Gospel Message & Recording
In today’s Gospel Reading Jesus tells his disciples to be aware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Leaven is typically yeast, which is added to dough to make it rise. Without it, dough would stay flat. It is obvious that Christ is using figurative language in order to explain a point. In other words, Christ has no interest in the cooking habits of the Pharisees and Sadducees. So then, what does Christ mean? Leaven makes the dough to rise. Yeast is an active organism that brings the dough to life—making it come alive. Similarly, the law, the rules and regulations of Judaism, were the “yeast” of Pharisees and Sadducees. It is what made them come alive, rather than the living God Himself. A relationship with Jehovah-God was not the priority for these spiritual rulers of Israel. It was rather following and keeping all the rules and laws. The law, which was suppose to aid the Jewish person in becoming closer to God, eventually became a form of legalism. God’s expectation in giving the law was for the Jewish people to use it as an “aid” or sort of “support system” to get closer to Him, change their lives, and avoid sin. But what occurred was the law became their God.
This has happened in the Orthodox Church in times past and also at present. Rather than so many laws, we have traditions and rituals; all of which are good, but as stated earlier, like the law, it was given as an “aid” or “support system” for the Christ believers to become Christ-like. The traditions and rituals do not have life in themselves. They are given life by Christ, and activated by the Christ-believer, when he or she, in genuine faith and love, responses to the call of Christ.
Being raised in the Orthodox Church my whole-life, I have experienced “poor” preaching. Men and women are told they will be saved through baptism, communion, confession etc. because they took part in the sacrament, rather than being told to “flee” and “run away” from sin and turn to Christ and develop a relationship with Christ through the sacraments. No one! Absolutely no one can receive salvation without a turning from sin and developing a strong personal relationship with Christ. Simply taking part in the sacraments without a relationship with Christ, or at least some attempt to know Christ, means we have the exact same “leaven” as the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Looking at it from another perspective, we must understand that every person has a “leaven.” Everyone has something that makes him or her “rise.” Traditions and rituals might not be a person’s “leaven;” but TV, video games, recognition, power, money, fame, sex, pornography etc., they too can be the “leaven” in someone’s life.
If anyone of these things is our leaven, then as the leaven in the bread is changed to the body of Christ, so also, we must we willing to offer our leaven to God so that he can change/make us into a new creation, because we are God’s temples, a place where He dwells.