Thoughts for Saturday 1st August, 2020

Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Genesis 31:1-21; Matthew 7:7-11


Saturday 1 August


The most important Sunday of the year for Christians is Easter Sunday. Ask most people how Easter is celebrated, and they’ll tell you, ‘with an egg.’ And yet, eggs are only mentioned once in the whole New Testament, at Luke 11:9-13, which is Luke’s version of today’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel. Put the two side by side, and while Matthew compares a stone with bread Luke does the same with a scorpion and an egg.


I don’t know which I prefer. Scorpions are more dangerous than stones (and eggs more nourishing than bread). But I quite like stones for two reasons:


The first is that it reminds me of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1819-1875). An Anglican priest, chaplain to Queen Victoria, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, private tutor to the Prince of Wales, and canon of both Chester Cathedral and then Westminster Abbey, we don’t read his books these days because of its prejudices. But that doesn’t stop me remembering Tom, the former chimney sweep, who, when he becomes one of the water babies continues to be naughty. Instead of throwing stones under the feet of horses, though, as he used to do, he now puts them in the mouths of anemones instead – ‘to make them fancy that their dinner was coming.’


He is warned, though, by the other children, that he will soon have to answer to two fairies. One is called Mrs BEDONEBYASYOUDID and the other is called Mrs DOASYOUWOULDBEDONEBY.


The second is that it reminds me of the American rock band, Dr. Hook’s, song about the soup stone. This was written by Shel Silverstein, and is based on a European folk tale: a stranger comes into a village with a pot. He places some water in the pot along with a stone from the river, and starts to warm the pot over a fire. Villagers come along and ask him what he is doing, and he tells them that he is making some delicious stone soup. ‘But it could just do with a little something extra to make it perfect, he says. Whereupon, before long, people start turning up with all sorts of nice things to put in it, and when it’s all cooked everyone gets to have some. The moral is similar, I think, to that taught by Christ when he fed the 5,000.


Shel Silverstein’s version (which I think is wonderful, and it can be our prayer for today) is a little different. Let us pray:


The Wonderful Soup Stone

I swear you could taste the chicken and tomatoes
And the noodles and the marrowbone
But it really wasn't nothing but some water and potatoes
And the wonderful, wonderful soupstone

Hanging from a string in my mama's kitchen, back in the hard time days
Was a little ol' stone 'bout the size of an apple, it was smooth and worn and grey
There wasn't much food in my mama's kitchen, so whenever things got tight
Mama boiled up some water, put in the stone and said "Let's have some soup tonight"

And I swear you could taste . . .

It had been in the family for a whole lotta years, so we knew it was a nourishing thing
And I remember mama, as she stirred it in the water, and we could all hear her sing
"Its a magical stone and as long as we got it, we'll never have a hungry night
Just add a little love to the wonderful soupstone and everything will be alright"

And I swear you could taste . . .

So it carried us all through the darkening days, 'til finally the sunshine came
And the soupstone started into gathering dust, but it hung there just the same
And ever since then the food's been plenty, but every now and then I find
That mama in the kitchen with the wonderful soupstone, drifts across my mind

And again I can taste . . .




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