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  • Writer's pictureJulia Erdlen

Imperfect Attempts

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened."

I have mixed a lot of flour in my life. Before I learned to cook, before I was old enough to turn the oven on by myself, I would measure out 2 and a quarter cups of flour for chocolate chip cookies. It was the first recipe I knew by heart.

Years later, I would learn to make bread to bring to potlucks. Two teaspoons of yeast, fed in sugar water, leavening four cups of flour, seasoned with a bit of salt. Then, I wait for hours. Two hours to rise, maybe less in summertime, then dividing the dough into the bowls I bake in for the second rise.

I even had the opportunity to bake the bread used as the eucharist. In that case, I ensured there was no yeast and no rising. The work of my hands on that finnicky, un-leavened dough, in the most literal way, transformed into the Body of Christ. It takes me back to that first time the presider held up the bread I had baked, and I was sitting so close I could see the flour dusting on what I had deemed the most perfect looking piece. It felt like the wind was knocked out of me when it was held up for the whole congregation to see.

Jesus in today’s gospel uses many parables to explain the unexplainable. The Kingdom of Heaven, that something that we are called to build and bring forth, like the sowers of seeds and the baker of bread. But Jesus, in front of the crowds, gives us a feminine image of God. The Kingdom is like bread, and God does the work of women. God digs Their hands into the dough, like I have, like the women who heard Jesus speaking certainly had. While the particularities of Jesus’s incarnation led to his being in a male body, he points towards a more expansive image of God. God the bakerwoman is a God I feel close to, as close as when I baked the eucharistic bread myself.

Even so, sometimes I get hard, dense bread. I overheat the water, killing too much of my yeast, resulting in a dense, unleavened loaf. It brings back the memories of the multiple failed sourdough starters, wasting cups and cups of flour for recipes that never quite worked out. I recall all the times I had to press and re-press the eucharistic hosts, with their intricate designs to ensure they were set apart as a more sacred bread.

I have made many imperfect attempts at bringing forth the kingdom, a waste of time and energy when the dough did not get leavened, ultimately failing to become what it was meant to be. I don’t always succeed.

But I’ve got another bag of flour in the kitchen, and it never seems to run out.

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