Stone soup is a great story told in many different ways, from many different cultural perspectives. When I served a different church 10 years ago we performed a version of this story that involved drifters (grifters?) coming into a town intent on fleecing the locals with a fable about making magical stone soup. The drifters successfully swindle the poor selfish townsfolk into believing the stone is what makes magical soup and they are all willing to pay top dollar for it. Meanwhile the locals each bring ingredients like vegetables, meat, seasoning, etc…and the hot water and stone suddenly becomes a tasty and nutritious soup that everyone wants to eat. In the end the locals discover they have been had but by then the drifters are keen to stay and make a home in the community, both locals and drifters learn that sharing what we each have makes the combined effort bigger than the sum of its parts.
The story the Bethany Youth Group told last night was similar except instead of drifters who come to swindle the locals the visitors are innocent and wise monks who only want to teach a lesson about sharing. Once again the locals who are each hording their food and belongings learning that together they can be so much more.
In addition to this lesson the Youth Group presented a video of persons gathered in a park living out the story of the Road to Emmaus. The timing, the facial expressions, the moment the blindfolds drop as the stranger breaks bread, all combine to move those of us in attendance to understand the deeper message of the Gospel. This story, like the Stone Soup tale, moves beyond details and work/reward outcomes to something that humanity knows and yet ignores with alarming frequency, namely that when we hold tight to our own belongings there is a feeling of inadequacy and not having enough but when we as community share there is abundance.
Music also played a large role in the story telling, a jazz quartet moved the story beyond words to touch our spirit. The band’s timing, the way the music started in the midst of the story telling and then moved beyond the story into sung responses, also had a profound effect.
Finally, there was a lot of participation, and all of the readers and leaders from the youth themselves were articulate, clear and passionate, making us in the pews more interested and more involved in the story.
As I went home I kept thinking, “How can we as a faith community combine and share what each of us has been given more freely and with more passion so that we too can experience deeper humanity and community”. The story worked! It was powerful, memorable and it “stuck”. Just like any great meal.