The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal til it was all leavened.
Two years ago, a dear friend of mine gave a sermon at morning prayers on the parable of leaven, where she described how an old, moldy piece of bread would be used to leaven a new batch of bread dough. I was hoping to write about kneading my old, painful experiences into new shapes so that I could write something uplifting. But lately, I haven’t felt empowered. Our best efforts have done comparatively little. Those who have caused so much harm to my brothers and sisters are allowed to go on as always, not a peep from those who claim they care. Jesus says: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house” (13:57). This is another of several such assertions in the Bible:
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. -Exodus 22:21
…The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
-1 Kings 19:10
We seek to follow the word of God in all that we do. Spread like the leaven in a ball of bread dough, we belong to so many different languages, creeds, colors, genders, and sexual orientations. Christians have spread all over the world, crossing the centuries and miles of history so that our diversity, our kaleidoscopic beauty can never be contained. In the United States, such as the case here at Harvard, when Christians complain of persecution, this “persecution” is almost always criticism from their brothers and sisters in Christ. Such it was when we stood in silent protest against Jackie Hill-Perry. Despite the segregated “seats of honor” designated for protestors, a majority of the rainbow pins went to dissenting members of the same evangelical group that brought Perry to campus. HCFA members held up a huge rainbow flag at the back of the hall. The resistance came from within as much as from without, (even assuming that the evangelical Christians who organized the protest are not to be counted.) No matter what cause we fight for, Christians are never alone.
Sometimes our best efforts are not enough to shake the foundations of the world, or even change the minds of our friends. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of my time staring into space. My mind remains a haze of static and were it not for required readings, I would have read little about God and thought even less. Say what you will about academia, but sometimes it gives you a shove in the right direction. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard writes about the “knight of faith,” one who believes in God’s promise despite all evidence to the contrary. Rather than one who gives up, resigned to whatever fate throws his way, the knight of faith believes that God’s justice will ultimately prevail. Sometimes our human state is too much for us, and the world presses in on all sides, scarcely leaving room to breathe. Sometimes we have to rely on platitudes, repeating “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” to an empty room, envisioning the footprints in the sand and willing ourselves to believe it all. Sometimes we are left friendless, with only our thoughts and a few papers to write and bills to pay. Because when we feel empty, the world keeps on spinning.
Therefore as the tares are fathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Jesus says this in conjunction with his comments about being ostracized. It’s prideful to use these verses as justifying any one position, but I hope that the words can give some sense of peace. As much as we are called to fight for peace and justice, we are not the final arbiters. The fight is ours, but the end is not. As with Elijah, God will give us the strength to press on and face those who hurt us, but he does not stop the pain. In such times all we can do is know that God sees all and judges all.
I wish you all a restful week off.
Liam Keohane ’19 is a psychology concentrator in Pfoho.