Reliance: Eating for Two
April 3, 2022 Philippians 3:4b-14 Reliance: Eating for Two Paul L. Escamilla
In Laurens van der Post’s novel, A Story Like the Wind, Bamuthi is something of a father figure to young Francois, who is coming of age on his parents’ ranch in South Africa. The wiseand gentle Bamuthi, who calls Francois by the affectionate name “Little Feather,” can see the tree in the seed within this curious and adventuresome boy.
One day, as they share a simple meal in the open country during one of their outings, Bamuthi says to young Francois, “Remember, Little Feather, that you must not forget to eat for two; the one that you are now and the one that you are to be.”
Bamuthi understands that eating is always about two things at once; enjoying a meal in the moment, and also taking nourishment for whatever lies ahead. In a larger sense, a deeper sense, he is schooling the young boy in the wisdom we all hope to come to as we mature in faith and years: that life is about our deeds, but also our dreams, and so learning to share our energies between the two—between what’s here and what’s on the horizon, between the now and the next.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians has a “Bamuthi” quality about it. In no other letter is he more expressive of his affection and appreciation toward the church he is addressing, savoring the life together they presently share in Christ.
And yet in no other letter is he more clear about looking ahead to what the future holds, encouraging the church to go with him, grow with him by God’s grace into that emerging reality, anticipating all that is yet to be discovered and accomplished in and through them by the One who began this good work. Essentially Paul is reminding the church at Philippi to eat for two—who they are, and who they are becoming.
His message couldn’t be more fitting to the moment at hand for Laurel Heights, where the now and the next each vie for our attention in a particularly concentrated way. With farewells and welcomes, endings and new beginnings happening in our midst, we are relishing so much of what we have now; and also, at the very same time, anticipating what God is doing next. We are seeking at one and the same time to give thanks for what has been, and also say yes to what will be.
Doing both of these at once is in your Laurel Heights DNA. In 1908 a Methodist laywoman in San Antonio named Mattie Simpson Terrell had just moved with her husband from a home on the west side to a newly developing area north of downtown. Their new home was still within range of beloved West End Methodist Church; they could have remained active there—all their friends were there; a pastor they knew; buildings already constructed and paid for; rhythms and routines of church and church family that were familiar, trusted, even cherished. Why change all that?
But something stirred in the heart and imagination of Mattie Simpson Terrell. It was like Paul with the Philippians, or Bamuthi with the young Francois. Mattie was asking the question, What’s the next beyond the now for the Methodists in San Antonio? Who else needs a church in this growing city? If the world is our parish, as John Wesley once said, then wherever the people go, the church needs to go alongside—even lead the way. Mattie understood that we eat for two—who we are now, and who we are becoming.
Her visionary imagination engaged the leadership of the annual conference, and within a year a Methodist community of faith was organized on the north side of town. Imagine that—in a time before Mattie Simpson Terrell was even able to vote, she had initiated the founding of a new church. It was given the name “Laurel Heights.”
This spring the church Mattie founded is crossing thresholds yet again. Gathering a strategy team to explore inter-generational ministries with young families. Befriending Afghan families seeking to make a home in San Antonio; newly staffing our church in music, administration, and pastoral leadership.
Laurel Heights, this is your crowded hour. And I believe that if Mattie Simpson Terrell were among us, she would say what Bamuthi said to Little Feather, what in his own way Paul was saying to the Philippians: that while there is such goodness in the present, there is all the more promise for God’s future among us.
When you come to the table of the Lord today, the table of grace, remember to eat for two: the person you are, and the person, the servant, the leader, the disciple of Jesus Christ you are to be, both in this community of faith, and in the world at large.
When you come to this table, remember, Laurel Heights, the church founded on faith having been founded on faith, to eat for two: the church you are, and the church you are becoming.
Because every meal we partake of—and certainly this one—is always both an act of gratitude and also of faith: signaling our readiness, our trust, our expectancy, our anticipation that by taking this spiritual nourishment there is something more beyond this hour for which we are readying ourselves, something beautiful and good, something important, even eternal, something God alone can see.