Learning from Leaven in the Days before Passover

Are you excited for the Season of Our Freedom, Passover and Unleavened Bread? It’s already Nisan, so he’s preparing his dwelling place–all of us! We’re all getting scrubbed. Friends, I have my first living sourdough starter–as legit of a chametz (leaven) as you can get–and it’s sitting dormant in my fridge as we speak, so the lessons are already pouring in!

But first, I never told you about last year’s lesson. So get this: I culled the fridge four, eight times–I went over every label, every jar, every item before the holidays. Then, on the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread, which historically is my big day to fail, I had an overwhelming craving for mustard.

Now, do you think I have ever in my life had a craving for mustard? Like eat-a-spoonful-straight-from-the-jar-type craving? No, nope, never. But there I was at the fridge, spoon in hand.

Do I have to even tell you what happened? I felt this shocking zing through my mouth and then body, and I reeled a little as I stood there. I thought, “What was that?” And even though I was sure it couldn’t have been chametz, I slowly turned the jar in my hand and read the first ingredient:

Spirit vinegar

Spirit vinegar? Spirit? Spirit! So many times through every item in the fridge, and I failed to see the Spirit. (Siprit vinegar is made of fermented grain: it’s chametz.) Nice. Subtle rebuke don’t you think? Troubling. That’ll get a girl’s attention.

The year before that, I was fellowshipping with some friends on the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread, and I remember looking at a particular item someone brought and thinking to myself, “Um, I’m pretty sure that’s chametz,” but then did I avoid it? No, I wouldn’t want that person to feel bad. (That’s called people-pleasing, and it’s pride–bold, ugly sin.) Once the questionable item was on my plate, I did eat around it at first. And then? Right down the hatch.

Later at home, I looked up the item: Sure enough, yeast. I knew that when I first looked at it in the potluck line, so I couldn’t claim ignorance. He had alerted me, and I ignored him. Lesson: I am the only one responsible for watching my mouth. And I need to watch it. That was about more than food. I still deal with this pride issue.

I chronicled other lessons here, like in “Dirt is not Chametz,” which I recall every year as I start removing leaven and am tempted to clean instead.

So I enter each Passover season with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. I expect to get hard lessons, and I want them, but it’s not easy.

Back to present: just near the end of the month of Adar, as Nisan approached, a friend gave me some starter so I could experiment with making sourdough bread. This is a whole new learning curve of the proper care and feeding of starter, how you know it’s ready, and how you use it to make delicious bread.

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Lesson one: Wow, that starter puppy is p-a-t-i-e-n-t and ready to spring to life at a moment’s notice! It doesn’t look like it as it sits dormant in the fridge, but take it out and feed it a little flour and water, and poof! It jumps into action. It is certainly alive. This is a good warning to me. I can harbor dormant sin in my life, and man, if I just happen to be a little careless, accidentally (or not) let it get a little nourishment, that sin will jump up, nearly double in size, and be ready to leaven a whole lot of dough in a very short time. So that’s a vivid picture. A little unnerving. I consider myself warned.

On the flip side, the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven hidden in meal till the whole thing is leavened, so there is a positive in this that, mixed in the dough, the process of the unveiling of the kingdom if unstoppable, hallelujah! The starter doesn’t look all that different from the dough, but it’s a powerful force once it’s ripped in pieces, scattered, and tumbled in the dough. Sounds like exile and redemption. Temperature and circumstances might affect the time, but transformation is certain.

caleb-woods-525531-unsplash cutLesson two: How do you kill chametz? Fire. Uh-oh. This speaks to me of the purging and purifying of the body of Christ, tribulations, and trials. Chametz doesn’t go on the altar of God; it burns another way. But, considering lesson one, and considering some sins are so deep and so dormant I don’t know about them to throw them out, fire will definitely take care of it, and he loves me enough to go after the hidden things that keep me from him. I’m hoping time under the broiler of his eyes of fire will deep clean my life. If I throw out what he shows me and he burns out what I don’t see, I’ll be ready for him to start something new in me.

On the flip side here, when you start a new batch of starter, you have to wait until it’s ready before you can use it, and that takes a week or so, usually. You’ll know it’s ready when it behaves consistently–isn’t that interesting? If you feed it at the same times each day, it will eventually rise and fall predictably, and then it’s ripe. As new lumps, we have a breaking-in period. We need his expert care, watchful eye, and time to become a stable, consistent, usable product in the hands of the Master. Cool.

But wait, there’s more!  Aleph Beta’s Parsha Lab Podcast for this week’s parsha, Tzav (Lev. 6:1-8:36) tells of the inauguration of the priests, and the podcasters point out that the priests have a command to eat matzah (unleavened bread) and keep chametz off the altar, reminiscent of Passover. This is not news, that there’s something oddly Passover-ish about the temple: it’s a picture of a place without corruption.

The reason for not eating chametz and eating matzah (two different commands) is that the children of Israel are to remember that they left quickly, without time for their dough to rise, so they ended up with baked unleavened breads…?

Stop the tape! What? In the traditional view, it only takes 18 short minutes to begin to leaven bread. What do you mean they left so fast the bread didn’t rise? If they left with dough on their shoulders sometime after midnight and traveled, sorry, that dough would have risen. Even in my house, which is frigid, dough rises if it’s left out at night. We’re talking about Egypt in spring! So I think something more is at work here.

I wonder–and I’m speculating–if on that night when he brought out the children of Israel, he suspended corruption. It’s as if they were changed, in the twinkling of an eye–and suddenly, corruption put on incorruption: they walked with dough, but the dough didn’t rise. That fits the picture of the final redemption. And it makes me think there were no natural deaths on the night the Death Angel went through Egypt. Those who died did so from supernatural causes. Those who lived were changed in a moment, gathered around the bones of Joseph (like Eve constructed from the bone of Adam, like us as we’re gathered around our resurrected Messiah), a body of believers, walking out in their redemption.

So out goes the chametz this week before Passover. And on that night when salvation is commemorated, I’ll look around my table, my home, all my territory–and there will be no evidence of corruption. All of it changed. All of it temporarily removed from the unwinding universe for a week of eating and living in a world that is everlasting.

That’s all I can say so far. The season unfolds.

What are you learning this season? Where is he taking you?

Are you in a tight place, a Mitzraim/Egypt of your own, like the children of Israel–eating the lamb, participating in a freedom they had not yet experienced? Celebrate, child of God. There’s life in stepping outside of linear time to celebrate the victory he bought for you even when you are waiting for it to overtake you. The Final Redemption is closer every day. He is coming for us. We’re confident of it, confident in him. Though he tarries, we wait for him every day.

Blessings on your preparations and the everlasting celebration of our past, present, and future redemption in Christ!

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