Pastor’s Corner


Stone or Stumbling Block

To experience the terrain in Israel is to bring the Bible to life, or so I’ve been told.  Numerous people who have gone to visit the Holy Land have come back to tell me how surprised they were at the terrain.  I can’t disagree.  The first time someone shared with me how rocky the terrain was I had to look it up myself to believe them.

When I think of the land where Jesus walked, I imagine “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  In my mind I know there are a desert and a wilderness, but I have these regions off to the side.  The primary image I see is “green pastures,” a river, a sea that brings life to everything around it, and let’s not forget the grapevines and olive trees.  There is only one problem; none of these are the prominent feature of Israel.  The prominent feature is rocky ground.

Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain range that runs north and south through the country.  The mountains aren’t full of trees or pastures like the Smoky or Appalachian ranges.  Instead they are closer in features to the Rocky Mountains but certainly not as high!  The greatest indicator of just how rocky the land is where Jesus walked is how often the word is used in teaching.  The word stone or rock appears over three hundred times in the Bible!  This is more often than the word grass or pasture or stream or river.  Throughout the Bible rocks and stones are used as an illustration over and over and over.  Who would have thought there is so much to learn from a hardened piece of earth?

Stones are used to build temples and altars for worship to God.  Stumbling blocks are frequent reminders of the sin and temptations of the devil.  Jesus is tempted to turn stones into food as He fasted in the desert.  Wise men build their house upon a rock; Jesus built His Church upon the rock (Peter).  Jesus is the rock of salvation and the chief cornerstone on which all things are built.  Distance is measured by a stone’s throw and even the stones cry out and worship God in all His glory; and we’ve only just begun!

In Illinois and Michigan there aren’t many rocks and the ones that do exist are typically nuisances to farmers or homeowners (unless you like paver patios!).  But in Israel in Jesus’ day, most buildings and roads were built out of rocks cut from the earth; rocks were everywhere.  The reality that I didn’t use to relate to many of the illustrations in the Bible wasn’t the Bible’s fault; it was my own.  But now, the images of Jesus’ parables, the surroundings of His life and the many people of faith written in Scripture come to life as I imagine the rocky terrain where they once walked and lived and worshipped.

Don’t let what you don’t know be a stumbling block to your faith.  This Lent take some time and look up pictures to get a better idea of things described in the Bible or research a passage you don’t quite understand.  Whatever it is you might be surprised how rich and impactful the Word of God becomes.  Leave no stone unturned as you seek God and hunger for His Word.

 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”  Psalm 95:1


Pastor’s Corner

Golden Retriever with Overflowing Bowl

Pray without Ceasing

The Gauss household is blessed with a very persistent dog.  She persistently informs you she would like to go outside, come inside, go for a walk, and be petted.  But one of her greatest skills is persistently telling us it is time to feed her.  With five people and one persistent pup, you can imagine that on occasion she ends up getting fed more frequently than she ought.

While I personally get frustrated with her incessant asking, I am usually truly inspired.  She will ask, get fed, eat, then immediately ask again.  She will ask with such enthusiasm it will cause you to question your own memory of what just transpired.  I have to admit I can’t believe her courage in asking for a gift over and over, but I also must admit, sometimes her persistence pays off.

God Himself actually tells us we should be more like my dog!  In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable about a persistent widow who managed to get her request from an unjust judge.  Jesus reminds us that we have a loving Father who will certainly hear and answer our prayers as well.  In 1 Thessalonians 5 we are instructed to “Be joyful always, pray without ceasing… for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”!

Over and over and over again God invites, encourages and demands that we pray, petition and present our requests to Him (Philippians 4:6).  Over and over and over again I forget He wants to hear from me, about everything, all the time.  I don’t NEED to; it certainly isn’t a law from God, but why wouldn’t I?  Just like my dog asks every time she is hungry, we should ask every time we have worry, need, fear and joy, anxiety, anger and thankfulness.  God doesn’t get tired of hearing from us or annoyed by our persistent whining.  No, He cherishes every communication from His beloved children and He answers EVERY prayer.

Hebrews 4:16:  “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  This season of Lent is about remembering and recalibrating our lives around what God has done.  Increase your persistent communication with God and see if God doesn’t pour out even more blessing and more peace.  It seems to work in my house!

Pastor’s Corner


Lutheran Schools Week

The Lutheran Church has long considered education a critical part of faith formation.  Whether the motivation was teaching a new immigrant population in their native tongue, increasing education quality in a poor community, or giving children a Christ centered nurturing environment while their parents are at work, our Lutheran school system has helped families for centuries.

