At church this morning, the pastor commented on Jesus’ Parable of the Yeast in Matthew 13:33, in light of the recent shooting. The NIV’s rendition of the Parable states:
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
The pastor said that Christians are supposed to be like yeast in the dough, who cause the dough to rise. They can do this, he said, by coming up with creative solutions to the problem of tragic shootings: by offering ideas, by contributing constructively to the discussion, and by asking the difficult questions. The pastor said that he envisions a future in which such shootings are a thing of the past, when people can learn safely and come up with scientific and technological advancements. The pastor also talked about the lonely and isolated finding a place where they are welcome.
Moreover, the pastor said that the Parable does not present the yeast trying to make the dough into yeast, but rather causing the dough to rise. It is on account of enigmatic statements like these that I love this pastor’s sermons: I wonder, “What exactly did he mean by THAT?” I doubt that the pastor is opposed to evangelism, per se, for he talks on his blog about engaging atheists and people with questions. His point could be that Christians can be yeast in the world and cause the dough to rise apart from a missionary agenda of trying to convert people to Christianity.
The pastor said that we may remember what our previous pastor told us after the last shooting, and that he does not really remember what he told his last congregation in the aftermath. I do recall what the last pastor said to us—-see my write-up here—-and her message was essentially the same as what our new pastor this morning shared. Her text was different: her Scriptural text was the one in which Jesus rebukes the disciples’ lack of faith after calming a storm at sea. But her point was essentially the same: Christians have within them the power to make a difference in the world, to produce rippling effects, and they should not resign themselves to the current wave of violence, as if nothing can be done about it. She also tried to tie faith to gun control, saying that people should have the faith to give up some of their rights for the sake of the public safety. (As I get to know people in the congregation more, I doubt that everyone agreed with her on gun control.) The pastor this morning did not go that far, but I do not know what he had in mind when he talked about asking the “difficult questions.”
I think that sermons like this are important, even if I do not know how to apply them, and even if many in the congregation may not know how to apply them. As both our current pastor and his predecessor believed, Christianity is not just about waiting to go to heaven, as comforting as that may be. We should also be concerned about what goes on in this world, for God is concerned about what goes on in this world. Some Christians may say that these shootings are a sign that we are in the end times and thus look askance at dreams of humans bringing about a better future. I doubt that we will bring about paradise, for humans are what they are. But progress has been made in certain areas. We still have a long way to go before we arrive at Dr. King’s Dream, for example, but I do think that we are further along than we were when Dr. King gave the speech. Where would we be without our dreams?
I am watching ABC This Week as I write this, and various pundits and politicians are offering their ideas about what to do about the problem of shootings. The person who made the most sense to me was Chris Christie (not that I plan on voting for him), who talked about the important of helping the mentally ill—-not closing them off from society, but giving them the help that they need. A concern that I have is the loneliness, the stress, and the insecurity that are a part of this society. Steve on Triablogue is probably more conservative than I am, but I agree with him that family and faith are also relevant to the problem (see his post here).
The dream that the pastor shared this morning is the reality that I remember from my childhood: I did not have to worry about someone coming to my school and shooting people. But things back then may not have been as bad as they are now. Parents may have been more attentive to their children back then.
What can be done to solve the problem of shootings?