January 11, 2015
Rev. John Watts
Nampa First UMC
I’d like us to begin this sermon in unison. I have nothing written down for you to read but I think you can handle it.
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.
That was one of the first nursery rhymes I ever learned. I tried it out this week at chapel time with the Kids Stuff children. I was glad to find out that they all knew it. It’s a tough nursery rhyme for little ones. It doesn’t end well for Humpty Dumpty.
But the reason I’ve asked you to retrieve this from your memory banks is because of what this nursery rhyme has to say about us. Our natural, normal condition is wholeness. Or wholiness. I just made up that word. Then comes the fall. The fall from Humpty’s wall or the fall from grace. Either way, the result of the fall is brokenness. What once was whole is now in pieces. And if you’ve ever tried to reassemble a shattered egg, you understand the ending. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
We were created whole by our Creator. But life has a way of ripping us apart. We feel broken. We feel shattered. We long to be put back together. We long to be made whole once again.
We read our scripture lesson from the old King James Version this week. We don’t do that very often. Often the King James is difficult to understand. But I wanted one particular verse read one particular way. Before Jesus healed the man who had been waiting 38 years to be healed, he asked him a question. Most translations say, “Do you want to be healed?” But the King James says, “Wilt thou be made whole?” See why we don’t read from the King James very often? I don’t hear many people these days using the words “thou” or “wilt”. Unless they are talking about their lettuce. But what I want you to see is the word at the end of the verse. One version says “healed” and the other says “whole”. Which is the correct translation? They both are. To be healthy is to be whole. To be whole is to be healthy.
I don’t normally do Greek studies in these sermons, but if you’ll bear with me: The same Greek word that means “healed” and “whole” also means “sound”. As in “sound doctrine” (II Timothy 4:3). Sound doctrine means correct doctrine. It means it’s what God wants us to believe, because it’s true. So if we are sound of body, which mean healthy, and which also means whole, it means we are the way God wants us to be. We are “true” to God’s intent when God created us.
So the miracle Jesus did for that man who had no one to lift him into the healing waters was more than just making it possible for him to walk. That was huge. He hadn’t been able to walk for 38 years. To put that into our context, he last walked in 1977. That’s a long time. But the greater miracle was that Jesus made a broken person whole again. That’s a miracle we all need, whether our bodies are healthy or not.
There have been many changes in the field of healthcare and I’m sure you know many more are coming. One of the changes has been the growing number of specialists. You know the definition of a specialist? Someone who knows more and more about less and less. It used to be you would go to your general practice family doctor for just about anything. Now if your problem is at all serious or complicated you are immediately referred to a specialist. There are specialists who know all there is to know about every part of our bodies. The hand specialist may not know a thing about your ears. The skin specialist may not know a thing about your lungs. Is there still a doctor who knows all about all of you as a whole human being? Yes, there is. His name is Jesus. He is not called the Great
Physician for nothing.
Actually, medical research is showing how important faith is in healing. The doctors can make all the right incisions and prescribe all the right medicines and use all their medical training as well as and better than any other doctor possibly could. But if the patient has no faith, if the patient is not expecting to get better, if the patient does not want to get better, the probability of a good outcome goes way down. Jesus did ask that man the right question. Do you want to be made whole?
Faith makes us whole. Whether our bodies are healthy or not, faith is the unifying force that brings all of the broken and jagged disconnected fragments of our lives back together into a whole person. Life pulls us apart. Faith puts us back together again.
And that is why worship is so important. And I don’t just mean coming to church. I am in favor of you coming to church. I want to make sure there is no misunderstanding there. But worship is more than coming to church. It is more than what we do in this room for one hour each week.
The word “worship” comes from the same root as the word “worthy”. Next week our scripture will come from Revelation chapter 4 and it will include this verse: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (4:11). God is worthy. Worthy of worship. Therefore we worship God. On Sunday. And Monday through Saturday, too. God is always worthy. Therefore we always live in an attitude of worship.
We worship not because we owe it to God. Not because God will be mad if we don’t. We worship because we owe it to ourselves. Because we will miss something important if we don’t. Worship is the way we exercise our faith muscles and when our faith muscles are strong, that is when we are healthiest and happiest and most useful to God.
So how does worship do all these good things for us? Worship lifts us outside of ourselves. Worship means worthy. I hope you see yourself as worthy. You are worthy. We all are. But we can get carried away with being impressed with ourselves. It’s good to feel good about yourself. It isn’t good to worship yourself. None of us is worthy of worship. Only God is. It isn’t good to be trapped within the prison of your own self. It is good to see worth and value and meaning in God. It is also good to see worth and value and meaning in the goodness of God’s creation outside of ourselves.
