Monday, October 30, 2017

My Enemy

I hated him from the time I was old enough to know anything about the world and my place in it. He was everyone’s hero, the man who slew giants and defeated Philistines, the “sweet singer of Israel”, the golden king. He was also the man who stole the throne that had belonged to my family, the usurper, the destroyer.  My grandfather, King Saul had died in battle, so had my father, and it was said that David the usurper had mourned for them. But how could I believe that when the same man had so happily and willingly taken their throne, the throne that should have come to me as the only surviving heir. They said that God had given the throne to David, but what did that make God if he could just take the throne from one family and give it to another, without any just cause?

So I hated him, but, even more, I feared him, for if I hated him, how much more must he hate me, the only living heir to the house of Saul. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t much of a threat to him, since I am a cripple, and the mere thought of my leading Israel into battle would make us a laughing stock amongst the nations, but still, everyone knows that to be a successful king you must destroy all your rivals.

The day came when I was summoned to the house of David. “This is it,” I thought, “he has waited until I am old enough to care about, and now he will surely have me killed.” But I was determined not to shame my lineage, so I obeyed the summons and came. I tried to silence my maddening fear by telling myself that if I could just look into his eyes I would know the truth about his heart. Surely it would be easier to die if I could go to my death scorning the one who sent me there?

How ignorant I was! I came into his presence and bowed low, doing homage to the throne of Israel even while I resented the one who sat on it. But who is fool enough to antagonise a king? “Mephibosheth,” he said, identifying me by name.

“I am your servant,” I replied formulaically, but I was curious now. There was no condemnation in his tone at all. What was going on?

Then he turned my world upside down and inside out. For sake of my father Jonathan, he was going to restore to me all the lands that had belonged to Saul, and I was to eat at his table like an honoured member of his own family! A man does not go to the house of his enemy and find there his greatest benefactor. A man does not rise in the morning expecting to be condemned to death and finish the day rejoicing in riches and honour.

And I am left pondering. If David is such a man who would lavish love and generosity upon one who was born to be his enemy, in fact, take that enemy into his family like a beloved child, what does that say about the God whom David serves with all his heart?

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Kiss of God

This peace: the sun retreats, the air is still.
The light a golden chrism touching all
Soon the stars light their candles, one by one,
Soon I’m transfixed by their high silver call.
And, knowing only this is wholly good,
I tremble to receive the kiss of God.

There is a largeness in the air tonight
Where conversations gleam and dance and thrill
Where soul reveals a naked glimpse to soul
And is received in all its good and ill.
And, knowing only this is wholly good,
I tremble to receive the kiss of God.

Prayer, and the lifting up of little hands
Into their Father’s strong and sturdy grasp,
Knowing he listens to our every breath,
Knowing we’re safe forever in his clasp.
And, knowing only this is wholly good,
I tremble to receive the kiss of God.

Mercy, it breathes through every breath we take,
Grace that can raise our brokenness to bliss
He is my God who gives himself to me,
I, though I flounder, I am wholly his.
And, knowing only this is wholly good,
I tremble to receive the kiss of God.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Party

You think you know who your friends are, don’t you? Well, I thought I did, and by my time of life you would have expected to have it all sorted out. After all, it’s a long time since we were fickle children, quarrelling and changing playmates in a way that no adult could ever hope to keep up with. I knew, because I am a man of the world and not unobservant, that people can turn away from you when things go badly; I did not know, until now, that they can turn away from you when you offer them something good. It seems I do not understand people nearly as well as I thought I did.

I remember the day I first planned my banquet. Life has been good and I have been blessed with more abundance than I had ever dreamed of. I looked around me with pleasure, and then the thought struck: wouldn’t it be good to share all this with my friends? So I sent out my servants with the save the date cards, and everyone replied that they would be very happy to come. So I started my preparations, wanting to put together the best party that has ever been seen in these parts. Such scrubbing, such shopping, such planning, such baking! I even gave my servants extra pay for all their hard work helping me turn my dream into a reality, and I smiled to myself as I ran around busy with everything. What fun this was going to be!

Then the day of the big event arrived and I sent my servants out to fetch the guests. They went out smiling with anticipation, they returned looking downcast and forlorn. My friends weren’t coming! Every single one had returned an excuse of the sorry but I’m too busy” kind. And what flimsy, insulting excuses they were. One had just bought a field and had to go and check it out. Really? Who buys a field sight unseen? And, ahem, the field would still be there just the same tomorrow, since it can’t exactly get up and move somewhere else! Another said he’d just bought himself a yoke of oxen and had to check them out. Seriously? He’d just spent all that money on them without checking them first? I knew him to be a canny businessman; I simply didn’t believe it.

The last one to come back was the most insulting of them all. He couldn’t come because he’d just got married! He was supposed to be my friend and not only did he not invite me to his wedding, but he planned it to clash with my big party. I had some very dark thoughts then, imagining all my “friends” gathered at this wedding, laughing at my failed party.

But I am not a man to be easily defeated. If my so-called friends couldn’t make it, I wasn’t going to let it spoil things. I would find myself some other guests. So I called my servants back and told them to go out into the highways and the byways, the forgotten places that no one cares about, and give my invitation to the people you find there – the poor, the broken, the disabled, the rejected, and compel them to come to my party.

Well, they did, and they came, and we had the best night of my life. I have new friends now, people who actually want to come to my house. But as we cleaned up the day after, I gazed around, giving thanks for such a blessing, and a new thought struck me. Do I treat God the way my friends treated me, happily nodding and saying “yes, yes,” until he wants a real commitment from me?