Pastor’s Corner

Outdoor Worship (2)

Pastor’s Corner – Outdoor Worship

One thing we are all craving is some social interaction and an opportunity to feel like things are normal, even if only for a little while.  To that end,  Cross is hosting our worship services outdoors on August 9th!  Why are we going outdoors?  One reason is we usually have an outdoor worship service in August at the Kendall County Fairgrounds.    This outdoor service will take the place of the Kendall County Fair service since the fair was cancelled this year.

A second reason we are having outdoor services is because, in spite of all the disagreements, most people agree outdoors is the safest place to be during the pandemic.   The third, and probably most important reason to have an outdoor service, is because it is fun!   Being gathered together outdoors is a fun change of pace.  I can hardly wait for our big “Cross Family Reunion” outdoors on August 9th.

I want to encourage you to come and make it as fun as possible in these times.  We are asking everyone to remain as physically distant as possible, but to have fun being gathered together.  Below is a checklist of things to consider bringing.

  • Chairs and/or blankets — The Worship Platform will be set up by the office entrance and people will be able to sit in the parking lot or up in the grass.
  • Shade – there are not many trees on campus so bringing shade is good on a sunny day.
  • Food/Drink – After 10:00 AM service is a great time for lunch! Bring your coolers and have a picnic with your church family.
  • Frisbee – This is a great way to interact while remaining physically distant. The soccer field will be available green space as well as other places depending on the crowds.

Well, you get the idea.  Cross will not be providing any jump houses or other things where people congregate.  The playgrounds will be closed,  but there are still many ways to make this a great time to get together, to worship and to celebrate life and the blessings that we have in Christian community.

Don’t forget to invite that friend or neighbor.   They might like to have some time to get out of the house as well!

”And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:25

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner


Pastor’s Corner – About Masks…

Several years ago, I was preparing to lead a chapel for school.  Whenever possible, I try to make chapel interactive with the students.  So I began looking for a few illustrations of how people can see the same thing from different perspectives.  As I was on a nutrition kick at that time, one of the ideas that came to mind was to bring some food.  I searched through my pantry and the best unopened/simple illustration I found was a jar of peanut butter.  During chapel, I held it up and asked students what they saw and of course got the expected answers: “food” and “peanut butter”.  I explained how I saw protein and oils which give me energy (and a little added sugar that I was trying to eat less of).  Illustration accomplished.

After chapel, I chatted for a few minutes with a school parent who attended chapel that morning.  I shared that I was glad my illustration was a success because you never know what the students might say when you ask for a response.  The parent replied, “True, when you held up the peanut butter, I’m pretty sure my child saw death.”  Woah!  You see, this parent’s child is deathly allergic to peanut butter.  While the parent was very gracious to me for this insensitive mistake, I’ve never forgotten how that illustration helped me see things very differently too.

For decades Cross has made accommodations for students dealing with allergies. But last year, we made a courageous step and banned all outside classroom snacks that were not first pre-approved. This was a difficult change, but it was also a huge relief for some of our families.  The change was a long overdue act of love for a particularly vulnerable group of our Cross family.   Jesus says “Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Currently at Cross, we wear masks in our worship services and in our school setting – anywhere we gather indoors unable to maintain appropriate physical distance.  This has been a difficult decision because it is inconvenient. I don’t think any of us look forward to wearing a mask.  But, it is an incredibly loving sacrifice that those who are healthy can make for those who are the most vulnerable in our population.

I know this is a sensitive topic.  For many, it represents more than just a mask.  It represents freedom, grief, acknowledging this virus is real and so much more.  For others, however, masks don’t represent anything; masks are literally protection against death from a very real virus as they struggle with their own health challenges.  Some of our school students go home to a parent that is battling cancer, a grandparent that lives with them, a guardian who has received an organ transplant, or have some sort of close contact with an individual that is particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Another difficulty is that information about the virus changes every day.  We know it is difficult because we are all grieving the loss of “normalcy.”  Our natural reaction is to say “enough is enough!” We want to put our foot down and end all the uncertainty; we want to just say “no!” to  get some control over all the things that feel out of control and have been taken away from us.  What we must remember is that God is in control – not us.   We need to take a step back and see the big picture.  God gives us people to help us see the big picture when we just want to say “enough.”  When we are children we have parents, as we grow we have mentors, and bosses, spouses and friends.

During this pandemic, the leaders God has given us have asked us to wear masks. Our Governor has mandated mask wearing.  Our Health department has put forth recommendations and our State education boards have written requirements for state recognized schools.  God has placed these leaders in our lives and it is our duty to honor them in their role of authority and leadership as commanded by the Fourth Commandment.  It does not mean they are perfect – just as no one has a perfect mother or father – but we are to honor them for the position of authority and leadership God has put them in.

