the waiting.
God is with us now, and He is with us always. It’s not about hitting a goal — it’s about responding.
It’s about being obedient where we are, and about living to the fullest in the present reality of the tension of here, but also not yet.
So today, I’d like to encourage you to relish in the in-between in which we currently live. To look for the Holy that is sitting right in front of our faces in the midst of the ordinary.
To do the best we can to love God and to love our neighbors within our current circumstances. To see the beauty in the brokenness — and to realize that God hasn’t abandoned us — nor is He waiting for us to climb our way to Him. He is here—right now, waiting with us—and moving, and calling us to stand alongside Him.
The Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst — and we have plenty of opportunities to live as faithful Kingdom people while we wait to be finished baking.
Hannah Mullikin Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.