Pastor’s Corner


Loving Sacrifice

Over the past year or two I have thought a lot more about sacrifice than I used to. I can’t honestly explain why this is the case.  It might be that I have children who are getting older and need more resources (time, energy, money, etc.) than ever before.  It could be that I have been working closely with more missionaries around the globe.  It could be I have been working with the Capital Campaign committee. It could be I am reaching an age when you start to think about the choices you make and the impact you are having.  Regardless of the reasons, sacrifice has been on my mind a lot lately.

As we walk through 1 John in this post-Easter season, we arrive at chapter 3 where the author digs deep into the word “love” and quickly arrives at the word “sacrifice.” “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16.  As I have wrestled with the word “sacrifice” I so often end up thinking and feeling obligation.  What I mean by this is as a person of faith I feel obligated or required to sacrifice in an effort to fulfill my responsibilities.  This mindset greatly restricts and can frequently harm what God is trying to do in me and through me.

2 Corinthians 9 says “God loves a cheerful giver.” If I am giving out of obligation or responsibility, I am seldom cheerful.  If I am giving out of guilt, I usually give the least amount I can give to get rid of the guilty feeling; if I don’t feel obligation, I might not give at all.  If my motivation is obligation, even thinking about helping can feel like a sacrifice.  If I live in love, everything changes.

When I live in love, the amount of time, money or effort seems inconsequential. When I live in love, I will go far beyond whatever is required and not even think about it.  When I am living in love, I work to figure out how to give more than I think I can, and I do it with great joy and energy.  When I live in love, the sacrificial gifts are seen by others well before they are ever felt by me.

As a community of believers at Cross, I am so proud (if I am allowed to be proud) at our gifting and mission mindedness. I believe we look outward and serve others more than many other churches and faith communities.  But we are far from where we could be.  When we live in love – love for the people lost around us, we start to give more.  This giving, even sacrificing, comes from a desire to help others who don’t know Christ or don’t have salvation to know Christ and have eternal life.  When we have love and compassion for others, we recognize we have way more to offer than we ever imagined possible.

How do we grow love instead of growing guilt or obligation? Well, it isn’t easy.  I think this is why we are so often bombarded with calls to obligation or responsibility.  Making someone feel guilty is the easiest way to get them to give you what you want.  But when we love others and that love grows in return, we care, give and help often without needing to ask or be asked.  When we give in love, many of our needs go away because we have fulfillment.

The devil and our flesh try to convince us that obligation leads to giving which leads to emptiness. God reminds us that love leads to sacrifice which leads to fulfillment.  Are you going to fear emptiness or lead a life of love?  Perfect love drives out fear; God’s perfect love for us reminds us we have nothing to fear.  God’s love for the world grows love inside us.  This is how we know love – that we sacrifice so others can know love, too.



Pastor’s Corner

Title Slide

Called:  1 John

Christians are by definition the people of the resurrected Christ. This truth reaches its pinnacle on Easter Sunday.  We celebrate the power of God made known to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!  But here, now, after Easter the question becomes “What does that resurrection mean for me?”  What does it look like to live as a person of the resurrection?  What impact does this truth have in my everyday live?

The answer to these questions has been addressed by theologians and scholars for millennia. The problem is someone else’s answers to these questions easily become new rules for us.  In 1 John we are called to be who God has made us to be.  I like the word “called” because it inspires but does not demand; it instructs but does not threaten.

God calls us to recognize not only who He is but also what He has done for us. In our worship of God we both admire Him because He deserves it but also thank Him for the gifts He gives to us.  When we are truly thankful for the gifts we have received, we want to use them to do good or share them with others so they can have them, too.  But we don’t always feel like sharing.

When we are tempted to be selfish and keep the gifts for ourselves, when we are blind and believe we have earned all we have, when we look down on others for the challenges they face, God calls us to see the truth. God calls us, enlightens us to be continuously transformed from people bound by the flesh into people free in the Holy Spirit.  Living in freedom is not easy in a world that wants to imprison you with jealousy or insecurity or some other inadequacy.

As people of God we are called out of the darkness and into the light. We are called to remember we are His children.  We are called to forgive and receive forgiveness.  We are called to love because He first loved us.  These things cannot be accomplished by our will and strength but by His strength gifted to us.  Join us for the next seven weeks as we hear His call and respond in faith.




Pastor’s Corner


Welcome to the Team!

 It has been an eventful Lenten season around Cross (like it always is). This year, our multi-talented Youth Minister/Technical Coordinator/ Worship Leader David Thanepohn left to work at Chick-fil-A in Peoria, IL. These shoes are not easy to fill and yet needed to be filled rapidly. We are very pleased to have two Committed Disciples who are willing to step up and serve on a part-time basis. It is my pleasure to introduce them to you now!

Grant Riehle-Moeller will be serving as our interim Youth Minister. Grant was born into the family of faith at Cross in 1996. He attended school at Cross, from preschool through 8th grade, graduating in 2010. He then went on to attend Newark Community High School. During his time at NCHS, he played basketball and took a leadership role for various teams and school clubs. Following his graduation from high school in 2014, Grant attended and played basketball at Lincoln Christian University. Grant began to realize college wasn’t the place for him and prayerfully decided to leave after one year. He promptly started his first company, works in graphic arts, signed a contract to publish his first book, and began a speaking career.

Grant is new to the staff but has worked and volunteered in various areas at Cross. Grant was on the team that created and wrote the “Living N’ Active” discipleship material for Cross, served on staff at Caring Hands Thrift Store and currently serves on the Capital Campaign house visit team. Outside of Cross, Grant works with Yorkville Christian High School in various roles with their students that include mentoring, coaching, and teaching. He also works with “Help. Sorry. Love, NFP,” an organization created to assist individuals and organizations to lead better lives emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Ryan Schmeckpeper will serve as our Interim Worship Tech Assistant. Ryan is the husband of our pre-school teacher, Cathy Schmeckpeper. They were married in 1998 and moved to Yorkville in 2001. Ryan and Cathy built their first home in Yorkville with Ryan serving as the General Contractor and doing much of the work himself. After 18 years as a firefighter, Ryan retired. He loves to do custom woodworking, making items such as display cases, fish tank cabinets and fireplace mantles. Ryan and Cathy have three children– Jack 14, Logan 10 and Max 8. As a family, they love to camp and travel.

Please help me in welcoming these two new members to our ministry team as well as thanking God for their immediate skillset and availability! The interim titles will be for a few months while we evaluate the staffing needs and our budget to determine the longer term solution. Our Governing Board has also agreed to form a search committee for a possible called staff position. Please pray for these two men, as well as their families, and for our congregation that we would be able to discern how God is leading us during this time of transition.



Pastor’s Corner

Easter He Is Risen


Happy Easter! This special greeting is loaded with meaning.   With these two simple words, our whole past, present and future is filled with hope and power.  What else is there really to say?  How about “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”?

It seems redundant to a child of God to say “Christ is Risen!”   After all, that is what is meant by Happy Easter.  Without a resurrection there would be no Easter.   Let’s not be short sighted.  In the community around us, fewer people know what Easter means.  According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, only 55% of college graduates say they believe in God with absolute certainty.  That isn’t just the Christian God; that is all gods. The number of people that celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as their own on Easter is probably less than half.

What are we to do about this? I think the greatest thing we can do about this is to simply be clear about why we are celebrating. For us, this isn’t about Spring starting or baskets or special worship services or family get-togethers.  Well, it is about all that, but it is also more than that. The reason we celebrate all this at Easter is because Christ is Risen, our sins are forgiven and we are free.

This Easter we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We will celebrate with music and food and worship and presents.  This Easter, we are excited about what it all means for our everyday lives as well as our eternal reality. This Easter, let’s also remember the number of people around us that are far from God or don’t realize the resurrection of Jesus was for them, too.  This Easter let’s open our eyes, our minds and our hearts like Christ did and bring His love to the whole world.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Alleluia, I have been made new! Alleluia, this message is for the whole world!

He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Pastor’s Corner


Palm Sunday and Holy Week

Another Easter is almost here! We celebrate Easter every Sunday when we declare God’s forgiveness for us and when we sing His praise for giving us the victory over death.  How do we make sure that Easter Sunday remains a special celebration and not just “another week”?  I recommend coming to the Holy Week services.

Palm Sunday reminds us of the amazing celebration that took place when Jesus entered into Jerusalem.  His reputation for teaching the truth about God, His power over demons and His miraculous healings all preceded Him.  The Jewish people were excited to receive Him as their King and Deliverer.

On Maundy Thursday Jesus is celebrating the sacred Passover meal with His disciples. He remembers and celebrates the deliverance God gave the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Holy Land.  This is the meal where Jesus institutes Holy Communion.  The service ends as we strip (clear) the altar.  We remember the betrayal of His disciple.

Good Friday is dark and reflective. We ponder the death of Jesus just days after He was celebrated on Palm Sunday.  This service reads through the passion or suffering of Jesus as He approaches, hangs and then dies on the cross.  Throughout the service it gets darker until only the light of the single flame on the Christ candle remains.  This candle is carried out for a few moments while the tomb is sealed and the world is in darkness.  At the very end the candle is returned to remind us of the hope that will come on Easter morning.

Then Saturday night and Sunday morning the worship spaces are filled with flowers, light, joy and music, declaring the victory and resurrection we celebrate again! Come, join us on the journey and declare Jesus as your King, Leader through life and Conqueror of death!

Remember, this year for the first time in a long time we will have the opportunity to participate in a sunrise service. Lord of Life Lutheran Church will be hosting this service here at Cross with Pastor Sampson.  The service will begin in darkness with the presentation of the Pascal candle which eventually fills the room with light as we celebrate the empty tomb!

What a story! What a week!  Please take it all in as this week is why we have hope and joy in every circumstance.


Pastor’s Corner

His Story Our Story

Story Time

Everybody loves a good story. Some like true stories, others love fables; some prefer funny stories; others, horror stories.  Stories are told in books or by a storyteller; movies and pictures tell a story, as well as music and poetry.  People love to listen to a good story, and a person who tells good stories will get many people listening!

Jesus used stories to communicate His message of love and forgiveness. Jesus would use real life situations as well as stories that may not have occurred but were used to illustrate a truth.  The authors of the Bible used a combination of informational fact sharing along with storytelling to paint a fuller and more complete picture of who God is and how God works in our lives.

I am sharing all these truths about stories in order to encourage two things. The first is to talk about your own life and faith journey in story form.  This may not be very easy for you at first.  The pressure of trying to find a “good” story might cause you to blank.  Take a deep breath; relax.  Think about different events in your life.  Think about happy times and sad times, favorite vacations, a friend’s betrayal, marriage, divorce, graduation, a failed test.  Think about how your faith, church or Christian family or friends played a role or didn’t play a role.  Think about the results that had an impact or didn’t have one on your faith.

Telling a story can be intimidating, especially when our standard for story telling is Jesus or famous book and film writers. But we aren’t looking for a two hour blockbuster, the next literary classic or even a story whose truth will endure for hundreds of generations.  No, all we need are a couple two minute highlight clips of your life, and the impact only needs to be a handful of people close to you.  The amazing thing about life is we all have experiences and realizations that are meaningful to our own life and faith formation.  Some of these are positive stories, some are horror stories, some are funny stories, and some are sad stories.  But each of these stories has already made an impact on your life and therefore is poised to make an impact on another person’s life.

I want to personally invite you to take some time this week and think about these stories in your life. Think about the situations and circumstances that impacted you and get ready to tell those stories when the opportunity presents itself. You might be surprised how your greatest successes and greatest failures can be used by God to inspire someone else!

Second, I want to encourage you to listen again to the powerful story of Jesus’ love. Holy Week is fast approaching, and this week has the most intense stories of God’s love for us.  This week of stories goes from happy to horror and back again multiple times.  The joy of victory and the agony of defeat, the plot twists and turns, and the most heroic of actions all take place, and for what?  For you.  The end game of all these events had one single purpose:  to reveal to you and me how high, wide, long and deep is the love of God.

Starting with Palm Sunday and all the way through Easter there will be multiple styles and times, various emphases and traditions upheld to help convey these powerful truths. Plan now and set aside time during this most powerful of weeks to journey with Jesus and His disciples.  Follow from the jubilation of Palm Sunday through the awe and joyful disbelief of the resurrection of our Savior.  Relive these stories that played out for you and for all people everywhere.  Let the successes and failures inspire your faith in all circumstances that your story would reflect and retell His story so all people would hear of His great love.


Pastor’s Corner


Lutheran Schools Week

Every year, we set aside one special week to celebrate and thank God for the ability and blessing to offer a Christian education. We also celebrate Lutheran Schools Week because it reminds us that we are not alone in this effort, but are part of something bigger than ourselves.  Around the country, there are more than 200,000 students enrolled in a Lutheran education ministry.  These 200,000 students will become the next generation of parents and workers in nearly every occupation and industry.

Christian Schools have historically been a place where predominantly Christian families would choose to educate their children so the teachings of the faith could be shared alongside other classroom learning. These schools could also be run efficiently and reflect the values of the church they were a part of.  It wasn’t uncommon for non-believers to attend these schools because of the high quality of education and the moral character of the environment.  It is in these classrooms that families might hear about Christ for the first time and come to be believers through the ministry of the teachers and the Christian families.

Now, with the costs of education increasing and the unique needs of technology and other advancements, it has been difficult for many Christian schools to “keep up” with the public schools around them. In spite of these challenges, Christian education is still valued by believers and non-believers alike.  Why?  Recent research would suggest it is for safety.  In a changing and “scary” world, both due to violence and radical policies of some school districts, families seek out the safety that is offered in the Christian school environment.  In that search for safety, our teachers and families are able to share the only true safety we have is when we rest in the arms of our Savior.

In a world that is ever changing, we must adapt and change as well, but we also must remain firm; firm in the truths that our Lord provides. This truth has the ability to be a stable stronghold and provide refuge in the storms of life.   Whenever there is fear or heartache; wherever there is a child to be mentored into adulthood; whenever love is needed to conquer the pains in life; our Lutheran Schools are equipped to provide the love and Good News of Jesus Christ.  AND, to train up future leaders in our communities and world.  What a true blessing and gift.

Will you please join in prayers and celebration for the opportunities given in and through Lutheran Schools. Lift up prayers for teachers and principals and students and families–may we grow in Faith Together.  Ask God to grow a Love for Neighbor in all who are reached through this valuable ministry.  Finally, ask God that faith to Walk with God would be given to countless peoples through the impact of Lutheran Schools and those who attended them!