Couldn’t Put Humpty Together Again
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Humpty Dumpty is a children’s poem generally regarded as nonsense:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Nobody knows exactly who or what Humpty Dumpty was. The rhyme was first printed in 1810 and became famous through Lewis Caroll’s book, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, where Humpty Dumpty is shown as a round egg. However, it is a very old rhyme and goes back much earlier than this, so who or what was Humpty Dumpty ?
One idea taken most seriously was that ‘Humpty Dumpty’ was a powerful cannon, used during the English Civil War (1642-49).
During the siege of Colchester 1648, the church of ‘St Mary’s by the Wall’ was strengthened against attack, by putting a cannon on the roof. It caused a lot of damage to Lord Fairfax’s attacking Roundhead troops and drew a lot of return fire. Sometime during the 14th or 15th of July, the gun was hit and came tumbling down. The damaged cannon could not be raised again and after a few weeks, the Royalists lay down their weapons, opened the gates of Colchester and surrendered to the Parliamentarians.
But, history lesson aside, Humpty Dumpty has, perhaps, a deeper meaning that we all can sense. I take no credit for these thoughts, but I want to suggest that it can serve as an outline for understanding the Gospel message.
1. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.” From his perch, Humpty initially felt that all was right with the world.
God said. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created humankind in his image as the apex of creation. It was as if God made humankind and set them on a wall. People were able to relate perfectly with God, to feel his nearness, to communicate personally with him. God sat humans high on the wall with wisdom, power, knowledge, and God-likeness.
2. But then something happened in our poem, something happened in creation, and something happened in our lives. In all three, we can describe it as the Fall.
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…”
Why Humpty fell, we do not know, but the Fall is no mystery in creation, and not with us.
Genesis 3 tells the story this way:
[3:1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;  but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;  for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, * knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.”
This Fall represents the entry point of sin and failure into creation.
This sin problem lies at the root of all the struggles of religion. The sin problem will occupy the next sixty-six books of the Bible.
All of us today have fallen too. Our Fall has to do with more than just the primeval past. The fall is not something in the past. It is something very much present right now. It is personal for each one of us. For each of us comes to a point when we want that which will be harmful to us. We stop listening to God and let the serpent tell us what to do! We change our loyalty from the Creator to the creature. We reach for the forbidden fruit.
The Bible has warned us. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
It’s like a campfire where everyone was gathered in a pleasant circle, holding hands facing the Light of God, suddenly one and then another turns their back on the light, faces the darkness and moves away from God. Before you know it all are wandering in the darkness, far from God, and now instead of seeing others reflecting the light of God on their faces, we see the shadow side of life. The dark shadows loom before us and bring fear and alienation. We are groping in the darkness trying to find our way, lost and afraid.
We never intended it to turn out this way. We only turned away from the light for a moment. We just stretched out for one enticing bit of fruit. But suddenly the consequences of our sin are far greater than we expected.
Suddenly, we all lie, like Humpty, at the bottom of the wall – broken, shattered, fragmented., and unless something drastic happens, our fall will be fatal.
3. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Suddenly, much to our relief, up ride the king’s men and their horses to put us back together again. But who are these men? And who is their king? The poem may have referred to the Cavaliers of King Charles I, but in the rhyme we can see them picking up the broken pieces of our eggshell Humpty, trying to fit them together. Perhaps they attempt to glue the pieces back together. Perhaps they have Duck tape. But the rhyme makes it clear that there was no fixing what was broken. The king’s men fail. They couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Perhaps the king’s men represent the failed attempts to reconcile humans and God as told in the first 39 books of the Bible. Even the Law and the Prophets failed to achieve their purpose, and so God sent his Son, the King himself. The King could do what all the king’s men could not.
What is broken spiritually can’t be fixed by any other means. Spiritual damage needs a spiritual repair.
Romans 8:3 “God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin. ” [NCV]
2 Corinthians 5:18-21: ” God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” [MESSAGE]
The King can do what all the king’s men cannot do. Only the One who made us in the beginning can put us back together again. That is what the gospel is all about.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of our own brokenness – the things perhaps we keep hidden, pushed to the back of the cupboard. It also reminds us of the brokenness of our world.
A cross of ash – visible to those who may look at us – is an acknowledgement that Jesus can do what we can’t, if we humble ourselves.
The various spiritual disciplines of Lent are suggested to put us back together again – to turn us back fully to the light, so we can, in turn, go into the darkness and find people headed in the wrong direction. We tell them about the Light of God, point them to Christ.
We might finish the good beginning of the nursery rhyme this way:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Then the real King came to his aid,
Brought reconciliation, not a Band-aid.
Jesus brought new birth and a new creation,
Made Humpty whole and brought jubilation.
Placed Humpty Dumpty back on the wall,
Then he gave to Humpty a brand new call,
Ambassador of Christ is his new name,
Healing the broken is now his game.
If you find yourself broken at the foot of a wall,
To the King of Kings you should give a call,
And just like Humpty Dumpty of old,
Christ will come and make you whole.
With thanks to Mickey Anders, on whose material this sermon is based.