Invisible – Yet Visible
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)
Yeast is strange looking, either a sticky mash or miniature pebbles, which don’t taste good and seem to be quite unpromising. On its own, yeast does nothing. Mix it with a little warm water and it begins to bubble and froth (add a little sugar and it works even better). Interesting, it still doesn’t taste good and doesn’t do anything except foam. However, mix in a good amount of flour (another not-tasty do-nothing ingredient on its own), stir it, beat it, knead it, and voila! A lump of bread dough. Then watch. The dough grows, seemingly of its own volition. The small lump expands, lightens and, shaped and baked, becomes a loaf of bread. Mundane. We all know this. Boring. And yet… and yet. Miraculous. Who knew (unless you’d been shown how it works) that this little bit of not-much is the basis for the wondrous sustenance of bread? Another aspect we don’t often think about is that this doesn’t work in reverse. We cannot extract the yeast once we’ve mixed it with the flour. The yeast has to disappear, give up its substance, in order to be a part of the miracle of bread. The yeast becomes invisible – and only then, what it does as a result, becomes visible.
Jesus claims that this mixing of yeast and flour is like God’s kingdom. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! (with a nod to Fiddler on the Roof) Invisible in substance; visible in results.
So too with the Spirit. Invisible. Seemingly inconsequential. However, mixed in with our wordless lamenting sighs, stirred in with our yearning breathing hopes, beaten in with our fearful worried hurts, kneaded in with the substance of our weak, tender, courageous, vigorous lives – miracles happen. We cannot see the Spirit. And yet… and yet. Miraculous. Who knew (unless you’d been taught about prayer and God’s Spirit-presence) that this Spirit-prayer is the basis for the wondrous sustenance of our lives? We cannot extract Spirit from our lives. The Spirit has no physical substance and yet it is the miracle of life. The Spirit is invisible – and is visible only in the results of our lives.
In these days (and all days), when our sighs are too deep for words, the Spirit is raising our sighs into prayer. In these days, when we despair about whether we can find healing in all the brokenness and illness around us, God is kneading and shaping and raising us into new possibilities. The bread of life is broken, and it is in the sharing of this loaf, that we are graced with healing wholeness. God is with us, sustaining and filling us with God’s life and love. We are called to be the witness, the visible evidence of this invisible yeast of God’s Spirit of life and love. Miracle!
As a prayer, breathe in – and then sigh deeply. No words. Just a full-body, fully embodied sigh of Spirit in prayer. Thanks be to God for this invisible-visible miracle! So be it. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.