Did you know that yeast goes bad? Yeah, I found that out the hard way. Back when I was in seminary one of my joys was making bread. I learned the basic recipe, then I tried experimenting with a little of this and a little of that. After trial and error, I came up with a great recipe for a garlic parmesan Italian-style bread. It was awesome! But the seasons were changing and with no AC, I decided that bread baking would have to wait until the next season.
Well, you can guess the story. I used the old yeast that I had purchased in a fancy specialty store. The was some rising, but not as much as I would have liked. I don’t know why, but I thought, maybe baking it will get it to complete. Well, the results were less than good, in fact, they were downright disgusting. I looked at the label on the jar of yeast and, sure enough, it was past its expiration date by a couple months. The yeast was dead, and as sad as it was to throw the jar away, it had to be done. The yeast no longer had use.
Often we try to cling to things that no longer work. For me, it was hard to throw the yeast away because I had paid extra for this “special” yeast. In 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, Paul says:
“Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Paul uses this example of yeast to help people to see that when something does not work, there is not much that you can do but get rid of it and either get something new or not use anything at all. In fact, he is asking you to take on a very different approach: instead of relying on your traditions or doctrines, he suggests that we go back to the basics.
Take a look at a box of matzo bread. It typically has two to four ingredients. All matzo has water and flour; some will get fancy with a little olive oil or salt. But it is what it is; nothing pretentious or fancy, yet it is sustaining and filling. When it comes to bread, it really is all you need.
This is true of faith. As we approach Easter in the final days, Paul’s suggestion is to go in purged of all that is corrosive or just bad. We know that over time, faith often becomes jaded, even self-serving. It often becomes about us and our own piety, more than what God wants from us. Sometimes there are even parts of our faith that lead us down paths that are dark and isolating. It is those elements, and all that pulls us away from the core of our faith, that we need to purge to truly be ready for Easter.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen