Sourdough that Keeps on Giving: A Reflection on Matthew 13:33

July 21, 2020 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

“God’s realm is like yeast a woman takes” is how I would translate Matthew 13:33. This verse, part of the lectionary Gospel lesson for July 26, caught my eye  or maybe my stomach because of the COVID shelter-in-place baking craze that seems to be sweeping the planet and sourdough bread in particular. There is a “Perfect Sourdough” Facebook group with recipes galore and even more pictures and advice that has nearly 100,000 members. For some gorgeous results, also see #sourdough on Instagram.

New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine points out that yeast (Greek- zume) in Matthew’s Gospel is more like a made-from-scratch sourdough starter not “the red packets of cultured yeast. … This starter is created when water mixes with the naturally occurring yeast spores that end up in the flour when it is ground.” (Parables, page 121) The “three measures of flour” should not be mistaken at three cups. In the first century, this would have amounted to “between 40 and 60 pounds” (p. 135). In other words, three measures of flour would make a generous portion enough to feed a large crowd.

Do you wonder what is naturally occurring in our lives, worlds, and communities that is creating a leavening reaction, creating something larger… something more elevated than the original ingredients? What is being shared in extravagant and generous portions for the common good? Where is God’s realm seen today?

I saw it this week when I woke to learn a close friend of mine in Portland, Oregon was dawning her mask and joining hundreds, if not thousands, of other mothers to form a “Wall of Moms” protecting peaceful demonstrators under attack. They are mixing their yellow shirts and interlocked arms with chants like, “Moms are here! Feds stay clear!” and “Hands up. Don’t Shoot!”

Compassion rose up in their words and in their actions. No magic was involved, only a willingness to lend their voices and their bodies to a cause greater than any one or them or sum of them.

May that generosity only increase… and the sharing of sourdough starter!

Grateful, Lee

Sheltering-in-place in Louisville, KY