The story is told of a French soldier returning to his home after the Napoleonic wars. Weary and alone, he steadily traveled, passing through village after village seeking shelter and the hospitality of his countrymen.
He was saddened to find the devastation of war had broken the spirit of the villagers. High taxes, poor crops, and uncertainty had stolen their sense of love, trust, and community. And so our lonely soldier traveled, trying to make his way home, and trying to make these war torn villages more like home as he went.
His luggage was peculiar. He didn’t carry the rifle that had helped him survive the hard fought battles he had seen. He didn’t carry a knapsack full of clothing. Not much could be found in his old wagon, but a large metal pot and a special box with something priceless inside.
One day, he wondered into a village in the region of Lyon and made his way to the town square which housed the local well. His presence was met by the slamming of doors, the closing of shutters, and mothers calling their children in early from their playing. The soldier simply whistled and walked on.
Upon arriving at the well, he filled his metal pot with water, placed it on an old fire pit in the town square, and lit a nice fire underneath.
A miserly old man passed by and scoffed at the soldier. “Don’t know why you’re stopping here,” he said, “And definitely no need for a cooking fire. There ain’t a bite to eat in the whole region. You’ll starve like the rest of us if you stay too long.”
“Oh, I’ve everything I need right here,” the soldier replied. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with the rest of you.”
With that, he opened the box and pulled out a velvet bag and from the bag he removed one small stone and plopped it in the water. The soldier leaned over the pot, breathed in the aroma with a satisfactory groan, and gave the pot a stir.
Well, it didn’t take long for the entire village to hear word of a stranger cooking up something odd in the center of town. Many of the villagers began to make their way toward the square, while many others began to peer out of now unshuttered windows.
“Ah,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, some flour would sure thicken up the broth. It’s hard to beat a thick and rich stone soup.”
It wasn’t long before a villager returned with a cup of flour and offered it to be added to the pot.
“Excellent,” cried the soldier, “You know I once had stone soup with minced spices and a bit of garlic. It was fit for a king.”
No sooner had he spoken the words than two housewives appeared with garlic and spices to add to the simmering pot of deliciousness. And with that, the soldier gave one more sniff of the pot, yawned quite loudly and decided to go and rest under a tree while the stone soup gently cooked.
It was all the villagers could do to resist stealing a spoonful of soup smelling so wonderful with the fresh garlic and spices wafting in the air. As the soldier slept a farmer made his way to the pot with some carrots he had hidden away in his cellar. He was followed by a boy who had been sent with an onion. Not long after that, the local butcher came bustling into the crowd with a sausage he decided could be spared for such a grand event as stone soup.
As the soup bubbled and the list of ingredients grew, the soldier rested until dinner time when he promptly jumped up, rushed over to examine the soup, and determined it to be the taste of perfection, if only it had a pinch of salt.
Moments later containers of salt came at the boiling pot from four different directions. It was all the soldier could do to keep the soup from being ruined by over zealous salters.
That evening, an entire village of once broken and disconnected people enjoyed a mighty feast on the lawn of the town square. They laughed and danced and remembered the old times with such fondness that, for the first time in a long time, they had a pleasant hope about tomorrow.
You can only imagine the offers that were made to purchase that magical stone from the soldier, but he refused to sell, and on the next day he loaded up and traveled on.
Steadily making his way home from the war, he went, making war torn villages more like home along the way.
It can be quickly seen that Stone Soup is a metaphor for life, leadership, and generosity. As you contemplate the impact of that metaphor on your vision for a new year, I encourage you to ponder three truths revealed in the story.
- As a child of God, you are a soldier traveling through a war-torn land on your way home.
- You have been commissioned to make this ravaged earth look more like home.
- Every pot of soup you start, you do for His glory.
Grace and peace and a Happy New Year to you all!
Check back soon for this week’s Stone Soup podcast.
Check out the church website for additional information about life at EFC.
Parents — don’t forget to head over to the WorldChangers page to access ways to connect Kid’s Church to your kitchen table.
On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule
- Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
- Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship — and talent show! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Revelation Bible study is taking a Holiday break. We will resume our eschatological exploration Tuesday, January 5, 2010.
The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010. Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.
Next Sunday, January 3, is the first Sunday of the New Year — and the decade. We look forward to a great start to this year and a great morning of worship with you!