The Melody of Lent


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

The theologian Ruby Sales, who at age of 17 marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, has been an insightful voice for generations.  She worked for SNCC in Alabama to advance the cause of Civil Rights.  One of her many profound and powerful questions that she proposes is for us to ponder, where does it hurt?

Right now…where does it hurt?

Within your own body.

Within your heart.

Within your mind.

Within your soul.

Pause for a moment with me, hold this question close.  Because until we name and notice the pain, rather than push it down or ignore it or overprocess it, the pain will continue to throb and rob us of our wholeness.  Until we diagnose and determine that ache that is within us, we will continue to pass it along to others, declaring and deciding that “they” are the problem.  And if “they” would only do what you want, everything would be chocolate rivers and pony rides.  Pain is part of human life, but we tend to numb the pain with endless rushing, running here or there; addictions to alcohol or shopping or staring at phones or anything to distract us; our minds are wired to calculate that the energy it would take to process the pain is too great…so just have another piece of Dove chocolate – after all with a name like Dove it should be holy, right?

The hymn for this week, There is a balm in Gilead, is a beautiful spiritual and salve for the soul in such a time as this.  The words come from Jeremiah, who was a prophet during the Exile.  The Exile was when people were taken from their homes, everything they knew removed from them, they were strangers living in a strange land.  We are now a year into an Exile from the life you knew before the pandemic.  Our normal patterns and rhythms removed from us.  We are strangers now behind masks fearful of a virus that is lurking invisibly and mutating.  We know Exile, it has been our address for the last year.  Our brothers and sisters who are African American, LGBTQ, immigrants know Exile and often feel as if they are strangers in this land of their birth; never really feeling at home. 

We all ache.

We all know pain.

The question is whether we will have the courage to name and notice, process our pain.  Listen to this spiritual, let the music/melody/words provoke and evoke from you prayerfully the places within you that need healing.

Prayer: Let us bathe in Your balm, O God.  Let us be immersed in Your embrace.  Let us be honest about all that hurts within us, we pray.  Amen.


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