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Posts Tagged ‘shame’

'The Lord's Table' photo (c) 2007, Scott Schram - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Here is a communion sermon that focuses on inclusivity in the body of Christ and at his table.  It is another in my series of sermons on themes related to disability.  I preached this in 2005 as our church’s new accessible fellowship hall–our dining room–was being completed.

The King’s Table
A Sermon on 2 Samuel 9 and Luke 14:1, 12-24

Mephibosheth was afraid.  He trembled when he came before King David.  The behavior of his grandfather Saul, first king of Israel, had cast shame on the whole family.  Moreover, David had done what kings predictably did: eliminate anybody who might try to claim the throne.  Mephibosheth’s fear was perfectly understandable.  But how sad that the felt he had to put himself down in so ugly a way in the king’s presence.  He referred to himself as a dead dog, an epithet meaning worse than scum.  Dead dog equals yuck!  Unclean!

Mephibosheth had had a hard time.  Now about twenty, he had been living with mobility impairment since he was five years old.  The accident had occurred when news reached the household that his father Jonathan and grandfather the king had both died in battle.  The family was in danger.  As they hurried away, Mephibosheth’s nurse dropped him.  Most likely he suffered broken bones.  Both feet were crippled.

Without any modern techniques of setting and repairing bones and treating infections, people who survived fractures often ended up with lifelong deformity and lifelong disability.  And unless their family had means, that also meant lifelong poverty.  And it meant shame.  Most folks believed that tragedies like this didn’t happen to you unless you somehow deserved it.  Religious law reinforced the shame and stigma.   For example, people with disabilities or even certain conditions we would consider minor were forbidden from serving as priests.  Only unblemished males were considered good enough to serve God in this way.  Anything less was an insult to God.

Maybe Mephibosheth was putting on an act of humility before David, hoping to protect himself.  But my hunch is that he had internalized his family’s shame, and that saw himself as others did: damaged goods, second class at best.  His very name meant “shame.” The word bosheth in Hebrew means “shame!”  That wasn’t his original name.  His original name was Meribbaal.  Baal is a word meaning “lord.”  But now his name was bosheth: shame! (more…)

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Painting by James Tissot

In God’s eyes there is no “just a” as in “we’re just a small church.”  When I hear people in small congregations use those two words “just a,” I suspect that a spirit of weakness has hold of them.  Like the bent over woman in the synagogue in Luke 13, small churches often have a hard time looking the world in the face.  Christ the healer is at work doing something about that.  Here’s a sermon I preached on Luke 13:10-21 some years ago.  Notice that the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast immediately follow the healing story. 

“Stand Up Straight!”

This story of Jesus is one of my all time favorites.  And now it is especially poignant because my father is in the same fix as the woman in the story.  He is bent over, and he feels too weak to stand up straight.

The Greek text says that a spirit of weakness had crippled this woman.  For eighteen years it had held her down, so that she couldn’t stand up straight.  Nowadays she would probably receive a diagnosis of scoliosis or osteoporosis. Think of what that means.  Pain.  Spontaneous fractures in her vertebrae.  Think of what being bent all the time did to this woman’s lungs and her other internal organs.  Think of what this woman had to do to her neck to be able to see.  She would have to bend it backwards, like this, or else turn sideways and look at the world from the side.  It took so much effort to look up and see that she spent most of the time looking at the ground.

Even worse, perhaps, than the physical suffering was the emotional suffering.  In Jesus’ day people believed that disability was caused by a demon, and that it was a punishment from God.  Just as they do now, people stared.  They avoided her.  They wondered what in the world this woman had done to deserve such an affliction.  It was a source of shame. (more…)

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