The Lutheran school system, unlike some Christian schools, is not solely for the promotion of our church doctrine.  Our nine colleges and universities have been on the forefront of education and leadership so that students who attend will be an asset to any career they choose.  In recent decades, our colleges and universities have created graduate school programs in areas like law, pharmacy and more than 160 undergraduate and 50 graduate programs.  Students who attend these programs experience a Christian environment and are challenged to consider the role faith has in their future vocation.

At Cross, like many churches, we have a long, 137 year legacy of church and school working together to help families grow in faith and knowledge.  When faith and knowledge come together around God’s truth, wisdom is produced.  This wisdom allows the Kingdom and will of God to positively affect every area of life and every corner of the world.  This week we lift up in prayer the many families, workers and sacrifices that are made to provide not only a loving Christian environment but also excellence in education for future Kingdom impact.

Our graduates go on to be top scholars and athletes at the high schools and colleges they choose.  Some continue on in church work and in faithfulness over their own families.  One of the greatest accomplishments I see is that our students are often times instant leaders in their new schools because of the support and development they have received from the body of Christ working together.

Lutheran Schools Week is now in the proverbial rearview mirror, but the legacy that is created will last long into the future.  Please continue in prayerful support for our principal, faculty and staff, along with the nearly 300 children and their families who are currently part of Cross Lutheran School.  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6 

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner


Principal Search Updates

A lot has happened in the past several weeks regarding the principal search.  After much prayer and consideration with much of our leadership, the Call/Search committee opted not to put any name forward from our first round of interviews.  We did not anticipate this result but have reached amazing unity around this decision.  We do want to thank and encourage all our candidates, but especially Jessica Gade and Zach Weber whose families remain an important part of the family of faith at Cross.

The search for a servant leader isn’t about any one thing; it is about God’s direction and timing being revealed through prayerful consideration of the congregation, its leadership, and the candidates.  We are certain God will reveal His will and His timing as we faithfully and prayerfully seek His will.

The committee has been hard at work identifying additional candidates.  Below is our current short list, some of whom will begin the first round of interviews as early as next week.  Please pray over these candidates and give us any feedback or insights you may have.  Also be mindful that we are always open to any new names God might make known throughout the process.

Bob Burgess – Principal, St. Paul, Ann Arbor, MI.  He completed his MA in Administrative Leadership in 2002 at Saginaw Valley State University.

Harmon Butler – Most recently served as Principal at Baton Rouge Lutheran in Baton Rouge, LA.  He completed his MA in Educational Leadership in 2012 at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN.

Andy DeWitt – Principal at Trinity Lutheran School in Burr Ridge, IL.  He completed his MA in Administration at Concordia University Chicago in 2017.

Christina Heiss – Principal at Zion, Seymour, IN.  She completed her MA in Elementary Administration in 2009 at Concordia University in Seward, NE.

Steve Hicks – Special education instructor at Plainfield Academy Middle School.  He completed his MA in Special Education in 2013 and his MA in Educational Leadership in 2018 at the University of St. Francis.

Lacey Hoogland – Principal at Black Hills Lutheran in Rapid City, SD.  She completed her MA in Educational Administration at the University of South Dakota in 2011.

Shellie Kosmerchock – Principal, St. John’s, Defiance, OH.  She completed her MA in Education in 2005 at Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI.

Dan Masters – Assistant Director of the Nebraska School Activities Association in Lincoln, NE.  He earned his Lutheran Teachers Diploma in 2005 from Concordia University in Seward, NE and his MA in Educational Administration in 2012 from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE.

Joel Rachow – Principal at St. Paul, Lapeer, MI.  He completed his MA in Educational Leadership in 2003 at Saginaw Valley State University.

As you can see, God has truly blessed us with great candidates all along and with lots of work to do.  Please continue to pray for God’s leadership and discernment throughout this process.

Almost Home

We are currently sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to board our final flight home. We have been blessed with smooth travels once again. Thank you to all of you for your prayers and support. I think it is safe to say that we have all had a life changing experience. Please ask us about it. We would be happy tell you. Maybe just wait until we have had a chance to catch up on our sleep a little bit.


Final Day in Guatemala

We woke up this morning to a breakfast of egg sandwiches that surpass those you can purchase at McDonald’s. We then headed upstairs for devotions led by Julian. After devotions our team headed to some Mayan Ruins and had lovely tour led by Sandra. We got to see what a Mayan city would’ve looked like and even got to see some Mayan people praying and worshiping their gods.

