I have a delicious, no fail, sourdough bread recipe! It involves a three-step process spread over 1½ days. The key to the recipe is to give the bread dough time to “yeast” – Sue Monk Kidd’s word for allowing bread to rise.
Kidd tells of making the bread with the assistance of her five year old daughter, Ann. When they got to the part of adding yeast and covering the dough with a dishcloth so that it would rise, little Ann wrinkled her brow and asked, “Aren’t you going to finish?” “We have to wait for the dough to rise,” explained her mother. “Well, how long do we have to wait?” responded Ann. “An hour,” answered her mother. “A WHOLE hour?” the little girl grimaced and plopped in her chair to wait it out, occasionally lifting the cloth to peek at the dough. “It’s not doing anything,” she announced. Her Mom replied, “You can’t see it, but the yeast is working. I promise.” Unconvinced, Ann wandered off to play. Toward the end of the hour she returned to peer into the bowl. Her face lit up. “Look, Mama, it’s yeasting!” she proclaimed. (Pages 42 and 43, When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd)
Yeasting is a beautiful concept, not only in bread-making, but also in our spiritual lives. In fact, Advent could be called a season of yeasting. It is a time when we wait for God’s word and work in our lives. Though much is happening while we yeast, we must wait patiently for the yeasting process to be completed.
What do we do while we yeast? The father-to-be Zechariah prays. (Luke 1:5-25) He and his wife, Elizabeth, have waited so long for a child that he has lost hope of their prayers ever being answered. He receives the surprise of a lifetime when the angel says, “Your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son . . . .” The yeasting process is completed and Zechariah’s hope becomes reality.
Advent praying is essential for our Advent yeasting, too. Through the mystery of prayer, we talk to God about our concerns and joys. As we pray we hear from God, receiving direction, encouragement and strength. Most of us do not have the privilege of an angel coming and spelling God’s plan out for us. But God still speaks to us through a variety of means. As we wait . . . as we yeast like Zechariah . . . we do well to pray.
We pray for forgiveness, changed hearts and transformed lives. We ask for strength for the day, courage in the face of injustice and generosity in our relationships with others. We lift up our loved ones, the sick, the hungry, those who do not yet know Christ, those who are persecuted for their faith. We pray for ourselves, each other, our church and our world.
But prayer is so much more than making requests of God. It involves waiting to hear God speak. It requires listening for God’s response to requests. It means a willingness to hear God answer our heart’s desires with a yes, a no, or with a wait and yeast.
During this Advent season, like Zechariah, we wait. We wait for God’s comfort, direction, peace and justice in the world. We wait while the yeasting process works in our lives, churches and communities. The time will come when God calls us to act. In fact, if ever a response to God and others is demanded, it is at Christmas – which is only a few days away. But in the meantime, I find myself waiting, yeasting so to speak. And while I wait, my prayer life is full of talking and listening to God. For now, that seems like enough. After all, it is Advent – the season of yeasting.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference