Yeast, mustard seed, and the groaning of all creation.

October 26, 1999

Romans 8, 18-25 + Luke 13, 18-21

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Many years ago somebody gave me a mustard seed encased in a drop of plastic. It was very tiny. Yet from such small seeds grow large plants. When I bake bread, I add about 2 tablespoons of yeast to 6 or 7 cups of flour. That's not much yeast, but it makes two entire loaves of bread (or about 20 dinner rolls, or a dozen fat cinnamon rolls), and people rarely complain about the taste..

Such is the Kingdom of God. Starts small, grows big. One of my favorite wisdom sayings is, "We start small or we don't start at all."

Paul sees this in his metaphor of birth and creation. He chooses a very feminine metaphor to describe the movement of Creation towards God's Reign -- labor pains and birth, "All creation is groaning in labor pains". At the present time, we are "looking through a cloudy glass," we have only glimpses, not full sight, of what might be ahead. There is an inner yearning that longs for the fulfillment "on earth as it is in heaven" of justice, mercy, beauty, goodness, and love. We live in the midst of arrogance, violence, exploitation, and death, but that is not our destiny, that is an aberration of evil.

Patient waiting is not my strong suit, but note the word the translators chose to describe this -- endurance -- which suggests a runner striving for the finish line or a woman struggling to give birth. The labor pains of birth may be turbulent, but they bring life into the world. The final moments of a race may be excruciating to the runner, but they are the price of victory. As a mother longs for the birth of her child, we await the fulfillment of the Kingdom. The patient waiting that we are called to is active participation in the building of that Reign, right here and now. Any work of justice, peace, mercy, love, beauty, and/or wisdom that we do is a step in fulfilling the Reign of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

Our deeds may be very small, almost un-noticeable, but God sees every one of them and like pebbles in a pond, we may never know the full consequences of our actions. One kind word might stop an abortion, or a suicide, or a divorce, or child abuse, or even just another bad day..

In the wisdom of God, this is accessible to all of us. We don't have to be saints of heroic virtue, scholars of incredible wisdom, or merchants of great wealth capable of endowing hospitals and universities. The Jubilee call is to ordinary people, in the midst of our usual circumstances and states of life. We start small or we don't start at all, and we do what we can, with what we have, where we are. Not everybody is called to heroic martyrdom for the Faith, but all are called to walk daily in the Kingdom, which is here and yet not-here, within our hearts and still to come in its fullness. Paul provides the summation as he writes, "For it is in hope that we are saved."

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