There is a balm in Gilead,
or so we love to sing in church.
Yet the prophet raised a question,
not an answer. “Is there no balm in Gilead?”
was his cry, implying, at the least, that balm
might just be unavailable.
Perhaps he should have worshipped in our day
when sanctuaries are awash in soothing ointment,
and those rich emollient words of forgiveness,
grace, acceptance, like a sweeping, sweet tsunami,
engulf everything we say, or sing, or pray.
Yet in a time when hatred stalks the land-its body politic-
when vulgarity and violence are lifted up in honor,
when prejudice, fear and envy are the currency of speech,
and folk flock after the false dividers and the proud,
where will we go to hear old Jeremiah’s first
and lasting word of judgment, of God’s simplest truth,
cutting through the all-pervading falsehood,
yes, a word of mercy, yet again, but only spoken
after depravity is disowned, the integrity of truth
is rediscovered, and justice is reclaimed