Pastor’s last sermon before mass shooting taught parishioners how to trust God

November 6th, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | Managing Editor / comments

Pastor’s last sermon before mass shooting taught parishioners how to trust God

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS—The Sunday before a gunman opened fire Nov. 5 at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the service opened with a traditional song that seemed unfamiliar to many of those present, including Pastor Frank Pomeroy.

The music and lyrics for “Happiness is the Lord” were composed over a century ago by Fort Worth pastor Ira F. Stanphill. Little did the several dozen believers assembled realize that references to “teardrops” and “Heaven” would prove relevant a week later.

“Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start;

I’ve found the secret - it’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven, living a life that’s worth the livin’

Taking a trip that leads to Heaven, happiness is the Lord.”

“Happiness is knowing the Lord,” Pomeroy told his flock Oct. 29, welcoming many for the last time before a lone gunman opened fire Nov. 5, killing 26 people, among them Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter. Both Pomeroy and his wife were traveling the morning of the largest mass shooting in a house of worship.

Basing his Oct. 29 sermon on Proverbs 3:5-6, Pomeroy, a motorcycle enthusiast, had parked a gleaming Harley Davidson in front of the pulpit, and then showed a quick video clip on championship motorcycle riding techniques to introduce his point.

Emphasizing the “do not” portion of the “do not lean on your own understanding” passage, Pomoroy said, “God’s understanding is far greater.

“There may be things going on that you don’t understand, but you still need to do what God is calling you to do.” Many times in life, we “try to take over” rather than “waiting to see how God’s going to work it out,” Pomeroy added, linking his sermon topic to the Harley and video by comparing trusting God to leaning into a curve on a motorcycle.

“Leaning into God is the way we should go, even if it does not make sense, like leaning into a turn.”

Pomeroy described how his daughter enjoyed riding with him as she had done that frigid morning, perched behind her dad on the way to church, albeit a little “nervous” as they negotiated turns.  

To stay safe on a motorcycle, one must do the unnatural, he said, by leaning down into a turn and accelerating out of it. “At first it feels like you are falling,” he admitted.

The laws of physics and invisible centrifugal force give the rider control when he leans into the turn, even if only “two patches” of a tire remain on the road at high speed, Pomeroy said. These forces work even when we do not understand, he added, making it “best to trust the forces [we] cannot see.”

A motorcyclist leaning into a curve who looks down at the road will become dizzy and disoriented, the pastor said, warning of the tendency to focus on immediate circumstances. “You want to look beyond,” he said.

The focus must be on the “race that is set before us,” Pomeroy urged, alluding to the Apostle Paul. “When we see only the road around us, we don’t see where we’re going. When we focus on our own understanding, when we focus on what we know rather than focusing on the Lord and what he knows, we’re going to crash.”

If we choose to live in the moment, we risk making poor decisions that have negative consequences. Even as we navigate the “valley of the shadow of death,” we must not “focus on the valley but look through it,” Pomeroy said. “Our goal is what God has in store for us out there, not the valley.”

“When we trust Christ, there are going to be things we don’t understand,” he continued, describing miracles such as Jonah and the whale and the virgin birth as beyond man’s comprehension. “I can’t tell you how God can do those things, but I can tell you he did.”

Quoting John 14:2b-3 (NASB), he reminded those present that Jesus had promised, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

A heavenly home must be our goal. “That moment could be right now,” Pomeroy said, encouraging his congregation to live for Jesus and offering an invitation to trust Christ.

“If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the great thing is that he said if you will believe in me, if you will put your faith in me, that I am the Son of God, that I rose again on the third day. Confess that with your mouth, believe that in your heart, and you shall be saved,” the pastor urged, likening the first step of salvation as a prerequisite to riding the “bike” that is the Christian life.

As he preached what would be his last sermon to many of those who were gathered, Pomeroy told the congregation, “Here’s what I want you to think about for the rest of the week and the rest of your life.”

For 26 members of his flock, those were one and the same.

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