Come Awake!

Christ is risen from the dead. Trampling over death by death Come awake, come awake. Come and rise up from the grave Christ Is Risen – Matt Maher

I want to tell you the most difficult thing for me this past Lent – and no, it hasn’t been giving up candy (if you ask the office staff, I clearly have NOT given up candy). The hardest thing for me has been not using the Paschal Greeting (“Christ Is Risen!”) at the beginning of my sermons. Traditionally during the time of Lent, we remove the “Alleluias” from our worship services and restore them again on Easter. And since we usually end the Paschal Greeting with “Alleluia!” I figured I would remove the greeting from my sermon too. However, every Sunday I have preached in Lent, felt like I didn’t start off on the right foot – I miss “Christ is Risen!”

The Christian musician Matt Maher wrote a wonderful Easter song that includes this Paschal greeting. It’s inspired by a sermon by the third century archbishop, John Chrysostom. To this day, Chrysostom’s sermon is still read aloud every Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Church on Easter morning. (You can read the whole thing online, search for “Hieratikon”). In the sermon Chrysostom says this about death:

It took a body and came upon God! It took earth and encountered Heaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen! O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?

Chrysostom reminds us that God used death to conquer death. Death swallowed up Jesus, but death didn’t encounter just any man – it encountered God. By dying on the cross, Jesus removed the power of death. In rising again on Easter, death was forever put under Jesus’ feet. Because our Savior is alive, we too shall live. This was something only God could do – and He did it for all of us in Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, Death has no power, no sting, and no victory over the Christian.

Maher’s song takes this Easter truth and reminds us that every Sunday is an opportunity for the church to proclaim Easter victory. We are not morose because our Savior died – we are come awake and are jubilant because He lives! While the world might mock religion, or say that God is dead and irrelevant – you and I know the truth. “Our God is not dead, He’s alive, He’s alive!”

And because He lives, we too shall live! I look forward to celebrating this Easter reality with all of you here at Cross Lutheran Church! Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed – alleluia!

O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light. The glory of God has defeated the night. Sing it, o death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light. Our God is not dead, He’s alive, He’s alive Christ Is Risen – Matt Maher

In Christ,

Pastor Matt Conrad

Do you see what God sees?

I see the world differently than I used to. For example, when I look at pictures of smiling children I used to instantly think how well behaved they were.  Now, I know that they were told to smile, encouraged to say cheese, nagged incessantly with noisy toys and crazy facial expressions and, most likely, bribed extensively to produce that smile.  We all want a pretty picture for grandma to hang on the wall and to show all our friends how cute our children are.

The idea that people “look” happy or “look” sad is often very misleading. Sure we can guess correctly sometimes, but the thought of judging a book by its cover is nothing more than a bad idea.  How many famous comedians have we learned were deeply troubled and “no one knew?”  How many times has there been someone you knew that you hated only to find out they “aren’t that bad” after you get to know them?  People surprise us all the time, which is what gives life character, so why do we think it is different when faith is involved?

Right now, take a moment and think of someone or a group of people in need. What did you think of?  Poor? Sick? Homeless? Elderly?  These are all outward realities that don’t truly tell us what is going on in their faith.  Sometimes these people groups are the strongest in faith because they have been relying on God for a long time!  Conversely those we assume are doing well; rich, married, healthy, young(ish) are often times the most hurting.  We assume they are fine because of their outward appearance but inwardly they could be lost.

In a 2005 survey, those age 30-44 were the most likely (35%) to say they had at some time in their life suffered from a significant anxiety disorder. This is more than double (15%) those ages 60+ who were asked the same questions.  More startling is when you realized that those age 60 plus had lived twice as long and had half the issues!!!  Something is happening in our world today and it isn’t good, it needs healing.  In Kendall County in 2011 there were 400 weddings and 399 divorces.

It shouldn’t surprise a believer that the more we omit God and His truth and His plan from our culture, the more challenges we’ll face. What should surprise us is the lack of response by the church to these “healthy” groups.  We continue to focus on the poor, homeless, sick (and rightfully so) but we ignore the people we encounter all the time.  As Jesus once told the Pharisees in a different context “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23.

