Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Thankful

Thankful means to be filled with thanks.  I like the suffix ful; Joy-ful, Grate-ful, Grace-ful, Hope-ful.  To be filled (we might say filled to overflowing) with the things of God isn’t always easy these days.  But, just because you feel a certain way, doesn’t mean it is true. 

Right now, there are so many of us, if not all of us, that are filled with stress, grief, anxiety, sadness etc.  Those feelings are real.  But, for the vast majority of us, these feelings are temporary and circumstantial.  The reality that the situation is temporary doesn’t discredit our feelings, but it can help us in the healing process as we look through the pain and focus on the truth in front of us. 

Paul teaches us to focus on out reality to be able to find peace in all circumstances. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

So I want to encourage you and me to do this same thing right now.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week lets focus on those things.  While we are truly sad for how so many things are different this year, let’s think about the blessings, the good things, the true things that God is still using to make us “ful” of all His blessings. 

I, for one, am thankful for the way we have been able to stay connected with family, friends, and our church community through technology.  No, it isn’t anything like it used to be. And, yes, I greatly miss human interaction and contact.  But, I am so thankful to be able to laugh, cry, celebrate, and simply hang out together through the wonders of modern technology.

I am Grateful for the ways this congregation has rallied together to help people in need this holiday season and throughout the pandemic.  Offerings and acts of service, even professional services donated for those who need it most. 

I am Hopeful, that God will grant relief and mercy from this pandemic soon.  I’m hopeful that soon we will no longer need to grieve the lives lost every day because of the pandemic, but instead celebrate our lives together after the pandemic. 

I am Joyful that I get to share the good news of Jesus with you and be encouraged by you.  Each day lives are being saved, poured into, and encouraged by you!  You are God’s people in this time, in this place for this purpose.  May He be Gracious unto you, and may you have the eyes to see and be reminded to think about THESE things.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Thanksgiving

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.”  These words are the beginning verses of Psalm 9.  Yes, I chose them because it is Thanksgiving this (next) weekend.  And, yes, I chose them to encourage and remind us of all the things we are thankful for, including our amazing God.  But, there are many verses that I could have chosen.  These stuck out to me for a very particular reason.

The book of Psalms is made up of various long and short poems of various topics and various authors.  It is almost like an ancient hymn book or reusable devotional guide that was shared throughout the ancient church.  Many of the psalms are set to music or have mysterious interludes included that we are unfamiliar with as these particular components have been lost in the challenges of time.  And yet, God has miraculously kept the Bible intact and unchanged throughout the same time period!

So, why Psalm 9 as the theme verse for my Thanksgiving Pastor’s Corner?  As I was reading Psalm 9 for my own devotion, I noticed the musical setting noted at the beginning of it reads as follows “For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Death of the Son.”  This psalm of Thanksgiving, is written by David, to God the great “Choir Director” to the tune entitled “the Death of the Son”.

This is an indescribably beautiful picture of redeeming that which is evil by transforming it for good.  The title and musical setting are so curious that there is much debate and over what it means.  The Hebrew language and poetic nature of the psalms both lend themselves to a lack of specificity in the meaning.  Some have said this is about David celebrating the death of Goliath “the son” instead meaning “the champion.”  However, the Psalm itself has no specific reference to this event and seems to be much more mature and comprehensive in tone than a young boy with his first victory might write.  

Some have said this is not a musical tune but a mistranslation of a musical instrument.  The ESV bible leaves it untranslated and simply writes the Hebrew words Muth-labben.”  Still others say it is somewhat inconsequential except that it points us to the victory and celebration we have in the horrific death of Christ, the Son of God.  David would have unwittingly done this a thousand years before the birth of Christ.

All of these ideas are powerful, faithful testimonies to the work of the Psalmist.  I too don’t find it particularly important which one of these ideas is correct, if any.  I find it wonderfully majestic how God is constantly working in the midst of things while we often have no idea what is going on.  

One more truth is that David did in fact have his Son die.  The son he bore with Bathsheba in his horrific affair that led to the murder of her husband and his great friend.  David was devastated at the death and wrote his famous Psalm of Confession (Psalm 51) at that time.  This certainly was no time to celebrate in David’s life.  But, Psalm 9 isn’t celebrating the death of a Son, that is just the tune to which it is sung.   Psalm 9 is celebrating the faithfulness of God.  

This Thanksgiving is hard for our family; it is likely very hard for yours as well.  Activities, traditions, gatherings my children are blessed to have experienced their entire lives are unable to happen this year.  There is a lot of grieving over the “death” of these traditions.  And yet, we are working hard to remain faithful and focused on the greatness of our God and His blessings which endure and are new every morning.  There are so many things to grieve right now, and we should.  But, we grieve as people of Hope; we know God is at work in the midst of these heartaches; we know He is working all things together for His glorious good; it is just difficult to see sometimes.  

Psalm 9 reminded me that even in “The death of a son” there is still plenty of room for thankfulness for God’s abundant blessings.  The greatest of which is the death of His Son, which assures us that all our grief and all our trials will one day, come to an end.  For this, and the blessings of each day, I am truly Thankful. 

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:1-2

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Updates on our COVID Response

With Local, Regional and State COVID cases on the rise it seems appropriate to share some important information regarding how Cross and its ministries are continuing to share God’s love through it all. 

