One of my General Conference responsibilities is to serve as the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops’ representative for the Korean-American National Plan. During one of these meetings, I was
blessed to hear what I call, “The Miracle of the Community Soup,” told by a laywoman during her devotional. Here is the story as I remember it:

Three monks were traveling through a community in China and found themselves without food. Their hunger led them to knock on doors as they passed through a village, but no one answered.

The monks decided that their attempts to find food and hospitality would not be fruitful, so they went to the center of the town, built a fire, and sat down. A curious child passed and asked what they were doing. They replied, “We are building this fire to prepare a rather tasty soup.” The child noticed the monks had no pot for their soup, so she ran home and returned with a pot.

Another person walked by and asked, “What are you doing?” The monks again replied, “We are preparing a rather tasty soup.” But there was no water in the pot, so the person took it, filled it with water, and brought the pot back to the monks.

The pot went back on the fire. It was not long before another curious person passed and asked, “What are you doing?” Again the monks replied, “We are preparing a rather tasty soup.” The person said, “It will taste better with some potatoes.” So he hurried off and returned with potatoes, which were placed in the boiling pot.

It wasn’t long before another person ventured by and inquired about what the monks were doing. “We are preparing a rather tasty soup,” they said. This person left and returned with onions. Another inquirer brought carrots, and another brought chicken. Soon the rather large pot was filled with a rather good-looking soup. Others brought bowls and spoons, and after a while the entire village was eating a rather tasty soup in the center of town.

Well, later the monks discovered that this village had a history of being invaded and terrorized by other villages. They had decided not to be inviting or open to strangers. This is why they had shut themselves off,
why they didn’t answer their doors to people they didn’t know. The arrival of the monks signaled a new beginning in that village.

This story illustrates the fear that can cause us to miss the blessing of community. Fear destroys opportunities for us to discover the gifts that others have to offer – gifts that can and will be nourishing. We can accomplish more together than by operating in isolation. Churches that separate themselves from their communities rob themselves of experiencing the blessings Jesus brings to our individual and corporate lives. The beauty of the United Methodist Church is that we can do more together as one body than as separate institutions.

Yes, in a community there is the possibility of injury or hurt, but without community we’ll never know the many blessings God wants to shower upon us. Look at your congregation this Sunday and ask, “What are we missing?” We all can share the gift of Christ, who redeemed us and continues to love, nourish and guide us.

I ask you to consider offering this gift to your community, to your country, and yes, to the world.