Like a lot of people, I watched the Royal Wedding; however, I was surprised and elated to see who was preaching: Bishop Michael Curry. That’s because I had made his acquaintance in Atlanta in 2012 while attending a preaching conference. He was by no means the headliner at the time, but he spoke about how unusual it was for him to preach as an African-American within the Episcopalian Church tradition. He was a spirited preacher, exuding a sincerity and joy of heart both in the pulpit and in person – but I would not have guessed he would be preaching a Royal wedding before the Queen of England!
A testimony to his gift is that I still remember the lecture/sermon he delivered at the conference. He read from Jeremiah 8:22: Is there no balm in Gilead? This was part of the prophets lament over the impending destruction of his people by invaders – and believed to be the Lord’s judgment for their breaking of the covenant. Gilead at the time was known for its healing herbs and spices. Bishop Currie asked: How was it that the slave took Jeremiah’s question and turned it into an affirmation: There is a balm…? How? They ran into one named Jesus!
There is NO rational explanation for how they got from there to here but by the power of the Spirit. That Spirit can transform a twisted form of gospel (referring to how some ancestors had used the Bible to justify slavery) to a balm – to the truth of Jesus. What was – and is – that truth? The slave sang it while working in the field:
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. If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, and say, “He died for all.” There is a balm…
Bishop Currie declared that when things aren’t right, you “gotta go deep – deep inside, to find that fire – a fire that means it won’t matter the circumstances around it.” So the slave sang, and as we know from our history, some of those slaves endured and found help and made it to “Gilead” – and we can sing, too, and tell the love of Jesus. That’s what people of faith do when they “gotta go deep.”