Worship – Currently, “Religious Services” are exempt from Illinois Mitigation Tiers.    The Governor is suggesting, but not requiring, all worship gatherings to be limited to 25 people or fewer.  We continue to experience people who need the personal interaction with God and one another.  To unnecessarily limit the gathering size would limit this essential connection for many. With the spacing available to us and the many volunteers to help with sanitization we will continue to offer on-site services as long as we can do so safely.

School – COVID cases in youth and children are also on the rise.  However, transmission seems to be happening at home and in unregulated settings, not between classmates in a properly controlled environment.  This is also our experience with our school.  The hard work and diligence to our protocols have prevented any spread among students.  We continue to see our enrollment increasing as students and families struggle with e-learning.  Please keep our team in your prayers as our staff has adapted to unprecedented demands on them during this time.  Several of our teachers have had to teach from home on quarantine, while their students are in the classroom!

Discipleship – Our children, youth and adult ministries continue on in various forms.  Some groups are meeting in person, others are meeting through technology.  We have concentrated our on-site opportunities for youth and children into Wednesday evenings. So far, we are not impacted by Tier 1 mitigation requirements, but Tier 2 would require gatherings to be no larger than 10 people.  Our team of staff and volunteers are working diligently to determine how we can keep the in-person option available to those who are blessed by it.

Thrift Shop – Currently, retail is also unrestricted through Mitigation Tiers 1 and 2.  However, our Thrift Shop remains a very popular option for people cleaning out their closets at home and for connecting with one another in these deeply isolating times.  If you would like to get out and help people, consider volunteering at our Thrift Shop! We have opportunities during the day and with limited crowds.

Christ over COVID – We recently helped a single mom who had lost her job. Our fund allowed her to catch up on utilities and receive much needed dental work.  Our fund allowed another woman, who had significantly reduced income because of her continuing health concerns and her job requiring her to work in-person, to buy groceries and pay off overdue bills and lifted her spirits in these trying times.

We are all unique creations of our Heavenly Father.  Each of us responds to crisis and challenges differently.  These differences can be a source of conflict or they can be woven together to make a beautifully completed tapestry.  Throughout its history, the church has existed to bring these differences together to accomplish more together than we can apart.  The Body of Christ, working together, requires mutual submission under our Godhead who leads us.  This is not always easy, but it is always worth it.  I am so pleased to see and hear all the great stories of support and sacrifice the people in this family, we call Cross, have been a part of.  

May God continue to lead us to work together, offer His Grace over our differences and accomplish His Kingdom goals.  May the Good News of Jesus be at the forefront of your life and mind as we share that news with the world.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Everlasting to Everlasting

Where did we come from?  This is the never-ending question humanity continues to ask itself.  The origin of life and the origin of the universe have driven study and research for generations.  Even when the preponderance of people believed we came from a Divine Creator, the desire for understanding that origin drove humanity’s curiosity and exploration.  

Equally as interesting, and closely related, is the question “Where are we going?” For those that believe our life and universe came from chance, the answer is more concrete—nowhere.  For those who believe in the Creator revealed in the Bible we believe we are going to eternal life.  For many others, there are many other hypotheses. 

These questions reveal something critically important about humanity; it is finite.  Humanity has a beginning and it has an end.  While none of us know exactly how much time is available for us between the beginning and the end, we know they both exist, they both matter and they both dictate how we spend our time and resources during the in between. 

This reality about humanity is what makes Moses encounter with God so interesting.  (Ok, maybe it was the voice coming from a burning bush that made it interesting, but stick with me.)   In Exodus 3, Moses encounters God in a very real and powerful way.  Through the Holy Scripture we are able to do the same.  As Moses encounters God he asks many of the same questions we would in that circumstance.  Who are you? What do you want with me? Why would you pick me?  Isn’t there someone better? And finally, “Where did you come from?”  

Moses asks the “Where did you come from?” question in a way you might not initially recognize in Exodus 3:13; when he asks God “Who shall I say sent me?” But see, Moses already knew it was God, the only God, the one true God.  God identified himself in the very clear and specific way He always did, as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses isn’t asking God to repeat Himself, Moses is asking more specifically, personally, who are you?  As humans, when we ask this we mean; “Give me your story.”, “Where did you come from?”, “What are you doing now?” and “Where are you going?”

God understands full well what Moses is asking and you can tell by the reply He gives “I am who I am.”  When Moses asks who are you, God essentially replies “I always was, I currently am and I always will be.”  From now until the pre-Christmas season of Advent, we will be looking at our God who is “from everlasting to everlasting.”  His eternal being transforms our limited lives and leads us into life everlasting.  We are no longer beings with a beginning and end, but instead we have a beginning and no end.  I wonder how often we live as if we will never die?  How often are we able to face our fears because we know how this story goes? How do our daily choices reflect our identity as an eternal child of the Heavenly Father?  Or, do we live just like the world around us and worry about living our best lives now?

As the world and its pressure builds all around you, I invite you to step into the transcendent power of knowing your eternal future.  You are a child of the Great I AM; our God has no beginning and no end.  He created us; we have a beginning in Him.  But, through Him we are guaranteed that our life will have no end.  Let’s live each day as if it had eternal ramifications.  Because, it truly does.   

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

In Christ,

Erik Gauss