Lord, to whom shall I go?
by Kathye Hamm
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
I get to visit churches in our synod three Sundays a month. I usually preach or preside, but sometimes I sit in the pews – whatever the local pastor would like for me to do! (If you’d like for me to visit your church – please let me know!)
Two weeks ago, I had a “free Sunday”, so I decided to attend mass at our local Roman Catholic Church. My friend had just lost her husband, and they worshipped there every Sunday. I wanted to go and pray for Kim and her two boys in that holy space. Both her boys had been friends with Hannah and Kristian back in Middle School.
When I came into the sanctuary, the stained-glass windows and high, painted ceilings took my breath away! I saw my friend Elizabeth who motioned me over to sit with her and her son, Gabriel. She and I are hiking buddies, along with my black lab Sofia and her little terrier – Stefan Furry. I’d heard so much about Gabriel, it was good to meet him! Her wife was working, so it was just us three in the pew.
The hymns and liturgy were all so familiar – it felt comfortable for me. I leaned over and asked Elizabeth if we were going to hear the organ. She explained that it’s just the keyboard and lead singer for this service. I’ll be honest – I was disappointed. The organ would have sounded divine in that space!
As the priest walked over to the pulpit, I wondered if he was going to speak about the clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania which was all over the news. He began to preach on the Holy Gospel where Jesus questions the disciples about whether they were going to stick with him or high tail it out of there like so many others. Peter answers, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The priest then told us that the Archbishop was calling upon the priests to address the pain of the church right now. Then that priest did a very courageous thing: he shared how he himself had experienced abuse by clergy when he was a young man in seminary. Many times, he considered whether he wanted to become a priest or even remain in the church. Peter’s words became his own: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.”
He said that one of the most important missions in the church is to care for the safety of the children. When he was done with his homily, he sat down and put his head in his hands for a while. You could have heard a pin drop in that sanctuary of some 200 parishioners. Many of us were taking our glasses off and dabbing at our eyes – myself included.
Then he stood up and we followed, and he began reciting the Apostles’ Creed. We all joined in: “I believe in God . . . “
After mass, out on the veranda with coffee cups in our hands, I stood around with a group of people who I know from my neighborhood. They spoke of their anger, pain and how they were grateful that the priest had addressed the issue.
I told them I was holding their church in my prayers. They are all aware that I am a Lutheran pastor. I also said that our own church has experienced and suffered from pastors and leaders who have betrayed the trust of children and adults.
May God grant our church wisdom, courage and strength for the necessary work of keeping our children safe from harm in our churches.
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
In Christ’s Love,
May 14, 2019