The other week I was preaching a sermon from 2 Samuel 9. In this passage David extends his hand of hospitality to the grandson of Saul, the previous King who tried to kill David. While this is an amazing story (possibly one of my favourites) it holds many challenging names for anyone trying to read it aloud.
The grandson of Saul is Mephibosheth who was living in Lo Debar, in the house of Makir, son of Ammiel!
In our church service one of the congregation members stands up before the sermon and reads the Bible passage. The lucky person to be rostered on that day was a lovely lady in her early 70s. As she walked to the front I realised that I had spoken to her that morning about the structure of the service but I had not apologised for all the difficult words within the text. I had not heard her read before and held my breath for the first four verses until the tricky names kicked in. Well, I need not have worried as she spoke clearly and precisely and breezed through all the names. She had clearly practiced the reading beforehand and maybe come across this passage a number of times in her 70 years.
The last eight verses of 2 Samuel 9 hold the name 'Mephibosheth' eight times. It is no easy feat to pronounce this once and yet she pronounced all eight beautifully and without stumbling, "Meph-i-bo-sheth." I listened carefully hoping that I would be able to pronounce the name as beautifully as she did. However, when I got up to speak I reverted straight back to my old habit and constantly called Saul's grandson "Meph-eeb-o-sheth." (Can't you just hear that Aussie accent coming through? I'm surprised I didn't abbreviate his name to Meph-ooo!) This didn't impact my sermon a lot as I said it quickly and confidently enough that people didn't notice (and maybe they were all relieved that they did not have to stand in front of the congregation and pronounce the name!).
As I was standing at the door at the end of the service, our wonderful Bible reader for the day came to shake my hand. I thanked her for the amazing job she had done in getting through all those names and apologised for not fore-warning her of the difficult reading. She surprised me by aplogising herself, as she realised that she had mispronounced the name of Mephibosheth and should have asked me beforehand how to say it properly. I was taken aback by the thought that she had got it wrong because she said it differently to me and I was the one preaching! I assured her that she did a wonderful job and that I was the one who needed the linguistics training.
This 30 second encounter at the church door has made me reflect on my position as a minister to a congregation with the average age of 70. When I listen to their life stories I am a witness to someone who has endured many challenges throughout their lives. Often these situations have brought them much wisdom and perspective that as a 29 year old I am totally humbled by. And yet what is truly amazing is that at an elderly age they are still able to embrace me as a young minister. They are warm and friendly and appreciate the smallest gestures like a smile or remembering their names. While I would assume that through their lives they have learnt everything important – even how to pronounce the names in the Bible – they are able to appreciate my youth and still respect me as a minister who they can connect […]
This article was written by Linda Bailey
Linda started theological studies in 1999 in Australia. After working for ten years in various church ministries, she now works as the breakfast producer at 89.9 LightFM - the Christian radio station in Melbourne, Australia. She writes blogs every day about passages she is currently reading in the Bible. Follow her on Google Plus +Linda Bailey or Facebook by clicking the like button on the right of this page.