Summary: A Communion message with Discussion on how to build a strong church family so that the church might be the body and blood of Christ for the world.
[This sermon ws inspired by Lonard Sweet’s "Sourdough Spirituality" and Rick Warren’s article on building a stronger church]
(Have bread baking in church kitchen before service as people are entering building sot hey can smell the aroma of fresh baked bread.)
Bring a sourdough starter into worship area.
Have one or two bags (per service) of different kinds of bread. -- buy seven or eight loaves of bread—making sure each is a different color, size, and flavor.
Invite children to front—invite them to tell about pets.
I have my pet this AM—I take very good care of this pet, feed it, give it fresh water, keep it safe from harm in its own special space, and of course clean its home often.
But my pet never needs to be walked, or taken to the vet—although if I leave on an extended trip I do need to find someone to come over and make sure it’s fed and watered. I have named his pet “Sponge." Sponge is an oozy, gooey, yeasty, sharp-smelling sourdough starter.
Smell this gurgling, burbling cauldron of bacteria and fungi.
From this starter, I can creates a variety of delicious sourdough breads, rolls, pancakes and waffles. In fact, some of the loaves look like this. (Pick out of the bag one size and color loaf.) Others look like this. (Pick out another one and toss it into the congregation. Keep doing this until you’re out of bread.)
But keeping Sponge alive—sometimes for hundreds of years—has been the hallmark and heritage of this simple yet ingenious ingredient. Before people brought yeast home from the grocery store in those flat little dehydrated packets, the only way to keep yeast around for baking was to keep a live yeast population going all the time.
Sourdough yeast has bacteria in it that can survive for decades, even centuries. In fact theoretically these cultures could live forever. Sourdough starters are live cultures of naturally-occurring wild yeasts, lactobacteria and fungi. Literally millions of lactobacilli live in one little starter.
(Children return to their seats)
Carbon dioxide is what causes dough to rise. These bacteria produce the gasses that give baked goods their lightness. It feeds on carbohydrates (such as flour or sugar) and produces gas and alcohol (which the old sourdough miners called hooch) as byproducts.
Jesus’ parable of the leaven calls attention to that simple but life-sustaining element that was such a necessary part of the people’s everyday existence—leaven, yeast, a starter that added life and lift to their daily bread.
Look at this verse from the Bible about the life of Jesus:
Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough.” Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. Matthew 13:33-34 (NLT)
You see Jesus told the people a story that would help them understand what he was talking about.
In Jesus’ leaven parable, the most remarkable thing is how just a small quantity of leaven or yeast hidden or mixed well throughout a large amount of flour can transform it completely. What was dry, inert material—flour—becomes a living, transmigrating population of organisms that can be formed into an entirely different substance—bread.
Jesus’ parable of the leaven. From small inauspicious-looking beginnings, an insignificant lump of yeast, can generate tremendous transformation. These changes are not simply cosmetic; they are organic. Bread is something different than flour.
Is your life leavened? Is our church leavened? It’s that mixing-in process that’s crucial to the flour’s transformation, to the rise of a sourdough spirituality that occupies a lifetime of faith and action.
To bring about the perfect mixing needed to fully start a sourdough spirituality among the members of the body of Christ, Jesus left behind the Holy Spirit, that "leaven of heaven." The gift of the Spirit enables the kingdom of God to be there, here and still not yet—all at the same time.
Here’s Jesus’ promise to us:
“But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.” John 14:26 (NLT)
But how do you make a favorable environment, one that invites the Holy Spirit in and welcomes all the activity that follows in the Holy Spirit’s wake?
Our church needs to know these things about a sourdough spirituality. When the Bethany church family behaves in these ways, then our yeast will make a house of bread that will explode into the community and the world. I must give you one warning, however; if we have this kind of leaven in our fellowship, we will have to keep our doors locked to keep people out!