Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Salt and Light

Some phrases become so ingrained in our vocabulary we say them and everyone knows what we mean.   Over time, the assumption that we all understand what we mean can lead to miscommunication.   The most dramatic of these we see in our society today when a word or hand gesture has its meaning changed in light of recent cultural events or understandings.  In other instances, the “original” meaning of the phrase comes to light and now we should no longer say it.  These moving targets can get extremely frustrating and can certainly become a problem for people who aren’t’ keeping up on a word’s latest meaning or cultural understanding of a situation.

In our reading this weekend, we once again revisit the Salt and Light phrase of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”  The temptation for most believers is to think “I know this one” and simply apply our old understanding to this phrase and move on.   From one perspective this makes sense; God’s word never changes and, therefore, we can be confident that we still understand what it means.  At the same time, the world is ever-changing.  If we fail to consider where our culture is, it is increasingly difficult to be the Salt and Light to the world.

Salt and Light don’t change but the context around them does change.  For example, salt is good for flavoring and preserving foods.  Salt is bad for people with blood pressure issues.  Light is great when you are awake; it usually isn’t when you are trying to sleep.    When God calls us to be salt and light, it isn’t sufficient to know what it means; we need to consider how to apply salt and light in situations in order to produce the intended outcome.

The intended outcome is to improve the “flavor” of our society and the “sight” of all people.   The means in which this improvement occurs is not some program or organization (not even the “church”).  The means of improvement is simply “you.”  YOU are the salt of the earth; YOU are the light of the world.  In this simple illustration and context, Jesus reminds His disciples that WE are the light of the world.  WE are the salt of the earth.  Our identity is that which brings flavor to the world, not the program, project or idea we bring.  If the world is without the flavor of God it isn’t because we are doing the wrong things, it is because we focused on doing things and forgotten who we are.  

We cannot pour ourselves into programming and activities and wonder why our children and neighbors don’t know Jesus.  We are Jesus to them.  If we want them to know Jesus, we need to first look at ourselves and see if we are salt and light or if we instead are rules and regulations, judgment and correction or some other combination of actions to them.   We can use our collective might as believers to get society to conform to our faith, for a while, as long as we have Godly leadership.  But, this legislated circumstance will bear the fruit of rebellion. 

Being Salt and Light means places are dark and things are tasteless.  We don’t fix this situation by “applying” and light through simply “doing”; we bring flavor and light by our very nature; our “Being”.  The “ministry of presence” is what we call this among pastors.  It is the same for all of God’s people.  We must go to the dark places and be the light.  We can’t go, do something and then leave.  The people will be right back in their dark and tasteless lives.  We need to go and stay, as long as it takes, until the light can continue to shine through others who come to know the source of the Light and Life–Jesus. 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matthew 5:14

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Back to ________?

Typically, this time of year we say “Back to School” and while many are in fact going back to school, it is very different.  School is at home for some and on the computer for others. For those who do go somewhere, in-person interactions and schedules are all discombobulated and extracurricular activities are very limited. In the end, it is still school regardless of where you go “back” to or what it looks like when you get there, but it will take some getting used to. 

We can learn a lot from the current situation we find ourselves in.  As much as we don’t like change, change is the only way to move forward through life.  If we never change, we never go anywhere different; we don’t grow in life and we don’t grow in faith.  The result of not changing and never going anywhere is being stuck, trapped or bored.  Change is what keeps life moving forward and allows us to grow.  What we really don’t like is change happening to us. 

Most of us prefer to pick and choose the change we experience and even then, only do it when the discomfort of change is worth it for the desired outcome.  We might be willing to pack up and move because the new house or property is better. We might change careers for increased pay or a better working environment.  We might change because we are finally fed up with our current situation.  Typically, most of us stay in a less than desirable environment because the headache we are in seems better than the headache of change or the unknown headache the new environment might bring.

Enter a change agent, the Pandemic. Frequently in life we change only because we are “forced” to; something comes along that incites that change because the price of not changing is intolerable.  Your health might deteriorate to the point you finally start exercising.  You change careers only after an unexpected termination. You change houses only because you had to move to a new town.  And, every once in a while, that new change ends up being the best thing that’s ever happened to us.  

This year is a monumental change for the majority of us; it is forcing us to do things we wouldn’t normally do and completely disrupting our previous way of life.  At the same time, it is forcing us out of our old habits and allowing us to create new patterns and provide new opportunities.  Limited extracurriculars means more family time. Less events to attend means more time with God or others in smaller groups.  More neighbors are around to create neighborhoods and communities. Some are trying homeschool since they “always thought about it.”  Teachers are learning new skills and re-evaluating how they have “always taught” things.   School isn’t “boring” anymore, at least not yet since everything is different.

We grieve the loss and will yearn for “the old ways” through much of these changes.  But if we remain open minded and looking forward, we might just choose to keep some of the changes around.  We will learn new things about ourselves, our resilience and perseverance.  Some of those things we just might like enough to keep around.  In a few years from now, what will you still be doing because you “made that change during the pandemic?”   Back to school season is here, but I guess we never stop learning.