As we continue to work through Joining Jesus on His Mission we are challenged to see the world differently.  We are encouraged to keep communication lines open with others and talk about real life so that Jesus can be revealed as the healer of all hurts and all people can have true healing in His name.  Won’t you join Jesus, answer His call to be the one who shares the hope we all have in Jesus to anyone who might need it?

His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Cross Missions Update

It is impossible to include everything that is being accomplished by the mission work Cross supports. Please visit the mission bulletin board in the food court and the Cross mission webpage to get more in-depth information on the work of each missionary. Thank you!

Current Events

  • Walter Ramirez was ordained as Pastor Sunday January 24. He was also installed as Pastor to Cross’ mission plant, Iglesia Luterana Cross in Plano. We look to see how God will continue to work through Pastor Walter and the Plano community.
  • Pastor Mark Eisold (Peru) has accepted a call in Naples, Florida.
  • Pastor Stephen Wiesenauer (Asia) has accepted a call to Holland, Michigan.
  • Rev. Torkild Masvie (Norway) was installed as Provisional Bishop for the Lutheran Church in Norway.
  • Given the Pastoral calls to Reverends Eisold and Wiesenauer, we have been in prayer and interviewing replacement missionaries to support. Deaconess/Missionary Caitlin Worden visited Cross worship services January 16-17 to introduce herself. The Mission Committee has chosen Caitlin to be a recipient of our support as a missionary to Peru. We are continuing to review applicants. Please be in prayer with us as we seek God’s choice in this decision.

Mission Trip News

Please keep Andrew Winkelman and the upcoming Guatemala mission trip in prayer. May God lead willing individuals to participate in this trip in October.

Missions Giving

We give thanks for the continued generous support toward Cross’ mission pledges. The holiday giving thus far has been wonderfully generous!

Thanksgiving Offering: $2,897.69

Christmas Offering: $14,870.28

Cross is truly blessed as we now only need to raise $24,526.18 to fulfill our missionary pledges this fiscal year!

Missionary Care Groups

Would your small group/class be interested in the Missionary Care ministry? As a care group, you will act on behalf of Cross keeping in touch with one of our Cross supported international missionaries. Some ways in which you can support/communicate with your missionary: pray regularly, send greeting cards on holidays and birthdays, communicate their special needs to the Mission Committee and represent your missionary at the Missions Fair if they will not be present. If you are interested in this ministry, contact Kay Raavel at 630-973-8532. We thank God for your continued support of Cross missions at home and to the nations!

Cross Mission Committee

Why Lent?

Joining Jesus on His Mission image

Lent is likely derived from the old word for lengthen and seemingly referred to the lengthening or stretching of daylight hours that is occurring now and ushers in Spring on March 20.  In honor of the origin of the word Lenten, I would like to challenge you to participate in something that will stretch our faith during Lent.

Lent is a very specific word that means the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  This year Ash Wednesday is February 10.  These days are set apart for the purpose of self-reflection and examining ourselves against God’s desire for us.  It is traditionally a somber time because, if we are honest, measuring ourselves to God’s standards is a huge disappointment for us.  In fact, many Christians give up or sacrifice something they love to remind them of the sorrow that Jesus had when He sacrificed His life for us.

You can certainly give up something as is the custom for Lent, but would you also consider lengthening your faith, stretching it to a point that is less comfortable and causes you to rely on God? This year in Lent we are reading through the book, Joining Jesus on His Mission.  Everyone connected to Cross is invited and challenged to join us as we join Jesus.  This book will take us on a Biblical adventure that stretches our faith to join Him where He is working rather than asking Him to join us where we are comfortable.

Officially Lent is 40 days long, but it takes up 46 days on the calendar. (Sundays are not traditionally considered a part of Lent because Sunday is a day to celebrate that God has forgiven our sins, not being immersed in sorrow.  Yay Sundays!)  Would you consider reading Joining Jesus on His Mission and see if it doesn’t lengthen your faith, stretching it to the point that you will pray for God’s strength, courage and Holy Spirit?  Would you consider getting together with other believers to do the same?  There is strength in numbers, and Jesus joins us when we gather together in His name!

“Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” – Jesus in Matthew 4:19

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss