“Mephibosheth, rise” I said the words like so many times before, moved as I am by this story of David the king and Jonathan’s son. Told the story to a room full of 45 18-25 year old college students who are taking the obligatory bible course for their undergraduate degree, and it caught me again. The gospel lived out in David’s bloodsoaked throne room, in the aftermath of his defeat of Saul’s sons and the near obliteration of Saul's line to protect the new king from another political uprising. Except this one, Jonathan’s son, lame in both feet who had lived his life in secrecy since the night his nurse dropped him while trying to smuggle him out of the palace as word got back that Saul and Jonathan had been killed.
In the ancient world, Mephibosheth was a throw away—as were most with physical infirmities—he wasn’t able to work, to fight, to lead or to hold public office so he was utterly dependent upon the kindness of whomever would take him in. The night they brought him before David he must have thought he’d be killed too and wondered why the king had bothered to bring him in. He asked David, “What do you need with a dead dog like me,” here belying his own lowly status in the kingdom until the king rewrites his story and changes his life forever (2 Samuel 9).
David restored all that Mephibosheth has lost, all that belonged to the house of Saul now transferred to his grandson and the king himself welcomed Mephibosheth to his own table, brought him into the royal family and gave him status as son of the king. Mephibosheth was, at once, given provision and protection in the house of David; his brokenness covered by the benevolence of the king.
I taught that story in class on Wednesday and hung out in strip clubs on Thursday and couldn’t help connect the two experience. I was realize this full awake to the fact this is what the gospel compels us to do, open wide our arms to those who are thought ‘least’ among us, embrace those who are powerless, share with them the feast of abundance found only in the kingdom, enacted by those of us who have also been covered by the king. I was aware how over and over in Scripture the busted up, broken bum is the one for whom the royal robe and fatted calf wait. I couldn’t help but be aware that’s how I felt in the arms of my friends in the clubs. I was awash with emotion as I was welcomed, given a seat of honor and afforded the precious gifts of time and story, of friendship and trust. I was once more, undone by the power of love and reminded again how much we all need it.
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