Soup for Everyone

Returning from a long walk this frigid April morning, I unwound my scarf, unzipped my down vest and heard myself say out loud, “What’s for breakfast this morning?” I was conversing with God, as I had been doing all morning along city streets spanked with sunshine and raucous with birds twittering in blossom-laden trees stunned by frost.

On such a cold morning, reaching into the fridge for a container of homemade chicken-rice soup may not have been the oddest choice. But it felt like I had bypassed what, if I were God, I would have fed me. (Perhaps a fruit and spinach smoothie with chia seeds, for my health.)

But as I took a spoonful and let the warm, deepening flavor of the broth (this is Day 3 for the soup) spill over my tongue, I started to cry. And suddenly I was a child of seven or eight, back at the long, white paper-laden tables in the Fellowship Hall of the Lancaster Church of the Brethren, hovering impatiently over a bowl of chicken-rice soup for the scriptures to be read and the prayers to be said. It was the annual Love Feast, and we had just come from gender-separate rooms where we all washed each others’ feet. (To me at the time, that was the embarrassing part and seemed pointless, since most of us had washed our feet beforehand anyway.) I was still too young to grasp the meaning of the symbolic reenactment of Jesus with his disciples at the Last Supper

But the soup. Now that was something I could relate to, since the ritual occurred well after our normal dinner hour, and I was ravenous. Women from the church had spent long steamy hours in the church’s kitchen boiling and deboning whole chickens, chopping celery and onion, adding rice and seasonings. By the time they served the soup (with a roll) to the long tables of several hundred people, the vegetables were soft, and the rice had fluffed out and blended to make the creamiest and most delectable of textures. Eaten out of white styrofoam bowls, there was no clinking of silverware, only the quiet smoothness of a simple, succulent meal eaten in reverent silence. A love feast. 

love feast chicken soup

The saying goes, “from soup to nuts.” Well, today it’s from soup to parents. The parents who brought me to those love feasts. Today is April 6th – what would have been their 69th anniversary if Dad had lived.

My parents cannot remember who took the following photograph, or exactly when it was taken, and I confess I hardly know them like this. (In fact, I don’t know them at all like this.) But I cherish this picture like none other.

These are my parents at 19 and 24 – the people whose intimacy I was born of, whose DNA I carry, the folks to whom I inexplicably returned getting off the school bus day after day in my childhood. They are the ones who dedicated me and my siblings in the Church of the Brethren, saw to it that we got baptized, took us to events called Love Feasts, and laid the groundwork for what it means to live in a community devoted to love through service.


I would like everyone to feel born of this kind of love, and I would like to make my church’s chicken rice soup and serve it at long tables winding through beautiful forests and over bridges the circumference of the entire world.

banquet table

Everyone of every race, ability and temperament would be invited, and everyone would feel cherished. Everyone would learn they are born of an intimacy that will never break, and everyone’s wounds would become so healed they wouldn’t need to do another thing to prove that they matter in this world.

We would eat together in reverent silence for each other and for our Maker.

We would wash each others’ feet.

basin and towel

19 thoughts on “Soup for Everyone”

  1. I found this really beautiful. Your parents look like movie stars–and the image does capture some of the mystery in every marriage known only to the two within it and unavailable to everyone on the outside–even children. I love the way you related this beautiful mystery to God’s love. I adore your idea for the long table and now I find myself crying, a little, also and certainly desperate for some of that soup. Lovely. Looking forward to your next posts.

    1. You’ve given me even more to think about, Molly. I especially love your thoughts on the mystery of marriage and the exclusion children have from much of it. And how this is like our faith as well.

  2. I love that picture of the table winding through the woods and its symbolism. I also think that soup looks delicious. Thank you for this thoughtful post, may your wish come true.

  3. I believe we will sit at a table such this when the kingdom comes in all its fullness. Thank you, Lisa, for the signpost.

  4. I passed over this post the first time i saw it, thinking it was an ad for a movie. The second time I looked more closely and seeing your name, realized the photo captured your parents in a moment whose meaning is known only to them. I love the image of the table, too, and the soup…well I’d try that recipe anytime. Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking post. I look forward to more of the same!

  5. I shall never forget the day we did “A Place at the Table” on my return from my sabbatical in 2004. Your comment about what it would mean for everyone to have a soup served to them makes me tear up. I miss working with you. It was a special few years, and I shall always be grateful for those years.

  6. Your reflections are beautiful. In love with the chicken soup served at long tables winding through the woods. Now, this is a festivity in which I would like participate! I could set up the chairs!

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