04 May, 2006

I Love Bread - or - How being ground into dust is a good thing.

Lev 23
10 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, ...

15 " 'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

This is the coolest thing. There are so many things I love about it.

Tonight I was doing step one of making bread, and remembered how much I love this one particular moment in the process. Next thing I knew, I was remembering this whole story.

The Israelites knew this as a law. We know it as a prophecy, because it is fulfilled. (All of the appointed feasts are fulfilled, except one.) Every year the tribes of Israel acted out this prophecy, and had no clue what they were doing. They believed that God liked to see His children waving sheaves of grain and baked loaves of yeasted bread. Of course, I would be pretty jazzed if everyone I knew stopped everything they were doing to wave some sandwiches toward me, but God is above all that. Really.

Here we see the seeds of the gospel planted, and then harvested as believers come to Christ. Christ is the Seed (in the John 14:24 sense) Who was planted to bring forth many seeds. The harvest is alive. This harvest is Christ in us, and it is displayed before God. We are purified by the sacrifice of the Lamb, and held up before God and all the world to display the wonder of Life reproduced in us by God.

But that is not enough.

50 days later that life, that food, us, we are ground and crushed and blended together. Today, we call this the church.

Each grain suffers alone, and is destroyed, but it happens to all of us at once. We all suffer at the same time. The kernel is mashed, and then blended, brother with brother, sister with sister, and brother and sister together. We become the finest flour.

But that is not enough.

This lump of flour must be made into bread. Let me skip over the yeasting for a second, and come back. My favorite moment in all of bread making happens after a few minutes of kneading the dough. Kneading bread dough involves folding all these little bits of wheat dust over onto each other, again and again and again. You start with a wet, frankly nasty, lump of wheat mush and you start folding. You try never, never to cause a tear in the mush. You just keep connecting mush from one side of the lump with the mush from the other side. Gradually, the mush begins to get sticky. It sticks to everything. It becomes genuinely unruly. They don't call the sticky stuff in wheat, "gluten," for nothing.

Then suddenly, it's over. The gluten takes over, and the wheat only sticks to itself. The lump no longer sticks to anything. It goes from being a slimy lump sticking to every exposed surface of the world, to a smooth, round loaf.

It's the closest thing to magic I've ever seen.

You keep right on kneading. You just keep folding that loaf in on itself until not one grain of that loaf could possibly be parted from its neighbor.

But it's not enough.

Yeast is added to the flour. They just finished the Feast of Unleavened Bread a short time ago, in which yeast is the symbol of sin. It is natural to assume that yeast is sin here as well, but it's not. I think I may be alone in this interpretation, but I don't care. God is asking the priest to wave this yeast before Him. It is holy.

Yeast here is Life - Life added to the loaf. The Holy Spirit working in His church. Yeast is added at the very beginning, long before the mush has begun to be kneaded, but you cannot tell. It is only after the kneading has strengthened the bread that the yeast can make Himself known. We need to be so tightly bonded to each other that the release of the Spirit is captured and expands us, making us rise like a loaf of bread.

But it's still not enough.

From that one lump of dough two loaves are made; one wheat, one yeast, one lump, two loaves. Israel was looking for a city made without hands, and they performed the story of that city here without even knowing it. The first loaf is the church before Christ, and the second is the church after He was manifest - we are that second loaf. The two loaves are made from the same wheat, the same Yeast, the same kneading, by the same loving God.

And then, those loaves are cooked.

And that is enough!

And do you know what happens to those loaves?

Our Priest enjoys them! He eats those loaves.

20 ... They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest.

After all the work our High Priest lavishes on us in love; after the Spirit is kneaded into us with great care; after we have been joined to each other through suffering, through folding, and through fire, we become an aroma to Him, and a sweet taste in His mouth, and a deep satisfaction. We are truly made deep joy to the infinite God by the mercies of His grace and labor over us.

I love bread. I love the church.


Milly said...

I loved reading that.
Thank you.

Danny Kaye said...

What a great read that was! Thanks. Hey, we feelers, we can do some thinking too, eh?

Anyway, you are right about yeast not being the bad guy. Jesus says that "the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Matthew 13:33) Sounds like Jesus liked yeast, too.

Nope, good can spread like yeast through the church just as well as evil.

Funny thing, though. It seems evil just spreads a lot faster, doesn't it? I guess that says something about us human-types.

BTW: How did your bread turn out?

codepoke said...

Thanks, Milly!


Jesus says that "the kingdom of heaven is like yeast...

Amen. I'm with you. But I believe the standard interpretation is that the woman's bread and the bread of the Feast of Weeks were both pure until the leaven of sin was mixed in. They believe that the miracle is how God does wonders even with a leavened church. I don't buy it.

It doesn't "feel" right. :-)

How did your bread turn out?


It tastes good enough, but I over-kneaded it. I think I may have done this several times, but this was the first time I ever was 100% sure that was what had happened. We ferment our bread for 1-2 days before making it. This loaf had to ferment for 2+ days, which weakens the gluten considerably, so I actually over-kneaded it in 10 minutes by hand.

Next time, for sure!

Danny Kaye said...

2 days!?!! What kind of bread needs to rise for 2 whole days?

and can we have some...

codepoke said...


The bread rises for the normal couple hours. It ferments for 2 days. We have it soaking in kefir (like very natural yogurt) and/or whey for 2 days. It's like souring the dough, but much less work.

Those loaves were edible, but not any great delight to eat. My second attempt is fermenting right now, though!