One of the briefest parables of Jesus' is found at Matthew 13:33. It consists of but one sentence: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
Yeast transforms flower into leavened bread. But if you've ever made bread from scratch, you know that yeast must be worked into the dough. There is something satisfying about the tactile process of kneading a loaf of bread. The process takes a little time. A well-worked loaf is almost a silent hymn.
But what can this parable mean? Looking to it to determine just what the kingdom of heaven is yields no easy meaning.
Certainly yeast lifts the dough, creating tiny air-pockets that render the baked loaf something of a miracle. Fresh from the oven, a loaf of bread floats. The crust is hardened by direct application of heat, but the heart of the loaf is soft, even moist. The yeast creates pockets of air amid the densest mass of dough.
Perhaps the parable means no more than that there are no self-actualizing miracles. To leaven the harsh realities of life with something sustaining, even buoyant, is a work of patience and diligence. The baker is no magician; his forearms are cords of taut muscle well-trained in the art of patient kneading.
Perhaps the parable means simply that whatever work there is to be done to transform the raw staff of life into an abundance of life requires something far more that awaiting a miracle. The kingdom of heaven requires work, steady application, and the Earth-bound commitment to reworking the daily grist of reality in the mill of diligence.
If the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, we must apply our hands to bringing it about.