Our principal Paul Goffron has put together a reopening plan for our school that takes all of this into consideration.  We are inviting everyone to work together to provide input and to create as great a school and ministry year as possible given the circumstances.

At Cross, we believe the full Christian life is not about protecting one another from the outside world.  We believe God brings us together to provide support as we go out into the world.  Cross Lutheran Church and School is focused on preparing, equipping, and sending disciples of Jesus to bring good news of hope in the face of an uncertain world.  This cannot be done in isolation; this cannot be done when we refuse to tackle new challenges.  This can only be done when we face the world together and build one another up toward love and good deeds.

When Paul talks about the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, he draws special attention to the parts of the body that are hurting and the parts that are the most vulnerable.  We do not leave them out on their own, but rather the whole body hurts with them and provides special support to overcome.  For us today, how we choose to respond to the world also teaches our children how they should respond.  Do we teach them to retreat from challenging situations?  Or, do we teach them how to work and adapt to overcome the circumstances?  Working together as the family of God, let us overcome challenges together and demonstrate the power of God in our midst.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss


Pastor’s Corner


Pastor’s Corner – Restoring Joy

One of the songs that has continued to encourage me throughout these days is “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams.   The chorus points to two reasons to have Joy.  One, is the sweet salvation that is beautiful!  The other, is an overflowing heart that has been restored.  One focused on eternity; one focuses on the here and now.   The next line is where the rubber hits the road!  “There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy!” What a great reminder; but, also a prayer because right now, there are many times when my joy needs to be restored.

The ability to find and restore your Joy in the midst of troubling times is closely tied to our ability to identify what is robbing us of that Joy.  Most of the times, we struggle to identify these things, which is why we often lose joy, hope and excitement in life.  Often times, we misidentify what is discouraging us and take it out on something “easy.”  This could be a spouse, neighbor, co-worker, boss, public official, media, people group, etc.  I say “easy” because it is harder to look inside yourself and uncover your hurt than it is to identify an external source of your frustration.

In my house, we have discovered a major source of heartache right now is grief.  This may seem obvious, but it is more subtle than we realize.  The grief we are feeling now isn’t just the grief of the immediate losses we might be experiencing.  Grief typically heightens around four to six months after your loss.  The deep hurts we feel now are actually likely caused by the losses we first experienced in March or April starting to come to the surface.

Now, we add onto that the immediate losses we are experiencing and then of course the anticipation of future losses and we have quite a quagmire.  If you are still reading this article right now, you are well on our way to restoring Joy.  It may not feel like it right now, but you are putting in the hard work of learning more about yourself, so you can identify your hurt and find healing.  Don’t give up!

Grief can manifest in many ways.  Anger–“I’m tired of all of it!” Fear about the future, shortened temper, even physical manifestations like headache or rapid heartbeat.  But there is hope.  We have a God who has equipped us to face grief head-on and find victory to face hopelessness and find hope to address fear and find courage.

You are not alone!  It might feel like it right now; it might look like it right now as you sit in quarantine and “attend” events virtually.  But this is a lie.  If you are in leadership you have a great team around you and people who want to help.  If you are a parent, your children are stronger and more resilient than you think and, in most cases, they are more resilient than us as parents!

Whatever is robbing you of your joy is robbing others of it as well.  And, the Good News is for each and every one of us.  God is with you.  He will not and has not left you.  Your job is not to be perfect, but to trust in the only one that is perfect. He is a Waymaker. He will, and already has, made a way.  Let’s encourage one another and find joy on the journey through life’s challenges.  After all, we already know how the story ends!  Spoiler Alert: we win!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner


Pastor’s Corner – Habits

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

For about four months now, we have found our lives turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our normal activity, the things we used to do, went right out the window.  Before we had this whole morning routine: get up early, shower and get ready, make some coffee, head off to work.  But now we can sleep in until 5 minutes before our zoom meeting!  We just need to make sure we look presentable enough that no one else can tell we’re still wearing our pajamas!  As a new and unexpected way of life was thrust upon us, we were forced to quickly change and adapt.

Some of us found ourselves with more time.  We did projects around the house.  We worked outside.  Maybe we spent extra time exercising or learning a new hobby.  We had time to eat meals together as a family.  Some of you embarked on a full-scale deep-cleaning of the house, and you couldn’t wait until Caring Hands opened up because you had so much stuff to donate!

Others of us felt like we had even less time on our hands than before.  We tried to juggle working from home and making sure our kids were completing schoolwork.  The stress of always feeling “on” made it seem like work never ended – and you couldn’t get away from the office because your home and cell phone were your new office!  Sometimes it seemed as if you just barely scraped through the day, and you felt as if you left so many things undone.

As you take stock of these past few months, what have been your habits?  What has become a part of your new routine?  One of the goals of our Red Letter Challenge was to develop new habits that have a lasting, eternal effect as you follow Jesus.  I know, the Red Letter Challenge seems so long ago.  As a church we took on daily challenges in 5 areas: Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, Going.  Did any of those challenges stick?  Did you develop a new habit or a spiritual discipline?  And, did any of those new habits follow you in this pandemic?  Or, did those challenges get lost in the shuffle as everything was turned upside down?

Paul’s encouragement today is to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances.  Are we able to do this?  Or, have we developed a habit of grumbling and complaining because we have to wear a mask before we walk into a business?  Paul encourages to not quench the Spirit – stay connected to God.  He says don’t despise the Word.  Are we still in the habit of being in Scripture and worship, or have we neglected these things because we can’t do them in person?  Paul says hold fast to what is good, avoid what is evil.  Are some of your new habits good?  Or, are they hurtful, or even sinful?  Look at your life these last few months.  What’s missing?   What shouldn’t be there?

Maybe it’s good to look over that Red Letter Challenge again, just as a refresher.  Maybe the way we meet some of those challenges might look a little different today, but the ideas behind each one still apply.  What habits would draw us closer to God and closer to one another?  Think about it – over the summer, even as life is slowly returning to “normal,” we can still develop a new habit or two.  There were challenges to connect in community, to be in the Word, to talk with God in prayer, to give of ourselves and of our blessings from God, to prioritize worship. What have you given up these past few months, and what do you need to take on?

The devil would love for this pandemic to cause separation – to pull you away from God, to drive a wedge in your family, to break up your businesses, to keep us from connection to Cross.  And even though today looks so different than four months ago, Jesus is still Lord.  God is still in control.  His love for you and for the world has never changed.  Let’s come out of this pandemic with some habits that draw us close to God and His strength.  Let’s come out of this pandemic an even greater follower of Jesus.    Today is a great day to take on something new – or stop something we shouldn’t have even started.  Let’s find ourselves changed by God and His work in us.

In His Hands

Pastor Matt Conrad


Pastor’s Corner


Pastor’s Corner – Independence Day!

This article is essentially a re-run form July 4th 2012.  It might be even more appropriate today than it was then!

We love our independence don’t we?!?  From the young child who can walk for the first time or can finally say “I do it mySELF!” to the teenager who can drive (finally), or the elderly who no longer can, our independence is important to us.  July 4th is especially celebratory for me because it was on July 5th (yes, the day after Independence Day) I met my bride to be.  Also, July 5th is the day our second child was born! How poetic right? (We can add Pastor Matt’s wedding to this list of July 5th celebrations!)

Two hundred and forty-four years ago, we celebrated our independence as a country; free to do our own thing–free to worship, to pursue happiness, to follow our dreams.  But, what happens when we think we are free from everything that doesn’t impact us directly?  When every person says “I am free to do whatever I want!” we have nothing left but chaos and selfishness.  We have people serving for their own gain rather than sacrificing for the sake of the greater good.

This country is great because, historically, people willingly gave up their freedoms so the next generation could remain free.  We, too, need to give up our freedoms or the next generation will inherit nothing but a selfish, prideful, mess.  When societies no longer sacrifice willingly, they become forced to sacrifice through political legislation or other authoritative means.

This isn’t just my opinion, it is biblical.  God teaches us through Paul that we have freedom as Christians, but within that freedom comes the responsibility to determine what is good, constructive, and beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23.)  What helps me keep a good perspective on how I use my freedom is to remember I don’t have a “right” to be free.  Freedom was fought for, sacrificed for, and a high price was paid so I could have this awesome gift I now enjoy.

I am sure you notice the similarity between our current freedom and our Christian freedom.  We can’t walk around bragging we are free because we didn’t pay for it! (Romans 3:21-24, 27.)  We can pass the gift on, teach others what a blessing it is and encourage them to live in that same freedom.  Passing on the freedom to the next generation requires sacrifice of the generation before it.   As you consider your freedom this weekend, remember the price paid by others and honor them, honor HIM, by using that freedom, using your life to bring glory to God and share freedom with the world.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:23.

His servant and Yours,

Erik Gauss