Message from the Pastor

Jeremiah’s Balm

Another 9/11 is approaching us and many wounds are not healed yet. Many are suffering because of open wounds that are not only caused by the tragedy of 9/11 but other forms of violence. Many are in pain because of other violent events caused by systematic racism, sexism, gun control regulations, homophobia, poverty, and global warming. “Is there no balm in the U.S.?” is a question that comes to my mind. And I remember that once upon time Jeremiah asked such question too.  

In September, the FUMC pulpit follows the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year lectionary produced by the Roman Catholic Church following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Contemplating on the Book of Jeremiah is one of the lectionary’s suggestions for the month of September.

Jeremiah is considered as the second major prophet in Christian traditions. When he was writing this text, he was in exile. Experiencing exile is not an easy experience. It’s tough. It’s full of oppression, prejudice, violence, desperation, depression, anxiety, and the tears of loneliness. Jeremiah was in pain. He was suffering. One day Jeremiah cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then have my people not been restored to health?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

He actually knew that there was a balm. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” is an eye-opening question. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” is a spiritual question that would open the Jews’ eyes to the balm that already exists in front of their eyes. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” will lead them from pain to healing, from oppression to justice, from desperation to hope, from depression to joy, and from anxiety to peace.

Jeremiah addresses the Jews in exile. In other words, he addresses the desperate humans who are experiencing the pain of depression, anxiety, oppression, violence, prejudice, and the tears loneliness. However, his audience is not only Jews who lived about 2,500 years ago. Being in exile is a common experience for all humans regardless of their generation.  

Experiencing exile started from the Garden of Eden where our first parents had been exiled from their home as natural consequences of their poor choices. Later, from the next generation, Cain was exiled to Nod, the land east of Eden, again because of poor choices that he made. Noah and his family had to live in exile too. It wasn’t their fault. They had to leave their home as consequences of others’ actions. The nation of Israel experienced exile several times.

And it continues. Today, many people have to live in exile because of political, financial, or religious reasons. But it’s not only about exile from a physical place or a destroyed utopia. It can be experiencing emotional exile or spiritual exile. We might feel that we had been exiled from home. Home not as a physical place but as a place where we belong to, where we are loved by someone, and where we feel safe. Also, the nostalgia of “the good old days” can be a form of experiencing emotional exile or spiritual exile. Indeed, we all have experienced exile in different forms and because of different reasons: the consequences of our poor choices or others’ actions.

In September, Prophet Jeremiah will lead us in our life journey from experiencing exile to experiencing home; where we belong to, where we feel safety, peace, and joy, where we are loved by someone, where someone knows our emotional wounds and so will place a balm on our trauma. Then, we all will sing with Jeremiah:  

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the wounded soul.

Pastor Danyal