LEAVEN . . . It gets into the most unpredictable places

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. “ (Reference: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Five years ago, when this scripture passage under the theme of Reading from the Anabaptist Bible appeared on “Sip of Scripture” I wrote Crackers of Goodness. I focused on the history of the Jewish Passover and the prohibition of using yeast during the period time of the Passover. And while rough in some spots, in capture in essence what the writer of 1 Corinthians was saying. But it is not how the historic Anabaptists appropriate the verse.

Their focus was on keeping unworthy people out of their circle of faith, as opposed to each person doing a self-cleansing of their own life. The editors of Reading from the Anabaptist Bible tell us that “Many Anabaptists took these words of Paul as support for fraternal admonition. Menno Simons, who supported a strict application of the ban, appealed to these verses.” Menno Simons himself wrote, “Again, with these words Paul reproves the Corinthians and all other churches with them, who glory in being the church of Jesus Christ and the spiritual house of Israel, and nevertheless tolerate such shameful, corrupting leaven as this Corinthian and his ilk, in their communion. For how can we glory in the piety of the church and reprove the outside churches on account of their ungodly doctrine and life, so long as we tolerate the like leaven of doctrine and life among us, and do not expel it? If we are unleavened, why are we not afraid of the leaven, since the apostle tells us that, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

Simons is not talking theology or philosophy of church life and discipline. He is being very pragmatic and fundamental; how can we, he says, exhort and challenges those outside the church to life a scriptural life when we allow people in the church to get away with all sorts of things (according to Simons’ standards).

What Simons (conveniently?) forgets is that Paul is writing specifically to the church at Corinthian on a particular issue that was both religiously and socially contrary. Paul’s exhortation rests on the fact that they (the Corinthians) were saying they were a pure and holy people, yet this sin was among them. I assure you beloved, an Anabaptist would rarely say they are pure and holy!

It is, I think beloved, a very Anabaptist thing to apply scripture to every day living. I have been doing it for . . . untold amount of years. My writing is proof of that. We grab on to a verse and passage, and try it out in many spots to see where it might be applied best and most accurately/appropriately. We may also see a situation that needs a verse or two . . . or three or four, and then look for scripture that matches our mood and temperament; if we are lucky and bible-literate (in that order!) we will find a verse or more. It is beloved, our cultural “leaven.” It is also might be why the book Reading the Anabaptist Bible could be long enough to span 365 days – they had a lot to say about/write about scripture. But I digress.

May you beloved keep yourselves pure and holy, and apart from sin and those things that mar sincerity and truth. Selah!

LEAVEN . . . False pomp

“Be careful, Jesus said to them. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They discussed this among themselves and said, It is because we didn’t bring any bread. How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Reference: Matthew 16:6-7, 11-12)

Parables and metaphors – they can be difficult to understand. Especially if you tend to take everything literally. The disciples, as the writer of Matthew presents them, were taking Jesus literally and thought that Jesus was concerned with earthly things, as they were. But Jesus reminded them that the Son of Man need not worry about what is to happen or how he will make his way (just as we are not to be concerned). The left out verses have Jesus reminding the disciples about the loaves and the fishes. Jesus is referring to the Pharisees and Sadducees and how they “puff” themselves up with power and authority; they are not worthy teachers of how to live an accountable life.

The historic Anabaptists felt that the priest and religious leaders of the state religion (at that time) were not good teachers or examples. The historic Anabaptist Jacob de Keersgieter (the Chandler) and Friar Cornelis (one of many religious leaders of that time) “debated” the issue of power and authority given to such leaders as a result of standing in succession to the disciple Peter who Jesus imbued with power and authority.

Fr. Corn. Is it true? would [the] accursed heretic say that the power which is Christ gave His successor or vicar, St. Peter, does not pertain to us priests? What! no! do not the popes, as the successors of St. Peter, who sit in his seat, and we priests, still have the power as well as did the scribes and Pharisees, as the successors of Moses, who at the time of Christ still sat in Moses’ seat? . . .

Jac. With your permission, but do not get angry; for I should have been afraid of incurring your abuse, if I had compared you to the scribes and Pharisees; but since you compare yourselves to them, I will reply to you. What Christ means is this: Whatsoever they command you to do from the law of Moses, that do. But He also commands His disciples, in Matt. 16:6, that they should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. And though the Pharisees and scribes should have boasted themselves of the power which Moses had, as you priests boast of having the power which Peter received from Christ, of forgiving sin, who would have believed the Pharisees? Since Christ pronounces woe over them so many times . . . “

Such power, authority and presence is not inherited like a ceremonial stole or religious artifact. It is earned by sincere belief and devotion, tested time and time again. It is developed through study and spiritual practice and disciplines. And even then it is imbued by/from above and not through human agents below. You can tell this topic touches my Anabaptist roots. If power, authority and presence were gained only by being in the right position at the right time, what good would it do to live a righteous life? Why would Christ have come to us? Why would scripture that tells of Jesus life, death and resurrection be held as important and information? As much good and devotion that there is in and comes out of the Roman Catholic church, the tradition of succession can work against such good. The current pope (yes, small “p” beloved) is seen favorably because he does not rest on his “succession” but tries to prove himself a friend and benefactor of all. It is, I think, the tradition of the Roman Catholic church that sometimes gets in the way. But I digress.

May you, beloved, be simply who you are and who God and Christ has called you to be. And may God’s presence surround you and enfold you each day. Selah!