Daily Readings in Lent

Wednesday | March 9

Stone Soup

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled. — Matthew 14:14–20

The little community I served as pastor had a tradition of an ecumenical Lenten lunch. Each week, a church would open its doors to others, welcoming all to a big pot of soup, accompanied with a midweek prayer and reflection.

I walked into the kitchen the day my church was hosting the lunch. The air wafted with the comforting smell of stock simmering with vegetables. I peeked into the pot, wondering what kind of soup it was. I was told it was “Stone Soup.” The kitchen crew laughed as I looked to spot the stones. Stone Soup, I was told, is from a European folk story in which hungry strangers convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food to make a meal that everyone enjoys. By each person sharing what they had, what individually seemed meager soon became a substantial, filling meal.

As I poured ladles of soup into bowls, I gazed at the items floating in the broth. There were potatoes from one person’s farm, carrots from another’s garden and onions from the family with seven children who had begun attending church. There were big chunks of chicken from the guy who lived on a lonely dirt road who would butcher the chickens of those who just didn’t have the heart to do it themselves. It was then I realized that together we can all truly be fed. Together, no one would go hungry if we willingly shared what little we have with one another.

Pray

God, open our eyes to see what little we think we have is just a piece of a grand, blessed banquet — that is, if we are willing to trust you and let go and share. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Make Stone Soup

Here’s a recipe to get your Stone Soup started. Consider asking friends to contribute to the soup. Make a larger batch and pour it into Mason jars, attach a Scripture verse or prayer and then share them with others.

  • 4 cans (12 ounces each) chicken broth
  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup frozen cut green beans
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 can (12 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 cups salad croutons
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. In a Dutch oven, combine the first eight ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10–15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  2. Stir in the chicken, beans and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add tomatoes, heat through. Serve with croutons and cheese.
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Thursday | March 10

The hunger of those who feed us

It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops.

— 2 Timothy 2:6

I never thought much about where my food came from. I never thought about those toiling to break ground for seeds to be planted. I didn’t pay much heed to how field workers spent hours hunched over in the searing sun and whipping winds, picking the berries that I would get to enjoy bouncing in the milk with my cereal flakes. I never thought about it until answering a call to serve a rural community. It was amid the stories of centuries-old dairy farms struggling to survive, the contentious discussions on fair milk prices, and the hushed whispers about the many more migrant workers seen in a dollar discount store that I began seeing the bowl of berries bounding in milk differently. The more I heard, the less idyllic rural living became.

Hunger in the very places where food is produced is a reality that is hard to fathom. And yet, it is a reality that has become ever more acute. According to the hunger advocacy group, Feeding America, Covid has exacerbated hunger, especially in rural areas known for producing food for the masses.

In Vermont, where I call home, it is startling to discover the food inequities. Teresa M. Mares writes in a book released last year, “Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont,” that the Green Mountain state is “a place where migrant workers produce dairy products bearing the wholesome Vermont brand, even as they are often sustained by foods with little nutritional value.” She adds, “Where food is harvested, cooked, [and] served, there is someone working for too little and for too long.”

I look at the berries in my bowl. They are more than just breakfast. They are a gift given to me by someone has worked for too little and for too long. Now what can I do to give back to those hands that have gifted me with sustenance?

Pray

Provider God, help us to look beyond our full pantries and see the faces of those who work so hard for so little, so that we will not go hungry. May we remember that hunger in the very places where our food comes from is a growing problem. Open our hearts and show us how we can walk alongside the farmer, the migrant worker, the truck driver — all who are part of our food systems. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Ponder

Think about the food you ate or will eat this day. Where did it come from? Who harvested, prepared and packaged it?


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