Yeast is Never Just Yeast

August 9, 2020

These days many of us are baking. Nothing beats the aroma of baking bread. Nothing beats the taste of bread still warm from the oven sliced and slathered with butter or jam. Nothing beats homemade bread! 

But bread isn’t all that easy to make, is it? How much kneading is enough? How much is too much? What happens if we add ‘extras’ to the recipes: substitute different flours, introduce spices, or maybe some cheese? There is a lot involved in making bread; when you change the ingredients, you change the final product, so care is needed!

However, the one ingredient that never changes and always requires special care is yeast. In this season of COVID, when so many are looking for this innocuous little ingredient in the grocery stores and on line, I found out that yeast is never just yeast! 

  • There is yeast for winemaking; I had no idea! I mistakenly bought some and will use it anyway, but the bread will sure taste different! 
  • Then, there is nutritional yeast; it’s good to use in some ways, just not in bread because it is ‘inactive’ and the bread won’t rise.  
  • How about rapid rise yeast? It’s not as high maintenance as regular yeast in terms of prep, but unless it’s specifically called for in a recipe, using it spoils everything!
  • Finally, regular yeast; the yeast that can easily intimidate the careless baker because the key to successful yeast activation is water temperature: too hot, you kill the yeast; too cool and the stuff just sits in the bowl as a brown gooey mess. 

Yeast is never just yeast!

Even scripture acknowledges that yeast is not just yeast. Depending on context, yeast is described as: 

  • Malice and wickedness that can infect the whole community (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)
  • False teachings that required new believers to jump through hoops in order to be part of the community; a process that kills Christ’s message of grace (Galatians 5:1-15; Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Christ Himself acknowledges the negative spin scripture gives yeast by equating it to the burdensome religious laws, harsh judgments as well as the intellectual and theological condescension of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:1-12; Luke 12:1)

Yet, since yeast is never just yeast, Christ also uses yeast in a positive way. Remember the parable which speaks of the rising of the Kingdom of God on earth through the faith of believers?  (Luke 13:20-21).  

Yeast is never just yeast!

We can take the analogies to yeast even further. I believe yeast can also be used to describe how we communicate, and the care we should take with our words. 

Like yeast, words are never just words! Though seemingly just random symbols joined together and given specific meaning, words have so much power to kill or help rise! 

Taken out of context, used in inappropriate or ill-timed ways, spoken harshly, condescendingly, or with double meaning, words can, at their worst, kill – either figuratively or physically. At their least, words can silence communication and the potential for deepening of relationship. Some examples? 

  • The coldness of words such as: “Bless her little heart…” : words typically followed by condescending condemnation, not blessing; such words can leave the recipient feeling lifeless and defeated. 
  • The harsh, heated, and self-righteous words of both left and right political activists, as well as the anonymous words of social media enthusiasts; words that diminish and often alienate and result in killing any hope of unification and collaboration. 
  • The inappropriate and ill-timed usage of God’s word itself:   
    • By questioning the faith of those who aren’t healthy, wealthy and wise….implying that they obviously lack God’s blessing – totally antithetical to the gospel and a potential death knell to those who are struggling.  
    • By judging that the sins we are not guilty are far worse than any sin we might possibly commit! Such bad theology can create hopelessness in the hearts of those trying to  rise from the ashes of their past.

Notice something about these uses of words? They are used to raise us up and satisfying our need to be right, to be better than, to control and to wield power!  

Words are never just words. 

In the midst of it all, we are reminded of the Word – a Word that is always more than just a word – in John 1:1-4.  Christ is the Word – the Word of life! 

According to Colossians 3:16-17 His Word is to dwell in us. If that’s true (and it is), it means that our words are to reflect the essence of Christ which lives in and flows from us! Doesn’t that bring a new significance to the words we say?  

Words are never just words.

I wonder what would happen if Christ’s word actually became the good and rising yeast in our lives? I wonder what would happen if our words became words we could imagine Christ Himself speaking to those who are broken, hopeless, sick, lonely, marginalized; words graciously spoken to those who don’t agree with us, and to those who make us nuts?  

I also wonder what would happen, if, when we found ourselves at a loss for speaking such Christ inspired words, we chose to be silent until life affirming words would come to our lips again? 

Words are never just words – they call the rise and fall of those around us!

Bottom line: 

What if we remembered that Christ is the Living Word and that His word is intended to live in our hearts through faith in His presence?  What kind of words would we use: words of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation? Words of love and new beginnings? Words of gentle truth in love spoken for accountability not only the other, but also for ourselves? 

If we used words this way, what might the final product be?  The rising of the Kingdom of God on earth perhaps?

I wonder.  After all, Christ is also the Bread of Life.  I would love to be a slice in that loaf, how about you?

And to God be the glory!  AMEN!

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Yeast is Never Just Yeast

  1. What a great analogy between yeast and words. Like selecting the right yeast to use it’s important to select the right words knowing the influence they may have. I’m reading your blog for the first time and now have a good alternative to Netflix. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your spiritual insight.


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