After that we came back and helped Oscar by counting fruit beads and cutting out some ovals.

Then we had a delicious lunch that included leftovers and grilled hot dogs.

After lunch we spent some time counting out vitamins that the missionaries will pass out to the kids who come to the faith lessons.

We (Kate and Cara) went with Carlos and listened to his youth lesson while the rest of our team did a faith lesson with the children. There were only a few kids there and Carlos translated parts of his lesson so we knew what was going on and even had us each read a Bible verse in Spanish.

The kids in the faith lesson got to go to the park and Miss Lopez got to meet Julian’s son, Little Julian who she is sponsoring.

After all the lessons were done, we shared some pictures with the misssonaries and took pictures with them as well. Then, my mom and I (Cara) cut out some foam circles for Oscar.

Then, it was time for the Guatemalan missionaries to go home so we all said goodbye. We then had some pizza and soda for dinner and after that we went upstairs and had a reflection time with Kevin and Ginny.

Then we finished packing up and got ready for bed. Then, as per usual, we (Kate and Cara) made some flavorful popcorn to snack on while writing this.

It is a bittersweet day because we are eagerly awaiting our return to the United States, but we know we will miss the people here and getting to go out and meet people and sharing the love of God with others.

~Cara and Kate


Pastor’s Corner


Knowing God Personally

Have you ever been in the middle of a crowd and felt completely alone?  Maybe you started at a new job or a new school where you didn’t know anybody.  One vivid memory of this experience for me was my freshman year at college.  There were 30,000 students and I lived in the same building with 1,300 other people, but was very much “alone” since my roommate was assigned randomly as were the rest of the people on my floor.  Maybe you felt this when you first came to Cross.  When I first arrived, no one wanted to let me in the building because I was a stranger who showed up on a school day!

The opposite situation is equally as fascinating to me.  Have you ever been in a crowd of complete strangers and felt completely at home?  This is an experience I have when I am blessed to go back to my college campus now.  I don’t know anyone there and yet I feel amazingly close to all the students navigating the campus and fans in the stadium.

This week we wrap up the Explore God series by asking the question about knowing God personally, which isn’t exactly the same as feeling close, but it is very similar.  Feeling close is largely based on an individual’s perspective.  You can feel close to someone who really doesn’t like you, and you can feel distant from someone who loves you.  How do we make sure we feel close and are close to God who at times can seem distant?

God guides us through, through the Bible, to ground our thoughts and feelings on a firm foundation.  Jesus talks about a wise man building a house on the rock instead of being foolish and building on sand.  Jesus is called the Cornerstone on which everything is built.  Are your emotions and thoughts built on a firm foundation, or are they built on sinking sand, tossed about by winds and waters?

Jesus spent the vast majority of His ministry teaching people that the Kingdom of God is present.  It is not far off or in the distant future, but is here.  He taught things like “this baptism now saves you… through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  (1 Peter 3:21)  He doesn’t say will or could save you down the road.  Jesus said the Kingdom of God had come (Luke 10 and 11); again not a future promise but a present reality.  Jesus says, “I will remain with you until the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20)

God promises to be with us all the time.  The Holy Spirit takes up and dwells inside us as a temple!  (1 Corinthians 6:19)  If all these promises are true, then why does God feel so far off?  I think there are two times where God feels the farthest in my life; maybe you can relate.  The first is that God feels far away when I am far from Him.  God loves us so much He allows us to go down our own paths, even if they lead away from Him.  When I am not following Jesus, but instead following the thoughts of my own mind, God will start to feel far off.

The other time God feels far away is when I don’t like what is happening to me or others around me.  I can feel like God doesn’t care or like He has left me or abandoned those I care about.  When those feelings start to make me feel like I don’t know God is when I realize it is me who isn’t close to Him.  Such times of feeling distant always coincide when my prayer or Bible reading time has not been as vibrant, when I have been dedicating time to things other than my relationship with God.

It makes sense; when I spend more time with people and activities apart from God, I don’t feel like God is close.  When I talk with God regularly through prayer and listen to His answers through daily Bible reading, it is amazing how personal and powerful God’s presence is in my life.  If God feels far off to you, take a minute to consider if it is He who is far off or if it is really you who is far from Him.  God promises to be our “ever-present help” (Psalm 46:1).  Look around and see if He has kept His promise; you’ll be blessed when you do.

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss