Pastor’s Corner

Advent Wreath

Advent is Anticipation

            The end of Thanksgiving means the official buildup toward Christmas has begun.  Christmas songs will be on the radio, stores will lure you in with major sales and favorite Christmas shows will be on the television. The same can be said in the Church.  You will see the big tree is set up and decorated in the worship space, the nativity is set up, and the hallways are decorated.  This season of anticipation and buildup toward Christmas is called Advent. The word advent means “coming.”  Think of the anticipation of a favorite friend or family member coming to visit.

            Most of us begin to get excited for the Christmas season.  We have favorite foods or activities that are traditions or that bring back good memories. During the season of Advent, this same excitement begins to grow as we remember the first time Jesus came to earth.  He came as a baby in a manger and He came to save each and every one of us.  We also remember Jesus has promised to come again; this second coming we anticipate and wait for during this season of Advent.

            We’ve decided to bring these two favorites together this year for worship during our Advent season.  We will be using some classic Christmas stories to tell the story and build the anticipation for the true Christmas.  Through the season of Advent, we will be remembering some of the most famous stories of Christmas; Rudolph, Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and the Polar Express.

          Each of these secular Christmas stories teaches parts of the true Christmas story. In the same way, our lives tell the Story of Christmas each day. Our hope, this Advent season, is that we are all able to see, witness the story and grow in anticipation as it unfolds each day.  Every week, we will explore these fun memorable moments of Christmas.  We will help one another step away from the frantic nature of the season and gain deeper meaning in the stories of our own lives as we prepare the way of the Lord!

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’’” Mark 1:2-3

Pastor’s Corner


Setting Goals, Dreaming Big

What plans do you have for tomorrow? Do you have plans for Thanksgiving or Christmas?  Have you dared to dream about five or ten or more years from now?  Ask someone about their dreams for the future this week.  It is truly fascinating to hear all the different goals and dreams people have!

Since we have recently been dreaming as a congregation about the future of Cross Lutheran Church and School, I have had the pleasure of hearing future goals from many people. Disciples of Christ at Cross have talked with me about new cars, retirement, college, vacation homes, touring the country, taking vacations and so much more.  It has been an honor, and down-right fun, to hear and share so many different ways God is leading His people at Cross.

God loves it when we dream; it means we are looking forward to the future. He loves it even more when we bring our dreams to Him to bless and refine.  How often do you bring your dreams and desires to God?  Are you afraid He will say no?  I think God often gets misunderstood to be a God who squashes dreams and demands we don’t have fun.  The common image of God is heavy piety and self-restraint, but while these remain true, they do not tell the full story.

Jesus loves to celebrate and enjoy the blessings of life. Jesus turned water into wine, Jesus fed thousands of people at once, and Jesus walked on water and spooked His disciples.  God used prophets to taunt those who worshipped idols and describes heaven as a marriage feast (think wedding reception) with the best food and drink we’ve ever had.  God could be very straight laced and legalistic about things, but He isn’t.  God would use teachable moments and dramatic events to inspire and celebrate.

The reason I take my dreams and goals to God, and would encourage you to do the same, is described well in Ephesians 3:20: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  God is capable of accomplishing more than we might ever ask or think!  My dreams are often too small or too narrowly focused.  My vision is frequently limited by my experiences or my perceptions of this world.  God’s vision is not limited, and when we take our dreams to Him, He refines them to be greater than we ever imagined!

Does this refining mean that sometimes our dreams are re-directed? Can that feel like a “no” from God on our dreams?  This can certainly be our perception, but my experience is that when I allow God to refine my vision, it becomes a much greater vision with more clarity and increased impact than it ever was before.  If you’ve never done this, try it; bring your request, your dream, your vision before God, and see what He does with it.  If you think He’s telling you “no,” prayerfully consider this reality, and ask Him what His “yes” is.  His “yes” is always good, and His “no” is always out of love.

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss


Pastor’s Corner

Unlikely Saints

Unlikely Saints “2”

                In light of the recent events in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the Unlikely Saints theme becomes even more meaningful.  Anytime we are reminded of the fragile nature of life in this world, the promises of God become more meaningful.  The promises of God bring extra comfort when we are hurting more than normal.

                Unlikely Saints is a reminder that the lives we live on this earth make an eternal impact.  As we live life each day, it is easy to forget the little things that we do, and, often take for granted, can make an eternal impact.   The faith of those believers, gathered for Sunday morning worship probably did not think they were risking their lives to go to worship services.  But, they were and we are too.

                Our country has, for the most part, been a nation where it is “safe” to be a Christian.  We are free to assemble without persecution.  Churches are still, technically, allowed freedom of speech to teach what the Bible teaches.  Churches, and many church workers, have tax benefits that allow us to do more ministries than we would be able to do if we had to pay higher tax rates.   Because of these factors, and so many more, we convince ourselves that we are “safe” from harm and danger.

                1 Peter 5:8 reminds us we are never safe and we need to always be on guard.   “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The reality of the devil hiding in the weeds, waiting for his moment to attack, should be a poignant reminder to us all.  Evil lurks around every corner, the brokenness of this work, relational strife, financial duress, and weaknesses of the flesh are realities every day.  Each day we are kept safe from these hardships is not a normal day—it is a blessed day!

                We tend not to think about the evil and broken nature of our world (although with technology and news media we are made much more aware).  If we think about it too much, we will live in fear.  God calls us to live in love, not in fear, and, that this is only truly, fully possible in Him.  1 Peter continues on, after warning us about the hardship of evil all around us, to show us how to not only endure hardship, but overcome it.  God will be our source of strength when we suffer, or when others suffer.  In the end, God will be proven victorious and we will be restored!

“Resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him (God) be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:9-11.

Unlikely Saints

All Saints Day

Unlikely Saints

November 1st is a day that has been set aside as a day to remember those of great faith who have been a blessing to us.  We call it All Saints’ Day, and we especially remember those that have died in the faith and the legacy they have left behind.  How good must you be to be called a saint?

A Christian is no more perfect than any other person. We, too, are filled with sin and failures, weaknesses and struggles.  The difference is a Christian acknowledges these sins fully and receives forgiveness for them.  Christ paid the price for our sins, He received the punishment we received and so we are called Saints!  Fully forgiven people without the stain of sin!

Followers of Christ are, at the same time, fully sinners and fully saints. God does not require any action on our part to be deemed a saint, it only requires forgiveness earned and given to us from Christ.

The reality of being both sinner and saint isn’t easy to grasp. In fact, more often than not we lean too far one way or the other.  One day, I might think I am not good enough to serve God or be loved by Him.  Another day I might be so excited about what Jesus has done, I think I am better than someone else.  This challenge is real, and we are not alone.

Generation after generation, normal people, like you and me, are called to rest firmly in God’s grace. We are called to celebrate our forgiveness and find joy in our failures.  We are called to live our faith in such an authentic way that it inspires others around us, just like someone living their faith inspired us! We are called by God to be the most Unlikely Saints.

You may not think you are the one up for being such a role model. You may think your past is too great to overcome.  I assure you, these things only make you MORE qualified.  The more we lean on Christ’s forgiveness, the more He shines through.  The more we point to Him, the greater example we are to those who are furthest from Him.  If you could be a Saint, live like a Saint, forgive like a Saint without God’s power, you wouldn’t need God.

Let’s celebrate the blessings of God’s faithful people who have passed down the faith to us. Together we will “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24).  And, in the end, we will be the most unlikely of Saints together!  Others will know the most unlikely gift of God’s unconditional love through us.