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!

Pastor’s Corner

David and Jenny

Farewell and God Bless!

This Sunday, March 4th, will be the final time David Thanepohn will be leading our congregation worship services.  He and his wife Jenny are moving to Peoria and David will be working full time as a Director at Chick-Fil-A.  Jenny will start at Starbucks and they will both continue to follow where the Lord leads them.

 I would like to personally invite you to attend services this Sunday or next and thank David and Jenny for their ministry here at Cross.  David grew up in our congregation, attended the school and youth ministry programs.  David served as a volunteer until he came on staff full time in the fall of 2014!   Jenny has served in various ways behind the scenes, has been a huge support to David and was a leader in the youth ministry herself since their marriage in 2015.

We are planning a number of opportunities for the congregation to send these two off in a meaningful way.  As, I mentioned, this Sunday is David’s final Sunday as a worship leader.  Next weekend, we will be hosting a reception for David and Jenny between the services on Sunday morning.   Please stop by the Fellowship Hall to see them.  If you would like to give them a card, you can drop it by the office or bring it to the reception.  The High School Youth will have their own farewell on a Wednesday night.

Please keep David and Jenny in your prayers as well as the many youth and their families who have been touched through their ministry here.  David and Jenny are taking a leap of faith and following God where they have prayerfully determined Him to be leading.  This is a tremendous example to us all.  Sometimes, oftentimes, God leads us out of our comfort zone so we recognize He is leading our lives and not ourselves.  When we are faithful to follow, God does immeasurably more than we ever thought possible.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21