Over this long holiday weekend, I began a sourdough starter. A while back I had sent away for an heirloom sourdough culture in a San Francisco style, and this weekend I finally had time to get the culture going and growing so that, once I had enough sourdough starter, I could make some delicious sourdough bread.
If you don’t know, sourdough bread isn’t made like other bread. It has no yeast. The rise in the sourdough bread comes through a fermentation process wherein equal parts room temperature liquid and equal parts flour are mixed with a culture. This activates the friendly bacteria and wild yeast that live in both the flour and the surrounding environment. Once these bacteria are activated, they begin to produce carbon dioxide bubbles, which make the bread rise. This also produces acids that lower the pH of the starter which, in turn, gives the bread its characteristic sour taste.
This starter grows as it is fed, day after day, once per day. It ferments, it bubbles, it grows. More and more. And as it grows, so does the bubbling activity. Which, if you think about it, is pretty amazing given that these are just ordinary things–flour and water–that are helping the starter to grow. Not quickly. Not instantly like the packets of bread yeast we are used to, but over time and day by day.
This Advent season, which will begin this Sunday, we will take our cues from the sourdough starter as we “feed” our hearts, minds, and spirits what they need to grow and bubble up joy even in a weary world. Each week we will answer the question, “How does a weary world rejoice?” with a new answer. These answers, you will find, are not “10 easy steps to get happy during the holidays,” and don’t require any special gadget or equipment. They simply invite us to feed our weary souls with what is already at hand–just ordinary things–so that, over time and day by day, we build and bubble our way to moments of joy–even in the midst of all of “this”...whatever “this” is for you during this particular season of life.
The creators of our Advent series write, “As we move through our series, we hope to create space for acknowledging the weariness of the world while celebrating God’s love with great joy.” This is the hope here at St. Paul this Advent season, as we activate hope, peace, joy, and love among us and around us. Not because we have successfully faked our way to each of them, but because we have fed them, over time and day by day, until we–together and as individuals–can do nothing more than RISE.
Learning to feed hope, peace, joy, and love with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.