Fred Craddock On Eating Soup That Tastes Like Bread And Wine

A few years back, Fred Craddock was invited to lead some kind of preaching mission in Winnipeg (Friday night … Saturday morning … Saturday evening … twice on Sunday … you know the drill). When he finished Friday night, he noticed that it was spitting snow. His host told him not to worry, given that it was only mid-October. “Good,” said Fred, “because all I brought from Atlanta was this little, thin jacket.”

Fred went to bed. But when he got up the next morning, he couldn’t open the door for all the white stuff that was piled against it. Snow driving. Wind howling. Temperature falling. Phone ringing. It was the host calling Fred’s motel room.

I hate to tell you this, but we’re going to have to cancel this morning’s session. Can’t tell about the evening. But things look pretty bad. Nobody saw this coming. City’s not ready. Plows, not ready. Crews, not ready. Nothing’s ready. Worse yet, nothing’s open. In fact, I’m stuck in my driveway, meaning that I can’t come down to fetch you. So I don’t know what you are going to do about breakfast. But I do have an idea. If you can make it out of your room, walk down to the corner … turn right … go one block … turn right again … and you should be standing within shouting distance of the bus station. There’s a little cafe in there. And if any place is gonna be open, it’s gonna be open.

So Fred curses his luck, zips up his jacket, busts out his door, and goes in search of the little cafe. Two rights. Bus station. There it is. Wonder of wonders, it’s open. But it’s also crowded. It seems as if every stranded soul in the universe is crammed inside.

There is no place to sit. But some guy slides down the bench and makes room for Fred to squeeze in. Waiter comes over … big burly guy … non-shaven … wearing half the kitchen on his apron. “Whatcha want?” he snarls. “Can I see a menu?” Fred asks. “Don’t need no menu,” the waiter answers. “Didn’t get no deliveries this morning. All we got is soup.” “Well then,” says Fred, “soup it is. I like a little breakfast soup from time to time.”

So the soup comes in a rather tallish mug. Looks awful. Shade of mousey gray.Fred half-wonders if that’s what it could be … cream of mouse. So he doesn’t eat it. But he does use the mug as a stove … cupping his fingers around it … warming them on it.

Which is when the door opens once more. Wind howls. Cold surges. “Shut the blankety-blank door,” someone shouts. Lady enters. Thin coat. No hat. Ice crystals in her hair and eyebrows. Maybe 40. Painfully skinny. Men slide over to make room for her at another table.

“Whatcha want?” shouts the guy with the greasy apron. “I’ll just have a glass of water,” she answers. “Look lady,” he says. “We’re crowded in here. We don’t give no glasses of water. Either you order something or you leave.”

Well, it quickly becomes apparent that she isn’t able to buy something. So she rebuttons her coat and commences to leave. Whereupon a funny thing happens. One by one, everybody at her table gets up to leave, too. Followed by others … at other tables. Even Fred (who still hasn’t touched his soup) gets up to leave.

“All right … all right,” says the soup master. “She can stay.” And he brings her a bowl of soup. With order restored, Fred turns to his table mate and says: “Who is she? She must be somebody important.” To which the guy says: “Never saw her before in my life. But I kinda figure if she’s not welcome, ain’t nobody welcome.”

Which pretty much settled the matter, to the point where all you could hear (for the next few minutes) were soup spoons clinking against the sides of the mugs. Even Fred broke down and ate his soup. Which wasn’t half bad, really. Some might even call it tasty.

Later on, he still couldn’t make out the taste … but he felt as if he’d had it before. But what was it? He couldn’t remember. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember. Then it hit him. Strangest thing, really. That cream of mouse soup tasted, for all the world, like bread and wine. That was it … for all the world like bread and wine.


Fred Craddock, The Collected Sermons of Fred Craddock

The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock
by: Fred B. Craddock
publisher: Westminster John Knox Press, published: 2011-04-04
ASIN: 0664238580
EAN: 9780664238582
sales rank: 267889
price: $20.08 (new), $15.00 (used)

This collection of more than fifty of Fred Craddock’s sermons provides a glimpse of a master preacher at work. Amazingly, only one of the sermons was preached from a manuscript written in advance, as Craddock considered a sermon to be an event in the world of sound. As a result, the selections here wonderfully reflect and preserve Craddock’s voice and engage readers with all the immediacy of the spoken word.

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