Humpty Dumpty Holy Week

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.

We are all Humpty Dumpty. We all need to be saved from ourselves and the messes we make out of life and relationships, even as we are trying our hardest to be helpful sometimes. When I think about this nursery rhyme with holy imagination at play, I imagine Humpty Dumpty was a plain, ordinary brown or white egg, and when all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men gave up on putting the pieces back together, some kind soul brought Humpty to Jesus during the Passover meal that Christians recall on Maundy Thursday this week. I imagine Jesus placing those messy broken eggshells on the table beside him, where, as he served the very first Eucharist, some bits of bread and drops of wine fell upon them—and Humpty Dumpty was, in the fullness of time, transformed into the splendor of a gorgeously decorated Easter egg. (It certainly took more than 3 days, as it takes years for most of us to experience the transformation of faith in our lives).

     As you all can attest to, if you are privileged to live long enough, life will eventually crack you open—and at times will probably crush you to bits. The saints tell us that it is only a broken heart that has the capacity, of course, to hold and respond to the world’s pain with the greatest tenderness, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to bear such shatterings. I believe at its most basic level, all these years later, we remember Jesus’ celebratory parade into Jerusalem because we know how his willingness to come into the pain of people’s personal lives and transform them through patient, loving care and attention, is what has ultimately helped to transform the broken eggshell moments of the world. The intense pain of the Ukrainian and Russian people today is a broken eggshell moment of history, and as we, with God, hold their pain, and respond to it with our solidarity and support offered in faith, it will help to bring about their transformation into something new and different than anyone could have imagined—-as original as this Ukrainian egg I have here with me on my kitchen table.

    After their last Passover meal together in the gospel of Luke, Jesus said to his disciples (Luke 22: 28-30a), “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” Whoa. That’s powerful! Jesus gives us the keys to the kingdom when we stand by him and the people he came to serve?! I’ll bet if he had literal keys to pass out at that Passover feast, everyone present would have snatched one up gladly—-and maybe later that night, when Jesus was arrested—they might have reached into those pockets of theirs to feel for those keys and realized that every pocket of theirs had a hole—where one wasn’t before.

This is a dimension of the spiritual journey for all of us. We’re all humpty dumptys. We all have broken eggshell moments of one kind or another—if we don’t fall and get cracked from our own devices, there is usually another who will intentionally or unintentionally knock us over. And this is precisely why Jesus gave them that special Eucharist meal when he did. Because he knew they would need him and God’s Love to transform them the next time they fell—–and the next, and the next, and the next…

     I wonder if any of them, when they realized that their kingdom-of-heaven-keys had fallen out of the holes in their pockets when they ran away in fear, remembered back to the night they were eating another meal at the house of the leader of the Pharisees. It had been the Sabbath, and as Jesus watched them “finding places of honor” for themselves at the gathering, he said to the one who had invited him (Luke 14: 12-14), “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you to return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

     Jesus isn’t saying you shouldn’t have family barbecues or graduation parties this summer. No. This banquet he’s talking about is the Bible’s language for the way God’s people will be known. Imagine all of life as a wedding banquet, Jesus is saying. Those with genuine keys to God’s heart will be known by the fruit of the spirit (patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and all the rest) that will be served “at the table.” This way, the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind—-folks who are humpty dumptys just like us in one way or another—will find themselves in the seats of honor—for this is what enables not only them to become gorgeous Easter Eggs, but those who invite them, as well.

We are reminded to keep our eyes on the REAL Host of the banquet—to follow his lead: To follow him in his parade into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to sit and share communion with him (along with our best intentions to face life donkey-humble-like), just as he did. But then to also acknowledge the many times we run away in fear and lose the key to the kingdom—as we forget to stand by Jesus in his time of trial—and the trials of those he came to serve—and our eggshells shatter once again.

     Friends, the communion meal is what puts our humpty-dumpty lives back together again on so many levels and in different ways at different seasons of our lives. This is the meal that re-members us. To RE-member something or someone is to put their constituent member or pieces back together. When we eat this meal with Jesus, we take the time to remember who he is, and how because he’s still with us as Christ Jesus, we have access to the same Life of God that was in him—-and that eventually brought him to resurrection—and will do the same for us. The very end of this gospel of Luke says that after his death and resurrection, he came to his disciples for the last time, opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

May we faithfully follow our Lord and Savior from the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, into the Passion of following him faithfully through all the trials of his (and those of the people he came to serve), that all of Humpty Dumpty Humanity might be put together again and saved. Amen.

**Reader’s note: There is nothing “magical” about the communion elements. The words said over them are not some kind of abracadabra formula that magically cure ailments when the food is eaten—even the epiclesis, the words in the liturgy where the person presiding asks God to bless the meal. I’m actually not sure why some traditions require the presiding person to be ordained; frankly, I think this may confuse more than confer confidence in the power of the ritual.

This ritual is infused with God’s Spirit, though, and it reminds us that every meal and every person and every moment is sacred and held in God’s Care and Mystery, even as the Mystery lives inside of them, too! It reminds us that nothing in our lives can escape God’s amazing attention to detail when it comes to its healing potential and purpose.

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