On Christmas Eve, I was hankering for midnight mass and couldn’t find one in this part of the world so I ended up at the Little White Church (real name!) on Crystal Lake in Eaton, NH. Guest Reverend Mary Giles Edes presided over the sweetest, funniest, most perfect Christmas pageant. Her sermon, Soup in the Air, delighted me so much I asked if I could share it with all of you. It has also supplied me with my new favorite expression – “My life’s soup in the air!”
Soup in the Air by Rev. Mary Giles Edes of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes in Tamworth, NH
A few years ago, I received an email message in which the sender, describing the unsettled nature of her current life circumstances, used a phrase I had never heard before. It was perfect and funny and surprising all at once. She captured something I had been feeling, but couldn’t name until I read her fresh metaphor. I imagined that she had learned it at her grandmother’s knee, perhaps, or maybe it was a colloquialism from the geography of her childhood. Anyway, it delighted me that she referred to her present situation as “soup in the air …” as in: I’m sorry that I can’t commit to your invitation just yet because my life is just soup in the air!
It took me several days – maybe even a week – to figure out that it was probably a typo and that what the author meant to say was: My life is so up in the air … In the meantime, I had already excitedly shared it with a few people to see if they had ever heard it before. None had, and either they, too, were delighted by it, or they were too polite to point out the obvious.
This is one of the things I love about spell check – and my brain for that matter. Sometimes it lets things slide and the result is almost always worth a chuckle. I had a good laugh at myself over it, but I find I still love the image. It has stayed with me. Life is – let’s face it – a little bit like soup in the air.
Soup in the air! Can’t you just picture it? Is that not the way of the world much of the time? I listen to the news: ever more wars and rumors of wars, the economy, the changing climate, polarized politics … soup in the air. Life at home: the laughter and the love-mostly, the leaks in the living room, chores and bills and dogs and cats, and kids. Sound familiar? Life at work: juggling appointments, meeting deadlines and sometimes missing them and then: on Dashing, on Dancing we go … and blink … it is holiday time! The cards, the parties, the shopping, the traveling out, or the guests coming in – the packing, the cleaning, the wrapping and …“The what? The property tax bill?!” “I forgot!” “You forgot?!” Soup in the air!
I imagine myself running around the room – bowl held out – and up – and over -and down – all in a feeble attempt to save what I can and minimize the mess.
Now I must tell you, in my perfect world, this would never happen. I would have a tidy desk and a tidy kitchen. I would have a well ordered calendar and closet. The holidays would not be frantic because my life would be ever so well tended. The work would never pile up. The holiday gifts would be tasteful, locally made, always purchased well in advance of Christmas Eve. (Wrapped beautifully, in fact, by December 1st, -cards and packages mailed the following day ). Oh, and I wouldn’t be neurotic about any of it – just pleasant and organized.
In my perfect world, I would have peace in every home and something nourishing in the pot so that everyone everywhere had enough to eat always. Like you, I can sometimes even achieve more than one of those things at a time on a very limited and local scale.
But ours is not a perfect world. We are frequently broken hearted and sometimes nearly helpless in the face of some circumstance or event that befalls us. Sometimes it is a private sorrow, and sometimes it sucks the air out of us all.
Such has it been most recently. Sad and sorrowful soup, indeed. And yet, once again and together we have learned about our own gifts and tender places. We have reached out to each other and to people we will never meet whose lives have touched ours deeply and forever. By phone. By email. On Face Book. In silence with candles – we have said in so many words: “We belong to each other.” We have learned again that faith – however experienced or expressed – be it faith in God, or in Life, the imperishable human spirit, the power of a song, the returning sun at the end of the longest night – it can lift and carry us through another day. We remember how our communities can hold and heal us.
It is true. It is true. Through it all. We are all human and mostly competent to do what needs to be done in any given week. We make lists and complete the tasks upon them. We get up and take care of business almost every blessed morning. And then one day – not so much. Something happens to tip the balance and it’s soup in the air.
This annual Christmas Eve service is the perfect expression of life at its best and most chaotic. When, I ask you, has our pageant not been a full bowl tossed high – our faces upturned and laughing as it rains down upon us? I smiled as I wrote these words remembering the year we almost had no blessed Mary ever virgin. Tessa showed up at the eleventh hour to fill the role and we heaved a collective sigh of relief. The year Nicky – fifteen, maybe, and tallest of all – was our “little” drummer boy and paraded down the aisle on his knees so as to not tower over all the rest of the children. The year of the cow gone wild and perfectly wild – tears streaming down our faces. Soup in the air!
It is my sincere hope and prayer that you will leave here remembering what we have experienced ourselves and witnessed in each other over the past three hundred sixty-five days since we last gathered here on Christmas Eve. Whatever life presents, remember how we are together when life falls apart. How we become whole, or at least a little less broken in the company of those who are there with us and for us – how help is there in silence and in tears, the embrace, the song, the simple shared presence of loving community. Sustaining, renewing, life giving Love resonates in every act of kindness, in every touc,h and we remember again that we belong to each other.
Garrison Kiellor – one of my favorite preachers – says that, “ Love has brought many a person to safety long after competence was exhausted …” I believe him. Remembering it in hard times is a comfort. Into every life some soup must fall and I want to believe that love will be there to catch it and me on the way down.
Whether we are helpers and healers by nature – or are particularly skilled at management and strategic planning, there are times when our competence is exhausted and we find ourselves in need of help ourselves. It is my dearest hope that when you find yourself in such a place in your life – and all of us will at one time or another – you will remember that we belong to each other.
Truth be known, we don’t get to choose everything that goes into the cosmic stew that is this life, but we can and do improve the recipe by showing up in the kitchen and adding the best of ourselves to the mix. All the ingredients – bitter and sweet, tough and tender – are ours to share. Without you and all that you bring to the table, the soup we offer is more meager, the broth too thin.
Life is soup in the air. We are the bowl and the soup – the ladle and the slop that hits the deck. Together we can make and catch enough for a feast. C’mon down! Bring your bowl and spoon. Bring your whole life, long. Soup’s on!
Welcome to the Tribe, Rev. Mary!