Tuesday, May 21, 2013

stone soup sermon

preached in the village of Luwala Juk Bil in S. Sudan on January 27, 2013
preached at All Saints Episcopal Church on May 8, 2013

Weh cha moth ne rin ke yechu kritho benydida. Amen.
(I speak to you in the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once upon a time there was a sad little village. It was sad because the villagers kept to themselves. No one talked to anyone outside their family, because nobody trusted anyone they were not related to. One family had the most delicious potatoes in the world, but they were afraid people would steal them, so they hid their potatoes from their neighbors. Another family had the fattest, healthiest goats in the world, but they hid their goats from their neighbors because they were afraid they would steal them. A third family had the best spices in the world, but they hid them from their neighbors because they were afraid they would steal them. The other families in the village hid their things as well. When they passed each other on the street, they would cross over to the other side of the road so that they wouldn’t have to talk to one another. It was a very sad village.

But one day a stranger came to town. He carried nothing but a stone, a spoon, and a large pot. He walked right into the middle of the village, put the pot down, collected firewood, and started a fire. He put some water from the village well into the pot and began to boil it on the fire.

The villagers were very curious; they didn’t get many visitors, and certainly not ones who behaved so strangely. One by one the villagers came outside to see what the stranger was doing, until the whole village was there. Finally, a little girl got up the courage to ask the stranger what he was doing. He said, “I’m making stone soup.” “Stone soup?” the girl replied. “That’s silly; you can’t make soup from stones—everyone knows that!”

The stranger held up his stone and said, “This is no ordinary stone. It’s a magic stone! When I put it into a pot of boiling water, it makes the best soup in the world.” When he finished speaking, he carefully dropped the stone into the boiling water. The villagers watched as he stirred the pot a few times and tasted the soup. “How does it taste?” someone asked. “It’s good,” the stranger replied. “One of the best I’ve made, but it would taste even better with some potatoes. If only I had some.”

The villagers were very curious, so finally one of the families sent their child to go get some of their potatoes. The stranger added them to the soup, stirred it, tasted it, and said, “Oh my, that’s good. But what it could really use is some meat. If only I had some.” The family with the goats went back to their home, killed a goat, and brought the meat to the stranger. He put the goat meat in the pot, stirred it, tasted it, and said, “This has got to be the best soup I’ve ever made. But it would be even better with some spices. If only I had some.” The family with the spices got them and brought them back. One by one, the villagers brought back things that they’d kept hidden from their neighbors: vegetables, salt, meat, and spices. All of them were added to the soup. As they watched the stranger stirring and tasting, the villagers began to talk with one another, wondering where the stranger came from and whether the stone was really magic or not. It was the first time they’d talked with one another in years.

When the stranger stirred and tasted and finally decided the soup was ready, he asked everyone in town to bring bowls and spoons so they could have some. So everyone in the village tried the soup and agreed that it was the best in the world. They talked and laughed with their neighbors, and realized that life was better when they shared it with one another.

So why did I tell you this story? When I was little I read the story of Stone Soup. Even though it was a simple folk tale, the story had a powerful message. It has stuck with me all these years, and when I read the passage from 1 Corinthians, I was reminded of it.

You see, all of us gathered here have something to bring to the pot. We each have special gifts: for some it’s teaching, for some preaching, for others it’s singing or praying or working with youth or organizing or evangelizing. But if we keep our gifts to ourselves, what good are they? Without lay people, there would be no congregation of believers. Without priests, deacons, lay leaders, and bishops, there would be no one to teach the congregation about Jesus Christ. Both ordained and lay people need each other in order to have a church.

As you may have guessed, the stone in the story about the soup was not really a magic stone. The stranger taught the village that their lives were richer, more delicious, when they shared what they had with each other. The same goes for us: when we hide our gifts, they become useless. But when we come together to worship, bringing the gifts that were given to us by the Holy Spirit, just imagine what we can accomplish together!

May we work together, using our gifts to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a world hungry for some good news.

Nhialic abi wek thiei. (God be with you.)
Dong ke ne door. (Go in peace.)

church members in Luwala Juk Bil, South Sudan

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