Thin Soup

Heritage Presbyterian Church

November 10, 2019
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture readings – Haggai 2: 1-9 and Luke 20: 27-40

I confess that I am not a great fan of soup.  When the weather is hot, soup doesn’t even sound good to me.  When the weather is cold, I’ll admit that sometimes soup might be pretty good – IF it’s the right type.

I am also a little fussy about the types of soup that I like.  But no matter the type or variety, I like my soup on the thick and hearty side.  If it’s too thin, I don’t care for it – no matter how cold I might be or how good the soup might taste.

My grandfather was the same way.  Once, when he and my grandmother were traveling in Europe, they stopped in a little pub in Scotland for lunch.  My grandfather noticed the man next to him eating the thickest soup Granddaddy had ever seen – and it smelled incredibly delicious!  It was a cold, damp day, and he and my grandmother were chilled to the bone during their travels.  He asked the waiter to bring him a bowl of whatever that guy was eating.  My grandfather was soon served a bowl of dark great, split pea soup – which Granddaddy usually couldn’t stand.  But on that day, he found himself eating every spoonful of the thickest, best soup of any type he had ever had in his life.

I don’t like split pea soup either…but I wonder what I would have thought of that Scottish soup if I had been there in those circumstances.

Whatever was in it, that soup had the best of ingredients mixed and prepared just the right way – with skill and knowledge.

The phrase “thin soup” that I am using today could refer to soup that is not very good, or not very hearty. 

It could refer to that awful soup I had to eat three times a day when I was in the hospital 30 years ago; I lost 40 pounds in six weeks, and I hated every meal they served me.  (In fact, my feelings toward soup may be helping to form the title of today’s message…)

But today, when I refer to “thin soup” I am referring to something is not good at all, something that is weak and incomplete, something that does nothing to satisfy what all of us need, something that could just as easily be ignored.

If thin soup is the best you have to offer, you might just as well have brought nothing at all.  I’ll just settle for sitting still and breathing the air around me instead.

Thin soup is a wasted effort, in other words.

When the Old Testament prophet, Haggai, was working with the people to rebuild the Temple after they had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, he was also dealing with some people who were old enough to remember the original Temple, the amazing building that Solomon had built.  That Temple was gone – destroyed by the invading Babylonian army, and everything in it was carried off and lost to history.

When the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem and to begin rebuilding the Temple, they should have been rejoicing.  That would have been thick soup.

But every day, Haggai had to listen to the old guys who remembered the original Temple:

  • There was no way this replacement would EVER match the grandeur of that Temple. 
  • That Temple was build by David’s son, Solomon. 
  • That Temple had stood for more than 500 years.
  • That Temple was beautiful, gorgeous, and the home of their Lord.
  • The Temple they were building would never match the original. 

And so many of the old Israelites sat and wept at the memory.

And Haggai thought that type of thinking was thin soup.

He reminded the Israelites that they were free again!

They were back in their homeland of Israel.  They were given funds and the support of the King Cyrus to rebuild not only their Temple but also Jerusalem.

And so, to remind the people of their fortune, Haggai dedicated the replacement Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles – the exact same day that Solomon chose to dedicate the original Temple.

That’s the same day Haggai delivered his message that we heard a part of today.

This Temple was still God’s house.

The people could still depend on God to help them finish this Temple and to set everything right.

Haggai reminded the people that Moses told Joshua and the original Israelites three times to “be strong.”

Being strong and yet depending on God is never a message of thin soup.

And one more thing: Zechariah, the priest and prophet who served the people with Haggai, reminded the people of the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit.

That’s also not a message of thin soup either…

Next, we turn to the New Testament lesson for today in which Jesus encounters religious experts challenging him and questioning him and trying to trip him up…maybe we should all begin shouting “THIN SOUP! THIN SOUP!” every time we know this is going to happen!

The Sadducees are the group in question in today’s passage.

This particular group only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament in being God’s word.  They did not believe any of the histories, the books of wisdom such as Psalms and Proverbs, and none of the books from the prophets.  They also did not believe in the afterlife.  When you’re dead, that’s it…end of story.

So for them to ask Jesus this ridiculous, what-if, question is the very definition of thin soup, if you ask me.

They asked Jesus about who we are with in Heaven if we married several times on earth, even seven times as in their example.  Can’t you just imagine Jesus rolling his eyes or giving a sigh of impatience?  I certainly can.  But perhaps Jesus used his answer to convey his feelings. 

Whatever Jesus’ motivation, he was too clever to be caught in a trap that the Sadducees made using a belief system that they didn’t even follow themselves.  In doing so, Jesus drew on the Sadducees’ knowledge of Scripture in order to deflect their question and reveal their motives to anyone listening. 

And that’s not thin soup at all…

But in case you think this scene is done and all the lessons are done, the Sadducees show us just how thin the soup they’re serving was.

After Jesus answered their question in a way that shows who really knows what’s what, the Sadducees should have apologized.  Or they should have just quietly gotten up and slunk away and not bothered him anymore. 

Or perhaps they could have said something like, “Teacher, it is obvious that you are knowledgeable and blessed by God.  We humbly apologize for our impertinence and our questions.  We will not bother you any further.”

Instead, they served thin soup one more time: they PRAISED his answer!  “Well said, Teacher!” some of them responded.  And Scripture tells us that no one else asked him any more questions.

That’s because they had nothing but thin soup to serve, and Jesus wasn’t having any of it.

This should also serve as a big lesson to all of us.

I don’t care what type of soup you eat or what type you serve.  It’s not important if you eat it in cold months or warm months.  And it’s not worth discussing if you even like soup or not – or if your Thanksgiving leftovers will include hearty turkey soup.

What matters, Christians, is what kind of effort we put into what we do each and every day.

When we trust the Lord to help us and we do our very best – in whatever we are doing – that is never thin soup.

When we take time to look around for others who might need some help instead of always looking first to our own needs, that is never thin soup.

When our first thought in the morning is how we can better serve our fellow travelers in their own walks of faith, that is never thin soup.

When we can follow Jesus and do it without any restraint or hesitation or regret, that is not ever EVER thin soup.

For at the banquet in Heaven, seating at the great table of fellowship with all the saints, they do not serve thin soup.