preached on the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25) at Trinity Anglican Church in Lafayette, LA
Please pray with me.
May my heart’s affection, my mind’s attention, and my soul’s submission be to you, oh Lord, my Savior and my Redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our God is a holy God, set apart. He is the creator, enabler, perfecter, and model of all virtue. When men do good things, it is because we in our feeble attempt reflect, however imperfectly, the goodness of God. This is true of Biblical characters who were mere men, and it is true of us. Scripture gives us not only biblical heroes who at times we are to follow, it shows us our own folly, and it shows us the much greater heights and depths of God’s perfection.
Please turn in your Bible with me to 2 Samuel. (give them time to turn there). I would like to read again for us today’s passage, 2 Samuel, chapter 9, verses 1-13 (read it).
Up to this point in David’s narrative, we have seen many sides of David as a Biblical character and especially a king. We have seen David’s kingly path. We have seen David’s kingly patience. We have seen David’s kingly passion. We have seen David’s kingly piety. We have seen David’s kingly power. And now we come to a point of the story which is somewhat of a restful hill near the height of David’s glory. Here, in chapter nine, we see David’s kingly pity. And this pity is not just directed anywhere. It has a specific aim which is just as revelatory to us as the act itself. Up to now, we see David’s life leading to this place, one where David is king over all Israel, Isreal is experiencing a season of order and relative peace, and Israel’s enemies have been thwarted. Just before chapter nine we read chapter 8, verses 14 and 15,
Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David's servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went. So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.
What does David do near the height of his glory, right before a few chapters from now when we experience David’s kingly pride and kingly plummet? What positive model does David give us here that would provide us a template for our own lives as well as a glimpse into the character of Jesus Christ, son of David? In a word, hospitality, a word which many of us in South Louisiana care deeply for. What I’d like us to see today is that David’s act here is one of hospitality to shame, and it is seen in three ways:
First, David’s act is hospitality to a particular person of shame. Not only does the name Mephibosheth mean in Hebrew “dispeller/blower away of shame,” Mephibosheth was a shameful figure in his family. Mephibosheth was only five when Jonathan and Saul are killed, and in a hasty attempt to retreat, his nurse dropped him and broke both of his legs. Mephibosheth, therefore, could not walk for most of his life. Since his fall he had been hidden in Lo-debar, which in Hebrew means “a place with no pasture.” And so we have a man with no working legs relegated to a place with no pasture. As grandson of Saul and son of Jonathan, he was hidden away from David, his family’s enemy. Here, David shows immense kindness and restoration to quite literally a particular person of shame.
Second, David’s act is hospitality which puts our own hospitality to shame. In the south we pride ourselves on hospitality; we even have a euphemism named after our reputation, “Southern Hospitality.” This is even moreso in South Louisiana where we pride ourselves in the goods of hospitality: food, festivities, friendship, and family. But we must not mistake Southern hospitality with Christian or Godly hospitality. There may be some overlap, but they can have two very different aims. Consider for a moment what David has done. David has decided at the height of his reign to show compassion, not to a friend or family member, but to an enemy, a lowly and outcast enemy. This is why David says in verse seven, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” There is no doubt that when Mephibosheth is summoned from Lodebar, he very likely fears that David has sent to have him killed. Consider also that David does not simply give an evening of entertainment and finger foods. David kindness requires him to make sacrifices. His hospitality is not necessarily comfortable. David overturns social norms that he may “show the kindness of God to him.” This is not only friendly hospitality, it is adoptive hospitality. It is the kind of hospitality that adopts another person into the fold as if they were family. Verse eleven states, “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.”
Third, David’s act is hospitality which gives us a foretaste of God’s own hospitality to our shame. David’s question in verse three can’t be passed over too quickly. He asks, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” What follows is not deception where David invites Mephibosheth in and tricks him somehow, as a kind of quasi hospitality. David really gets nothing by offering Mephibosheth so much. David acts extemporaneously in his leisure as king to extend pity, compassion, and his kingly bounty to a man who in and of himself provides no real merits to prompt the king’s favor. In fact, Mephibosheth not only brings no merits to the table, his only merit is not of his own doing (that he is Saul’s grandson), and his other qualities are reasons for a king to not bring him in. Consider how many people must have been vying for David’s attention and success at this point. And he chooses an outcast enemy who cannot fight, cannot till a field, cannot even help raise a tent. What good is Mephibosheth to David’s kingdom? Thankfully, that’s not the question David asks. The godly question David asks is “What good is my kingdom to him?” And thankfully our Lord looks at us the same way. Like God’s, David’s kindness is practical, invitational, adoptive, everlasting, freely given, and real.
We can hear our Lord’s word in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 9-11, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” If David, imperfect and flawed as he was, can show pity and compassion this way, can keep his oath to Saul and Jonathan, can at the height of his kingship be humble, can extend a seat at his table, can go search for his enemy to bring into fellowship, can promise to him lifelong providence, how much more will the perfect David, Jesus the Christ, do all these things for you, his bride, his Church. David condescended from his kingly place to meet the grandson of his enemy. How much more will our God, our creator, condescend to bring us to his everlasting table?
And here is where our attention and imaginations should fix themselves on what comes next in the liturgy: the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. And this is where the story becomes concrete, immediate. This table is spread for you, once enemies of God, cast out and broken. So come, you church of Mephibosheths, outcast, hiding, and lame in your sin. The true king, the son of David, knocks and invites you. In your baptism you are summoned to this table, you are invited to feast as a son or daughter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let this be a foretaste that you are to come and eat always at the King’s table.
Now hear, as we close our time, a poem by George Herbert.
The Invitation by George Herbert
Come ye hither all, whose taste
Is your waste;
Save your cost, and mend your fare.
God is here prepar'd and drest,
And the feast,
God, in whom all dainties are.
Come ye hither all, whom wine
Naming you not to your good:
Weep what ye have drunk amisse,
And drink this,
Which before ye drink is bloud.
Come ye hither all, whom pain
Bringing all your sinnes to sight:
Taste and fear not: God is here
In this cheer,
And on sinne doth cast the fright.
Come ye hither all, whom joy
While ye graze without your bounds:
Here is joy that drowneth quite
As a floud the lower grounds.
Come ye hither all, whose love
Is your dove,
And exalts you to the skie:
Here is love, which, having breath
Ev'n in death,
After death can never die.
Lord I have invited all,
And I shall
Still invite, still call to thee:
For it seems but just and right
In my sight,
Where is all, there all should be.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.