“[Jesus] 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.”
The kingdom of heaven, which is often seen as synonymous with ‘kingdom of God’,
can be seen as God ruling over the world as a king. Others consider it to be closer to
the spiritual sphere of life. Others still see it as pointing to the future, to ‘end times’,
where heaven and earth are remade, and all is restored back to God. But how are
we to understand the idea of the kingdom of heaven being like yeast, worked into
dough to make it rise?
Preceding this parable is the one about the mustard seed; and proceeding it are
parables about gaining treasures (one in a field, a pearl and a catch of fish). A
parable about how, from tininess, greatness develops; and after this striving for
something incredibly valuable is shown three times. In each of these parables time is
a crucial factor, as it takes time for the seed to grow, time to find something or to
catch something. Similarly, the yeast works in the dough, and causes it to grow and
become more flavourful, which takes time. Does this mean that the kingdom of
heaven involves taking time?
I find that I am a child of our era: I get frustrated when things aren’t done quickly
enough. Like if my phone takes a while to load an app, or I have to wait a week for a
parcel to arrive. Whilst I lived in London, waiting for more than 5 minutes for the tube
would seem like a long time! One beautiful thing I have gained in lockdown is to take
my time. I have been growing my own plants, with courgettes, tomatoes, peppers
and more on their way. It took me time to prepare the ground, build the raised bed,
place the soil, all the while the plants were growing in a greenhouse, to be ready for
planting. It took time and effort to achieve this. I cannot make the plants grow any
faster. They rely on the sun, watering and feeding to be sustained. It takes time.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was on about in the parable of the yeast. The kingdom of
heaven is like this: it takes effort and it takes time. Be patient and keep at it, because
it will grow (like the mustard seed), it will get better (like yeast in the dough), it will be
worth it (much like the precious treasures and fish). The kingdom of heaven is worth
it. The parables are words of reassurance, for us to persevere for the goodness of
God, for the love of God. Whether we see the kingdom of heaven as God ruling, the
spiritual sphere of life or pointing to the end times, this kingdom is worth it.
A poem, by Brendan Kennelly, for us to think over with this idea of time and effort,
perseverance and seeking, leading us to the kingdom of heaven:
Someone else cut off my head
In a golden field.
Now I am re-created
By her fingers. This
moulding is more delicate
Than a first kiss,
More deliberate than her own
And lying down,
I am fine
As anything in
This legendary garden
Yet I am nothing till
She runs her fingers through me
And shapes me with her skill.
The form that I shall bear
Grows round and white.
It seems I comfort her
Even as she slits my face
And stabs my chest.
Her feeling for perfection is
So I am glad to go through fire
And come out
Shaped like her dream.
In my way
I am all that can happen to men.
I came to life at her finger-ends.
I will go back into her again.