Between the Epistle and the Gospel lesson we sing a question and make a declaration in anticipation of hearing the Lord’s words. Bracketed by alleluias, the words are those of Peter from John 6:68.
“Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia, alleluia.”
It’s the day following the destruction in Ferguson in the aftermath of the grand jury decision to not indict the police officer for a fatal shooting of a teenager in August. Words fail me. Why destroy your own community? That question could be asked in many ways. Why do we, as humans, train armies in the art of killing each other in war? Why seek to wipe out another group of people within your own religious or ethnic group who look like yourself, come from the same background? Why civil wars pitting brother against brother? Why family feuds that destroy relationships? Why does the color of our skin lead to prejudgment? Why do some congregations tear themselves apart generation after generation?
Peter’s question and statement comes at a time when many of Jesus’ disciples “turned back and no longer walked with him.” When Jesus’ asked the disciples whether they too will leave, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” But then he continued, “We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Who else are we able to go other than the creator of life and giver of eternal life? To whom else are we to turn than the One who has the words of eternal life? To whom else would we sing our Alleluias? Who else is able to say, “Today you will be in Paradise?”
We are people who live by the will and grace of God, who says to us, “Return to dust.” And again, “Return, O children of man.” We are people whose iniquities sit before God; whose secret sins fall under the spotlight of his presence.
But his word also tells us, “The Lord is our righteousness.” He has transferred us from the dominion of darkness “to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” “All things were created through him and for him.”
While buildings and people smolder, we have no one to turn to, but the one in whom the fullness of God dwells and through him God reconciles all things to himself. Right now that is hard to hold on to, but Alleluia. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Alleluia, Alleluia.