Monday, August 01, 2011

Yeasty Business

Monday, August 1, 2011 -- Week of Proper 13, Year One
Joseph of Arimathaea
To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, 978)
Psalms 80 (morning)      77, [79] (evening)
2 Samuel 7:1-17
Acts 18:1-11
Mark 8:11-21

In the scripture, yeast is usually used as a metaphor for decay or corruption.  A little yeast will quietly affect the whole measure of flour, just like a little evil or sin will quietly affect the whole community.  Today we read of Jesus warning the disciples about the "yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod."  There might be several ways of thinking of these warnings.  A couple of yeasty characteristics come to my mind. 

The Pharisees sought to promote religious observance.  They urged people to be righteous, to follow the law and practice the ritual observances.  They called those who would not, or could not follow the observances, sinners.  Some Pharisees fell into the habit of judgment and condemnation, seeing only two camps of people -- the righteous and the sinners.  Though they believed themselves to be promoting good religious practice, the effect was to create separation and alienation within the community. 

The Herodians were all about power.  They were given power by the Roman occupiers to keep the peace at whatever cost to the innocent, to control the situation with whatever alliance is necessary.  Herod successfully empowered certain Jewish elites to help him consolidate power and he cooperated with Roman occupiers to keep the country secure.  Security always trumped justice.

Beware of such yeast, the yeast of power and division.  It is always hostile to the kind of unity and compassion that Jesus practiced.

A bit further in this reading, Jesus asks the disciples recall the two great feedings they have witnessed.  "'When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?'  They said to him, 'Twelve.'  'And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?'  'Seven.'  Then he said to them, 'Do you not yet understand?'"

A possible understanding.  The first feeding was done in Israel, and the twelve baskets full represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is a meaning that any Jew would have perceived.  The second feeding was done in the Gentile country of the Decapolis.  Jesus is among Gentiles, and he heals and feeds them just has he has among his own people.  The feeding story follows follows Jesus' healings of a Syrophonenician woman's child and a deaf man from the region.  After this feeding, there are seven baskets left over.  The standard Greek meaning of "seven" is "perfection."  (3 represents the spiritual order; 4 the created order; 4+3=7 -- completion/perfection)  This is a numerical meaning that any Greek would have perceived. 

Jesus treats Jew and Greek with equal compassion -- feeding and healing all, and communicating with them through their own symbolic systems.  He does not tell the Gentiles that they must join his religion before he feeds, heals, and gives Good News.  He doesn't separate, but rather he unifies.  He eats with both.  He does not play power games.  He only loves and serves.

Today is the feast of Joseph of Arimathaea, a patron saint for all of us who are wealthy (and that's most of the people who are reading this, including me).  It is Joseph who courageously claimed the body of a convicted capital criminal and provided for a proper burial in his own tomb, despite the possible consequences from the authorities who had executed Jesus.  He is one who used his power and wealth with compassion and generosity.  He is an example for all of us who are comfortable -- to use our power for care and advocacy on behalf of the poor and oppressed.  



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Caroline said...

This is so instructive for me - not a Bible scholar. Thanks, Lowell. It seems so simple when we focus on Jesus life and not all the extraneous "stuff" that colors how we view one another. I often think that the two testaments of the Bible need to be separated. Your thoughts, please.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


I don't think the two testaments should be separated. We learn so much from all of the scripture. It speaks back and forth. There are visions in Isaiah and elsewhere that are as glorious and loving and universal as anything in the New Testament. And there are things that are less than inspiring in both testaments. It is a great and revelatory conversation, I think. We need it all.



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