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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Thanksgiving 11/22/2012

Are you familiar with the story of Stone Soup?  I think it must be one my mother read to me when I was little; I remember this one and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little Engine that Could (I think I can, I think I can).  They’re all classics but when I was looking around for ideas for a Thanksgiving sermon I came across a reference to Stone Soup.

It’s actually an old folk tale that has been adapted in a number of different ways in different cultures. I won’t read the whole story to you but in case you’re not familiar with it or you haven’t heard it for awhile or don’t remember it, here’s an abridged version.  The gist of it is that there were three soldiers returning from war, walking through a strange country, tired and hungry.  Finally they came to a village, hoping that maybe they could get a bite to eat and a place to sleep for the night.

But the peasants in the village were afraid of strangers in part because traveling strangers would probably be looking for food and they were worried about having enough food for themselves.  So hearing that soldiers were approaching and afraid that they would want their food the people of the village took what they had and hid it under the hay and down in the wells and under their beds and down in the cellar, wherever they could.

When the soldiers arrived they did go from house to house asking if anyone could spare a little food but all the peasants made excuses about why they didn’t have any food to share or any place to house the soldiers.  After multiple rejections and excuses the soldiers talked amongst themselves and then announced to the villagers that since there wasn’t any food available, they were going to make stone soup.

The villagers were mystified, they’d never heard of such a thing, but when the soldiers asked for a big iron pot they brought the biggest one they could find.  The soldiers filled the pot with water, gathered some wood and lit a fire under it and then asked for three round, smooth stones.  They were easy enough to find so when the peasants brought the stones the soldiers dropped them into the water that was beginning to boil.

Then one of the soldiers said, to make good soup we really need salt and pepper.  Everyone knew that was true so some of the village children ran home and brought some back and the soldiers added it to the water.  Then they said, while stones like this usually make very good soup, a few carrots would make it that much better and a few minutes later one of the women came back with her apron full of carrots which they tossed into the pot.

And so it went with other items, cabbage and beef and potatoes and onions and barley and milk.  When the soup was done the whole village was invited to join the soldiers.  A great table was set and everyone was getting ready to eat when some of the peasants said wouldn’t be even better with bread and a roast and some cider.  They all agreed and soon a banquet with all the fixings was prepared and everyone ate and drank until they were full and then partied and danced into the night, and of course there was room for the three soldiers to sleep that night.  The soldiers left the next morning, but the people of the village never forgot how to make stone soup.

Thursday we celebrate our national day of Thanksgiving, a day that originated in the year 1621 in thanks to God for a plentiful harvest that would get the Pilgrims in Plymouth through the coming winter; that’s what we all learn in elementary school.   After that, days of thanksgiving were held periodically in this country for various reasons.  George Washington proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving in 1789 and Abraham Lincoln made the final Thursday of November the official day of thanks in 1863, FDR made it the fourth Thursday of November in 1941 to make sure the Christmas shopping season was long enough (those of us who are old enough remember that Christmas shopping didn’t used to start until Thanksgiving, but I digress). 

The story of Stone Soup is a good reminder to us though, as we think about giving thanks.  Too often we can be like the people of the village who were operating under the assumption that there wasn’t enough, that they didn’t have much to be thankful for, when in reality there was plenty, an abundance, not only for them but for the three guests who had arrived as well.

In the consumer world in which we live though, the message that gets pounded into us over and over again is that we don’t have enough, that we always need more no matter how much we have, the latest whatever it is and in one fashion or another almost all of us get drawn in by this.  It fosters an attitude of never being satisfied and that makes real thanksgiving difficult. 

I’m always struck by people who go on mission trips to third world countries or for we Lutherans there are lots of people who have visited our companion synod in Tanzania.  In these places they encounter people who have far less that any of us do, often living in housing that we would find inadequate, and yet what those who visit find is that those people are happy,  content with what they have and remarkably generous.  They may not have much, but what they have they want to share with others.  In many ways they’re happier than we are, trapped as we often are in the myth of scarcity which again, can make it difficult for us to give thanks.     

What our faith tells us though, is that there is enough, that God provides.  What the Bible offers us is a liturgy of abundance; tonight’s gospel is but one reminder, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

Another example of this abundance has to do with the loaves and fishes miracle.  One explanation of this story would say that Jesus in essence made stone soup because, when the boy offered his 5 loaves and 2 fish others were then prompted to take out of their packs what they had been afraid to share and as a result, there was indeed enough, all ate and were filled and there was lots left over.  Some might say that such a rational explanation makes the story less miraculous, but it may be that it actually makes it more miraculous.  In example after example, what the Bible teaches us is that there is enough.  The Lord has done great things for us. 

We are blessed in ways that we often just take for granted so it’s a good thing that we have this national day when we can think about it and give thanks to God as the source of all blessings; that’s important.  I’ve mentioned before that the annual presidential Thanksgiving proclamations that used to emphasize giving thanks to God now tend to emphasize giving thanks to each other, kind of self-congratulation on what wonderful people we are.  It is good to thank each other, but we also need to acknowledge the source. 

When we acknowledge the abundance of our blessings and the source of our blessings, we are then prompted to share what we have because as people of faith we know that part of being blessed is giving something back, sharing what we have both individually and collectively.  Stewardship is what we call it an in many and various ways our churches do that; we do it up at Bethany and I know the same thing happens down here at Wesley and that’s when Stone Soup happens.

Whether it’s with gifts of food or Christmas presents or gifts of clothing like the Keep Kids Warm collection you guys did a few weeks ago, many who have less are served because like the villagers in the story, we too have learned how to make Stone Soup. It’s part of giving thanks.  It’s part of giving thanks and it also helps to make us who we are called to be as a community of people.  That’s another lesson from Stone Soup.

In making the soup, the soldiers brought the village together.  They celebrated as a community as they recognized their abundance and that kind of celebration is part of Thanksgiving too.  We’re not on our own just looking out for ourselves.  We’re all in this together, and there is enough because God has provided.  There is reason to give thanks.

So…on Thursday, you might want to serve up a little Stone Soup with the Thanksgiving feast.  It will add something to the celebration and you do know the recipe.     

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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