Life of David: Crippled Conditions

Scripture: 2 Samuel 9: 1-13
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
October 2, 2016

First, I would like to say thank you to Mentone United Church of Christ for hosting us this morning.  You came in July and led us in an inspiring, moving, spirit-filled worship service.  And ever since members of Redlands United Church of Christ have been asking, “When do we get to worship with Mentone again?”  It is good to worship with you and be in your sacred space this morning. We treasure our relationship with Mentone United Church of Christ.  And I very much treasure my relationship with Pastor Rudy.  Pastor Rudy, I value our sacred time together – our lunches where we talk about worship services and sermons, where we share our life journeys with one another.  I honor your wisdom and integrity.  I learn from your many years of service in the ministry.  I appreciate your compassion and kindness.   Thank you.

And it is on the topic of compassion and kindness that I would like to preach this morning – because that is what I discover in this place, among this pastor and these people – compassion and kindness. The fruits of compassion and kindness are concrete manifestations that the Holy Spirit is at work within us.  And the Holy Spirit is very present here.  

Last week I began a sermon series on the life of King David. And so I searched through the scriptures to find a story that speaks specifically of David’s kindness. And I found such a story in 2 Samuel. In our passage this morning, the great King David asks, “Is there anyone left in the house of Saul, the house of Jonathan to whom I may show the kindness of God?”  

Ziba, a former servant of Saul, says, “Well, there’s this boy who is crippled in both feet.”  Ziba gives no name, just points out that the boy is lame.

The boy in question is named Mephibosheth.  And Mephibosheth (I think it’s a good sermon if I can say his name right), Mephibosheth struggles with permanent paralysis, chronic crippling, rough realities — not just for 1 day, 1 week, 1 year, but every day of his life.  At the age of five, Mephibosheth was accidentally dropped and scripture says, “He was lame in both feet.”  I imagine there are some here today who struggle with chronic crippling, with something that will not go away — I am not speaking only on the physical level, although that is certainly part of the struggle for some, but I am also speaking about the emotional, mental, spiritual levels as well.  Perhaps you are wrestling with something everyday of your life.

Yes, every now and then, our problems disappear on their own, but there are times when our problems and difficulties linger for awhile. It’s been said that sometimes trouble will walk right in through the front door and go out through the back door.  But other times, trouble knocks on the front door and has suitcases in his hands.

Mephibosheth deals with chronic crippling, rough realities, permanent paralysis.  And Ziba says, “Well, there’s this boy, named Mephibosheth and he is crippled in both his feet.”  We don’t know why Ziba characterizes Mephibosheth by his problems but the Bible does it over and over again. There is this woman with the issue of blood, we don’t know her name, we don’t know where she’s from; there is a blind beggar at the pool of Bethesda , we don’t know his name or where he comes from; there is a demoniac in chains, we don’t know his name or where he comes from.  We know people by their problems, and not by who they really are.  And even in church we often identify people by their problems and not by who they really are.  And so Ziba says, “There’s this boy, who is crippled in both feet, he lives in Lo-Debar.”  Now, Lo-Debar means place of no pasture; it is a barren land.  If the sheep have no pasture, then they cannot grow.  There may be some here today who feel as though they live in Lo Debar and need to get out.

King David says, “Go get him.  Bring him to me.  There is a place prepared for him in the kingdom.”  Ziba says, “Are you sure?  Are you sure you want a boy like that in this palace?” It is easy to imagine the discrimination that must have taken place in that day and age, especially in the prestigious place of the King’s palace.  Fortunately, King David will not participate in that kind of discrimination and so he says he is sure that he wants Mephibosheth at the King’s table with him.  

And so Ziba drives up in his limosine (of sorts), arriving in the scare, barren territory of Lo Debar and takes Mephibosheth to the holy, royal grounds of Jerusalem. It was a 26 mile journey.  Ziba brings him from the place of no pasture to the palace.