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”  Psalm 86:11

In Christ,

Erik Gauss



Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – A Time Such as This

Does it ever feel like life is just happening to you?  In other words, does it feel like you have very little say with what goes on in your life, much less in the world? Sometimes life just gets away from us.   The story of God’s people is about overcoming life when it seems to have the upper hand; when it seems like we don’t matter in the big picture of things.  God gives us the guidance and the power to turn the tables and gain perspective that our input does matter in our lives and in the world. 

This weekend, we will be looking at this very thing through the eyes of Esther.  She was a young woman who, as a child, became orphaned and exiled from her land.  She was a Jew/Hebrew living a life of little consequence with her uncle who adopted her.  Suddenly, through bizarre circumstances, she becomes queen.  Even as a queen, life is still happening to her.  She is a quiet queen who was chosen for her looks and because she only “asked what she was instructed to ask for.”

An incident occurs where the King, Esther’s now husband, decrees that all Jews will be killed.  He doesn’t know that Esther is a Jew and this could mean her life as well.  Esther doesn’t know what to do; does she speak out for her people and try to protect them?  Remember, she isn’t the outspoken type and the previous queen was discarded for a disagreement with the king.  Or, does she remain silent and keep her favored position and comfortable lifestyle.  

Esther’s uncle shares words of wisdom that inspired Esther and I pray will continue to inspire God’s people even today.  I’ll paraphrase them here, but you can look them up in Esther 4:12-14.  Mordecai reminds Esther that God will protect His people to accomplish His work.  In this case, the Jewish people.  God will do it, with or without Esther, but God has put Esther in this place for this time.  It is up to her to step into the blessing of being a part of bringing God’s will and grace to His people or to be bypassed for this blessing and have God use someone else.  

One of the most challenging concepts in the Christian faith is that God chooses to use His people to tell His story.  It didn’t start out that way, He created people and was in perfect relationship/communion with them until we broke that relationship.  God loves us so much He didn’t give up on us.  Instead, He continues to tell His story and grow our relationship, but now He does it through other people. It will be this way until the current world is destroyed and restored back to perfection.  Only then, will we see and know God in full. 

Until this restoration, God leads His people exactly where He wants them to be here and now.  When we are tempted to think we are victims of circumstance, this is when we need to remind one another that we are not here by accident or circumstance.  God knew full well that we would be here in this place at this time. He has brought you to this moment to be His representative.  Life isn’t happening to us; we are on a mission, with a purpose to bring God’s power and grace to the world, to be a part of His unfolding story and our divine relationship.  He could work through someone else, and He will if we reject His leadership, but He has chosen you and wants to work through you.  You and I are here for such a time as this.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss


Pastor’s Corner

Image Self Controlled and Sober Minded

Pastor’s Corner – The End is Near!

Actually, Peter says the end of all things is at hand.  Sort of a sobering reminder, we don’t really need right now; we already have plenty of those.  But, the response to this sobering thought is fascinating… “The end of all things is at hand therefore be self-controlled and sober minded.”

That’s right, after Peter reminds us all that the end of all things is at hand, he uses that as the reason to be self-controlled and sober-minded.  It’s as if God gave Peter wisdom to realize that when the end is near, people lose their mind.  People become susceptible to negative thoughts and are quick to blame.  When we are facing grief and all kinds of loss, we are eager to grasp onto something we hold dear in hopes that we won’t lose that too!

I think this might be why Peter emphasizes that the end of all things is near.  There isn’t one thing you can hold onto that will remain.  Not one person; not one pay check; not one sentimental item.  All things will be destroyed and come to an end, and soon.

At the same time, we are reminded of the somber reality of losing all that we hold dear we are reminded to exhibit self-control and remain sober-minded.  Why?  How? Because!

See, we are not made for this world; we are made in this world with the purpose of glorifying God for all eternity.  Because this world will end and because the next world is so amazing, we are to remain sober-minded in order to be a witness and help ensure others arrive safely in eternity with us!

We don’t get to decide who gets to heaven and who doesn’t, but we play a critical role in the journey.  God uses the church–His people to be His witness, His presence, administering His love and grace to the world!  At the same time, evil is at work against us and within us.  This is not about flesh and blood.  This is not about agendas and propaganda; this is not about conspiracies and power.  This is about the spiritual forces at work in the world, of which the Good News of Jesus Christ is the only salve.

When we fall victim to the lies of the evil one; better yet, when we are distracted by the distractions of the world, we, too, lose sight of what matters most — receiving and sharing the Good News of Jesus.  The world can only hear that through the believers, through the Church.  When we lose our heads, the whole world suffers and so does eternity.

The end of all things is at hand, we need to exhibit self-control and remain sober-minded that God’s grace will be our stability and will bring salvation to the world.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

   “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:7-8