November 7, 2017, by Dr. Phil Christopher
A Pastoral Word in a Time of Such Heartbreak…
We would be heart-broken over wherever the shooting on Sunday happened. But in a church? We have grieved over the precious lives lost in Las Vegas. They were enjoying life and the gift of music. We have grieved over those in New York City who were bicycling on a beautiful October day. Our hearts are heavy with those acts of senseless violence and the ways that people’s lives have been shattered.
I am so, so sad…beyond words, about what happened in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX. My sadness does not minimize the heartache over the recent acts of evil. Whether in a sanctuary of worship, a country western concert, or a bicycle trail when a truck becomes a weapon, we hurt the same for all of the victims and families of violence.
What got me Sunday was seeing that little white framed church with an attendance of fifty. I thought, those people didn’t show up on Sunday to be entertained or dazzled to get their needs met; they came for worship and the deep sense of community that comes in being church, especially in a small town. I saw a picture of the church’s sign that advertised the “Fall Festival” on October 31 – like we promote in our parking lot. I thought of this church trying to reach and love children and families. I thought of all the small churches that incarnate the truest sense of church.
I used to preach in churches like Sutherland Springs when I was a seminary student in Kentucky. I thought of those small churches that often are doing as much for the gospel, as they care for people, than mega churches. Those small churches were filled with “salt of the earth” believers who were in worship not because they had to be there, but because they wanted to be. They were there to praise and serve the Lord.
I thought of the pastor, Frank Pomeroy, whose daughter, Annabelle Renee Pomeroy was one of the victims. It is hard and demanding to pastor a small church. I often think I am not worthy to untie the sandals of those pastors of small churches who serve in obscurity, yet so faithfully. Now he must pastor his church, and even a community, as he deals with his own grief.
I would never speak for Pastor Pomeroy. I don’t have the answers. I am suspicious of those who think they do. Yet, in the midst of the anger, the questions about a loving God, and deep grief, I wanted to offer a word of hope in this darkness.
Let us keep being the church of Jesus Christ, a counter-culture community to the ways and politics of the world. Let us be Jesus people who love our “enemies.” In such deep hurt, we are tempted to lash out in vengeance. Let us stop listening to the anger on cable news or social media and start listening to God’s Word in the Bible. We can naturally feel so vulnerable for what happened in a church. Yet, let us not live by fear. Let us keep trusting in this world of trouble that in Jesus Christ, God will have the “Last Word.” Let the mind and attitude of Christ be so much a part of how we think we live out the promise – love will conquer hate. We can easily doubt that love is stronger than hate, but just look to the cross and what God can do in the darkest night. Never forget, we are Easter people of hope….
One other word: Later this week, we will share with our membership the steps we have taken over the last several years to provide security and a safe environment on the church campus.