Balm In Gilead

October 17, 2019

Jeremiah 8:18-22 – My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: "Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" ("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?") "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? (NRSV)

It was one of those lazy, hazy August Sundays when more folks decide on the beach than sit on the bench at church. The smattering of folk warmly welcomed the summer guest preacher, who offered a sermon and gave us food for thought. There was no organist that day, but a couple provided a musical moment. Janet explained the origin of the piece, "There is a balm in Gilead", and then sang it with an amazing emotion that left us touched in the core of our being, while Alan accompanied, playing rhythm.

I went up after the service and told Janet how touched I was and how the emotion of the piece lifted my spirits.

Janet was quick to tell the story within the story. A month or two earlier, I had joined a group of a dozen or so church folk on the side of the road in the pouring rain to wish Alan and Janet well as they headed to Boston for a special treatment for his very aggressive cancer. Returning to Nova Scotia, Alan had to spend considerable time in isolation until his remission was confirmed. This August Sunday was the first time that we had talked and caught up on events in their life. So, Janet gave the deeper meaning to the song she sang. The reference to the balm in Gilead was indeed a healing ointment for which Gilead was famous. Gilead Sciences in California was testing a new drug, and Alan was one of the first to receive the treatment, which is why they made the trip to Boston. It became for Alan the "balm of Gilead" and the source of new hope in his struggle to recover his health.

    There is a balm in Gilead
    To make the wounded whole.
    There is a balm in Gilead
    To heal the sin-sick soul.

It was an ordinary Sunday transformed by the touch of music and the heartfelt gift given to us by those who truly knew the balm that heals.

Maybe you can find such a balm for the conditions that plague you, or maybe you can offer such a balm to others in their need. Either way, in Christ, we are invited to answer in the affirmative when the question is asked, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?"

Prayer: We thank You for the healing touch that comes to us unexpectedly at a time of Your choosing. We thank You that it can come through word, or music, or the touch of another. Bless us with the healing balm that comes from our friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and enable us to bring such a balm to others. Amen.

About the author:

Kenn Stright <>
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

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