Life without worship is like life lived in a room of mirrors. Everywhere you look you see yourself. If you like looking at yourself, you might really like that room. But for most of us, looking at ourselves and only at ourselves would get old in a hurry. You may love yourself, but none of us loves ourselves that much. If we are unable to see worth and value and meaning outside of ourselves, that room of mirrors pretty much describes our world.
But the moment we discover God, the moment we discover such things as appreciation and admiration and adoration and reverence and love, things that carry us beyond ourselves, that room of mirrors ceases to exist. Those mirrors are no longer mirrors. They have become windows. Windows on God’s world. You look at them and you don’t see yourself. You see through them to the beauty and the wonder and the goodness of God and all that God has created for us. When the world becomes for you window and not a mirror, you become a whole person and not a broken collection of fragments.
Think about your own life. When you are feeling kind of like Humpty Dumpty at the base of that wall, what puts you back together again? How about music? Beautiful music. I won’t define beautiful music for you because I know we all have our tastes. But all kinds of music can lift us and transport us and inspire us. It is no coincidence that music is such a big part of our worship here on Sunday morning. Music is a gift God gave us that we might be whole.
And how about friendship? Someone to talk to. Someone who cares. Someone who believes in you when you aren’t sure you believe in yourself. Someone to bring you back down to earth when you are getting too full of yourself. Or to lift you back to up to earth when you are depressed and discouraged. Did you realize that’s one reason church is so important? I hope some of your best friends are here at church. And if that’s not true yet, I hope that will become true. We don’t come to church to see our friends. We come to church to worship God. But one of the fringe benefits that I know God intends is that we will find community here at church. That we will experience that wonderful joy of knowing that you are not alone on your journey of faith. All churches say they are friendly. Great churches are churches where it is easy to make new friends. Friendship is a gift God gave us that we might be whole.
Or how about purpose in your life? Your life might be fine, no real problems, but nothing really to write home about either. You are drifting. You don’t exactly know what you are accomplishing on this earth that’s going to have any lasting value. And then you do know. It might be a flash of insight. It might be a gradual discovery. But your life can never be the same again because now you live for a purpose. A purpose higher and bigger and better than yourself. It’s been said there are two great moments in life. One of these moments is when you are born. The other is when you discover why you were born. A sense of purpose can transform any life. And we hope that’s one reason you come to church. This church can be the place where you find and follow your purpose. Purpose is a gift God gave us that we might be whole.
“Wilt thou be made whole?” “Do you want to be made whole?” Do you want your brokenness to be healed?
Brokenness can be a gift, too. Our God is such an awesome God that even as we are healing and before we are healed, even while were are still broken and before we are made whole there are blessings sent our way.
Helen comes from apple country, the HoodRiverValley. She grew up on the Washington side in the small town of White Salmon. It’s one of the most picturesque places on earth. You look one way and there is the Columbia River and Mt.Hood. You look the other way and there is Mt.Adams. Helen has told me what apple growers have told her. When an apple tree starts to underproduce, when it is growing a lot of wood and a lot of leaves but not much fruit, a strange thing is often done to that tree. A gash is cut in its trunk. I’m not sure anyone knows for sure why this works, but a wounded apple tree almost always starts turning its energy to the production of apples.
That’s true in our lives, too. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ve found it to be true. Sometimes we can be most productive and creative and inspired when life cuts into us. While we are on the way to healing and wholeness, but before we are there yet. God has an amazing way of using wounded people to do his work. Maybe we can even say that brokenness might be a gift God gave us that we might become whole.
We all fit into that old nursery rhyme somewhere. Either we are Humpty Dumpty perched on that high wall. Life is good. But we’re teetering and we can see it’s a long way down. Or we are Humpty Dumpty in pieces. We’ve fallen. We’re broken. Life is horrible. We might even think life is over.
But there’s a third category. I think most of us find ourselves in this one. We are Humpty Dumpty on the mend. Life isn’t over. Life isn’t even horrible. Though we still are broken, God is blessing us in our brokenness. And one day we will be whole.
Because even though the nursery rhyme says that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”, our faith tells us it’s never that hopeless. The king’s horses and the king’s men may not be able to get the job done, but the King of kings most certainly can. Jesus is in the business of making broken people whole again. Do you want it? That’s the question Jesus asks each of us. Do you want to be made whole?
Lord Jesus, we do want to be made whole. And we do know that only you can make us whole. So we come to you just as we are, beaten down and broken. Or maybe empty and searching. Perhaps enjoying what life is offering us right now, but deep down knowing that we are not offering much back. However it is with our souls right now, we come to you, knowing that you will accept us as we are and will work that miracle in our lives that we most need. You healed that man by the pool. You will heal us. And you will work through us to bring healing and wholeness to others. To you be all praise and glory and worship. Amen.