There are some who have crippled conditions, but God’s calling you anyway.  There are some who are struggling with disease, or fractured relationships, there are some here who may not even know how they are going to make it through this next week, but God is calling you anyway.  God says, “Come on. . . I know you got trouble, but come on. . . I know it doesn’t look good, but come on. . .  You are invited to the King’s table.”  God says, “I’m going to take you from a place of no pasture to the palace, from Lo-debar to Jerusalem, which means city of peace.  You are going to eat at the King’s table.”

When Mephibosheth arrives at the palace, he falls down before King David and says, “Why is it that you look upon a dead dog like me?”   Because of his crippled condition, he had low self-esteem, he felt as though he was a nobody.   Now nobody else called him a dead dog — he gave that name to himself.  Sometimes our problems, our difficulties in life, our pain causes us to forget who we are.  Last time I checked we were still children of God.   We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The Bible says, “You are the light of the world.  You are the salt of the earth.  You are an heir of God and a co-heir of Christ.  You are of royal priesthood.”

One minute Mephibosheth sees himself as a dead dog who lives in Lo Debar…and the next he is part of the royal family, eating at the most prestigious table in all of Israel, right beside his heiness, King David.   The greatest king Israel has ever known.

And the story ends with these words, “And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, no longer Lo-debar, but Jerusalem.  He always ate at the King’s table.  And he was crippled in both feet.”  Now wait a minute!  Mephibosheth is still in the same situation as he was in vs 3.  His problems have not gone away.  He is still crippled in both feet.  This is one of the only passages in the Bible in which a person is not physically healed.  We read about Jesus healing instantaneously the 10 lepers or healing the blind man or healing the paralytic, but this is a situation in which a person is not instantly healed.  He comes to the table crippled in both feet and he leaves the table crippled with both feet.

Sometimes our problems, illnesses, struggles linger — they last for a long, long time.  But the good news is that is only half of the equation.  The other half is about a God who loves us abundantly even in the midst of our difficulties. Even if God does not correct our condition, God is still able to change our position.  Mephibosheth moved from Lo-debar to Jerusalem, a place of no pasture to the city of peace.  God blesses us even in the midst of our burdens.

The other day, our 2 year old daughter, Daniella fell and scraped her knee.  She ran crying to Mommy Karen.  Karen picked up  Daniella and said, “Oh let me kiss it and make it all better” as if she had magic lips or something.  She picks up Daniella, kisses her skinned knee, holds Daniella in her lap.  And all was well.  Did her kiss make it well?  No, it was the 10 minutes in Karen’s lap.   That does more for a child than all the bandages and medicine in the world.  The skinned knee is still there, but Daniella felt much better.  Sometimes all we need to do is sit in the lap of God and bask in eternal love, for even if our condition does not change, God is still able to change our position.

One final story I would like to share with you as we move to the Lord’s table.  In the Episcopal church the congregation drinks wine out of a common cup. There was a man who came to the elders of an Episcopal congregation in Detroit and shared that he had just been diagnosed with HIV.  The year was 1983.  It was only in 1981 in which AIDS had been discovered.  At that time the Center for Disease Control called AIDS a gay disease.  So, this man shared with the elders that he had been diagnosed with HIV and because not much was known about the disease, he wasn’t sure whether this particular congregation would still want him to worship with them.  After service that day, the elders met to discuss this man who had been diagnosed with HIV.  After their discussion they called up the man on the phone and asked him to come early to church the following Sunday because they needed to speak with him.  The man arrives early to church and the elders meet him before the service.  The elders said this, “The fact that you have HIV can cause problems with the way we serve communion here at this church. So we would like for you to take communion first so that we don’t get you sick.”  While the man’s condition did not change, his position most certainly did. That’s the power of compassion and kindness.

There are some here today who feel crippled, who struggle with permanent paralysis, who deal day after day with rough realities, who live in Lo Debar. If I am speaking to you this morning, know this — Even if God does not correct your condition, God can still change your position for you are invited to the King’s table, you are invited to sit in the lap of  abundant love, you are invited to bask in amazing grace.  God will take you from the place of no pasture to the palace, to the city of peace.  God is a change agent and so we can still say, “Alleluia.”  We can still say, “Praise the Lord!”  We can declare “I am blessed and improving.”