Scripture: Jeremiah 8:4-7,18-9:6
Key verses: (8:22-9:1)
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!
Reflection: There is a balm in Gilead. That’s what our Hymnbook tells us as we sing the verses of the African-American spiritual. That’s what our tradition tells us as we live after the time when Jesus healed the sickness of the world. But that’s not what we sometimes experience as people of faith.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in a tumultuous time. Severe disruptions politically and militarily at the national level. External threats. Divisions among the leadership. Intense partisan in-fighting. Theological traditions that had made sense of the world were no longer adequate. As the world as they knew it was falling apart, the prophet and the people lamented, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Or to use other language, “Where is God in this mess?”
It sometimes seems like God has abandoned us to the consequences of our decisions, personally and nationally. But for Jeremiah and us, these are rhetorical questions – real enough in the moment. But answered in the resurrection.
We who live on this side of Jeremiah, this side of the resurrection, know that there is a balm in Gilead, there is a physician – and it’s Jesus the Christ.
We may find ourselves weeping day and night, but Jesus has the last word. Christ came to heal and save the world.
It’s normal, on occasion, to feel despair and offer laments. But in the end the living waters of Jesus the Christ wash away our tears and restores us to the fullness of life.
Is there no balm in Gilead? It may seem so. But then the words of the old hymn remind us:
“Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”
Prayer: Heal us, O Lord. Wipe away our tears. Remove our lament. Give us courage for living these days. Show us hope. In the name of the Great Physician, Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Author: Von Clemans
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].