Mephibosheth and the Sweet Life

For the last three days, I’ve been in Wilmore, recording a Bible study series being produced by Seedbed, a new Asbury initiative.  The project was an incredible gift to me.  I had such a strong sense of God’s pleasure. Just the experience of it was more than enough, but then Jesus showed up and blessed me with such a sweet word.  He had Mephibosheth with him.Mephibosheth is Jonathan’s son.  David found him when he went looking for a way to make good on a promise he’d made to Jonathan years before.  It was a vow to honor Jonathan’s family — any time, any place. One day long into his reign as king, he goes to the palace staff and asks (2 Samuel 9:1) – “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Someone mentions Mephibosheth (his name means “shameful thing” … who would name their kid that?).

And as if the name weren’t curse enough, Mephibosheth is lame.  When he was five years old, a nursemaid dropped him or let him fall and somehow his feet were disabled.  So now he’s a boy named Shameful with feet that don’t allow him to play with the other kids or follow in his warrior-father’s footsteps.  After his father’s death, they did with him what they often did with kids like him.  They sent him off to someone willing to keep him as a servant for the cost of room and board.

So … a guy named Shameful who is labeled as Lame gets shipped off to a place called Lo Debar.  It means “place of no pasture.”  Some say it can also mean “place of no word,” which in that culture would have meant something like lack of intelligence or without blessing.  No Word, no blessing, no honor.   This is where Mephibosheth lived.

Until completely out of the blue, David sent for him.  The Hebrew word used here literally means something like “fetch.” Someone has called this act of David fetching grace.  Don’t you love that? It reminds me of Jesus’ word to his followers: “You did not choose me, but I chose you …”

When Mephibosheth was presented to David, the king said to him, “Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father.  And I will restore the land that belongs to your family.” The story ends with Mephibosheth living in Jerusalem, eating at the King’s table.

And this is where Jesus showed up this morning.  He showed up as I was thinking about the fact that when Mephibosheth came to live with David, there was no miraculous healing. David didn’t hire great doctors to fix him up.  Mephibosheth came as he was, and as he was he was welcome at the table of the King.

And today, Jesus said to me, “You don’t have to be different than you are to sit at the table and be part of the things I have for you.  We are not all sitting around waiting for you to be better, different, healed.  You have been chosen as you are.”

And right here, right now … I want to thank Jesus for saying that to me.  For showing up with Mephibosheth this morning to bless my day and give me courage.

What a sweet life this life with Jesus is.

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A sign from God …

I am beginning to think it really was a sign from God.Yesterday, someone told me they’d just driven past a sign in front of The Holy House of Prayer of Jesus Christ (Elder William Butler, presiding).  At the end of a string of other announcements about repenting and where you can find them on the radio, the sign read, “God have [sic] never called a woman to preach.  Never will.”  I knew that sign was for me.

I happened to be heading in that general area so I took the time to find the sign so I could get a picture of it.  It was in front of a little building with burglar bars deep in one of the most impoverished areas of Georgia — what is known as Frog Holler or Bethlehem — in downtown Augusta.

I will admit … I delighted in that sign when I found it.  Things like that validate what I keep trying to tell people about being a woman in ministry in the South.  There is still a remarkable amount of prejudice.  Lately I’ve felt more than the usual.  A couple who came to me for pre-marital counseling (because their own pastor won’t see them) won’t come to Mosaic’s worship service because the pastor is a woman.  A couple who have found a wonderful new church and who rave about its depth and authenticity, could never make their peace at Mosaic not because we are not deep and authentic but because the husband does not like women pastors.  And that’s just this week.

I don’t hear prejudice in every conversation, but I’ll admit that over time I have developed more of a suspicion about people’s motives.  I have had enough conversations with folks in my church to know that they debate their friends and co-workers regularly on this issue. They defend their church and their pastor admirably.  I wish they didn’t have to, but I’m grateful beyond words for their convictions.

I wonder how many people I will never meet, how many opportunities I’ll never even know I missed, because the people I might have known don’t trust my place as a pastor.  When I let myself go too far down that trail, I get angry not just at the people who reject my call, but even at other pastors in my community.  By no fault — or merit — of their own, they benefit from my ministry.  They receive the ones who reject my position as pastor. And they may absorb these gains without stopping to reflect on the ways they benefit from their gender.

I, on the other hand, have taken way too much time to reflect on all this.  The inequality exposes something broken in me.  I feel trapped.  I get angry, defensive.  I obsess.  I find myself talking about it far too often, with far too much passion.  I go beyond good sense.  Because I am so darn competitive, I have a hard time making peace with the realities of life.

You know what I want?  What I secretly want is for someone to erect a sign that says, “People think this way.  It is not just Carolyn’s imagination.  This is real.  But it is also wrong.  It is not an educated response to scripture.  It is an injustice and an impediment to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

That’s what I really want.  I want someone to publicly acknowledge what I know to be true.

And that’s why Elder William Butler is my friend today.  He has done what I only dreamed of.  He put up a sign that pretty much says it all.  People think this way.  It is not just my imagination.  This is real.  But it is also wrong.  It is not an educated response to scripture.

Elder Butler has exposed the problem magnificently.

Sadly, he has also exposed my heart.  His sign is in the poorest part of town, in one of the poorest districts in the state. Rampant crime.  Burglar bars on the church building.  Deep poverty, serious drug issues.  And I took a picture of the sign … and neglected to say so much as a prayer over the community.

Shame on me.

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Why five stones?

For a while, I’ve been captured by the five smooth stones David collected on his way to battling Goliath. I learn a lot from those stones. 

1.  Don’t go empty-handed.  Battles are won with the right weapons.  As followers of Jesus, some of our more powerful weapons are prayer, scripture study, alone time with God, worship, giving … what are your weapons? 

2.  Be prepared.  Sounds like #1, but actually there’s more to it than that.  Remember that David got the giant with the first stone, but he took five.  He was prepared for more of a battle than he got.  Don’t assume you’ll get your giant on the first hit.  Be prepared for the battle.

3.  Its on God.  Recogonize that no matter how well armed you are and no matter how prepared, ultimately its God’s battle.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve got this.  Its God’s battle.

4.  It won’t be your last battle.  Goliath was actually David’s first real battle.  For years after that, he lived in conflict with a king who was so jealous of him that he wanted him dead.  Every battle from Goliath on made David wiser for the next one, but he never ran out of battles waiting to be fought.  And because he leaned so completely on God, he never ran out of steam, either.

That’s a start on why I love those stones.  What do you learn from David’s five smooth stones?

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