Pastor’s Corner

I can’t wait for my vacation – but it’s good to be home!

My family and I are looking forward to a much needed trip to California.  I’m sure many of us have had our plans cancelled or redirected this past year, so when the opportunity to finally take that trip you were planning comes around – bring it on!  We are looking forward to getting away.

But there always comes a point in a vacation where you’re ready to go back home.  You miss your bed.  You want to eat “normal” food.  Maybe you have pets you’ve had to leave behind.  You know the work is piling up for you while you’re away, so you don’t want things to get too out of hand.  Even though the little excursion away was fun, you know that it’s not forever.  “Normal” life is waiting for you back home.

Our life in the church community is very similar.  On one hand we’re super excited when something new is happening:  that one-off big event, the work camp down south, the mission trip to the other side of the world.  Often these opportunities are a lot of fun!  A lot of time, energy and resources goes into planning these events, just like when we plan for a family vacation.  We have to figure out transportation, a place to stay, food to eat – all sorts of details.  It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun.

But those ministry events can’t be forever.  We can’t keep up that pace all the time.  We don’t have the time, energy and resources to do these things week in and week out.  And that’s because we were never called to do that.  Those things aren’t home.

God has placed each of us in a particular place, given us specific skills, surrounded us with a certain group of people – He’s placed us just where He wants us to be.  And while this everyday life and ministry to which we’re called aren’t necessarily glamorous or particularly exciting, it’s exactly where God wants us to be.  So having that dinner together as family – yeah, that’s where God wants you to be.  Being an honest, hard worker, dedicated to your job, whatever it is – yeah, that’s where God wants you to be.  Caring for your kids, doing the laundry, shuttling people back and forth – yeah, that’s where God wants us to be.  Coming to worship on Sunday, sitting in the same pew, saying hello to those same people you saw last week (and that new family a few rows up!) – yeah, that’s where God wants you to be.  No single one of these things is necessarily all that exciting; it might even seem boring, but this is where we live life, and God is working here, in these moments of life, every single day.

So maybe the regular ministries at Cross aren’t always big and flashy – not when you compare to other things.  Maybe they aren’t even as flashy as what other churches are doing.  But these regular, ordinary things are where we truly find our life in Christ – not escaping from it, but living in Him.  In our Community Groups.  In worship.  In weekly Children’s Ministry.  In the ways we serve our community.  In how we speak to our neighbors.  Because it’s in these places where we find encouragement and care.  These are places we can find rest.  These are places where we live life together – all in the company of our Cross brothers and sisters!  Sometimes it seems like a lot of work (because it is!).  Sometimes it doesn’t seem particularly exciting.  (It’s not always.)  But I promise you, Jesus is there – and where He is, it’s always good.  He’s what makes this ordinary life home.

Jesus says that He has come so that we might have life and have it abundantly.  He warns that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).  Let’s recognize Jesus working in our life, our everyday, ordinary, sometimes boring life.  The temptation is always to look somewhere else and think that the next big thing is where life truly is found.  Keep those big things, like vacations – appreciate them for what they are – but don’t forget home.  Don’t compare and long for something else, allowing Satan to steal what you’ve already been given.  Live life with Jesus, right here, right now, with the rest of us here at Cross.  There’s a lot of life to be lived here at home.  (And a lot of fun to be had, too!)

In His Hands,

Pastor Matt Conrad 

Pastor’s Corner

“I Need You”

“I need you.”  Sometimes we struggle with this phrase.  On one hand, we might use this phrase to talk about other people, not ourselves: “I need you to stop hitting your sister.”  “I need you to do a load of laundry before I get home.”  It’s not about “I” but about “you” – you need to do something for me so that I can feel a certain way.

And, yet the phrase can also express our actual need for another person; and sometimes we struggle with that, too.  It’s all too easy to approach life with a mindset of independence – we should go off and make a name for ourselves; handle life all on our own.   Expressing that we “need someone” is simply a sign of weakness.  We think we’re supposed to pull our own weight; we aren’t supposed to depend on someone else.

But here’s the thing, God never meant for us tackle life alone.

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is the creation account given in Genesis 1 and 2.  We see God speaking into existence all sorts of things – light and sky and dry land, plants and stars and living things.  What’s neat is that each part of creation depends upon the other parts of creation for survival.  The sun and the moon need light to actually shine.  The plants of the land need the sun and water to make their food.  The land, sky, and sea are the habitats for all forms of life.  The land animals cannot eat without vegetation.  Everything is all tied up with each other.  What was created on one day is necessary for something created on another day – part of God’s design for creation itself was that everything would be interdependent – no single part of creation can go at it alone.  And each day, God looked over His creation and saw that it was good.

But did you realize that in the creation account there was a time when God looked over His creation and said it wasn’t good?

Genesis 2 gives an intimate retelling of the creation of Adam.  God formed the dust of the ground and breathed life into this body he made – Adam became a living creature.  And, Adam was given the task of tending to creation.  And, in the midst of this creation account, God says this:

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 

God never meant for us to go at life alone.  From the very beginning, God created someone else for Adam – He formed Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.  Man being alone is the only thing in creation that God says is not good – and so God took the steps to make it good.  He created Eve.  And then, mankind together, male and female, God looked at creation and said it was very good.

I share this because for a time, we were forced to go at life alone, as best as we could.  We were stuck at home.  We worked from home.  We ordered oodles and oodles of stuff from Amazon.  We could get our groceries from Aldi without ever leaving our car.  And while we were able to function through this time, deep down we knew it wasn’t how life was supposed to be lived. 

We need each other.  We need human interaction.  We need human presence.  Part of God’s very design for creation is interdependence.  We are created for community.  The people around us are important – it’s how God provides for our very well-being!

We need each other.  Keep this in mind.  For over a year now we have been forced to try and go at life alone, as best as we can.  And that was kind of a mess.  Any steps that kept us from other people really hurt.  This wasn’t how life was supposed to be lived.

So as the country starts opening up again, I encourage you to get back into community.  Don’t go it alone.  Rather, come back to church.  Spend time with your neighbors out on the patio.  Go visit family you haven’t seen for so long.  Get back in your community group.  Spend time with people – we were never meant to be alone.  But, also keep your eyes open for those who are still stuck alone.  Walk alongside them and share in life together.  They need you.  We need you.  I need you.

In His Hands

Pastor Matt Conrad

Pastor’s Corner

Away From Home

While many are still timid about wandering too far from home, many others are embarking on adventures around the country.  The goal of these summer trips is to get “as far away from home as possible.”  Even the most cautious of home-bodies can still appreciate the desire to get away after being isolated and quarantined for the last 15 months. 

Personally, I am excited to get away for a couple weeks.  The timing is perfect as we launch into Phase 5 in Illinois.  The rest of the country, too, is opened up with vaccinations on the rise and cases on the decline.  Our nation is truly blessed to be approaching the end of this pandemic when, at the same time, many other countries are still fighting for their lives.  

Even with all the excitement of finally getting away, I know that after a few short days my body will be craving my own bed at nighttime.  A few days after, that I’ll be tired of the crazy, lazy schedule and, when it is finally over, it will be sad, but I will be ready to go back home.  Even after being “stuck” there for approximately a year and a half.

2 Corinthians 5:6 says that “while we are at home in the body, we know that we are away from the LORD.”  In other words, we are people with two homes.  One home is temporary and one home is forever and yet both seem permanent.  We aren’t eager to get rid of either home, but admittedly sometimes we get tired of being “stuck” in either one of them.

Every once in a while, we get tired of our earthly home.  We get tired of the pain, heartache, injustice and all-around brokenness.  We crave our heavenly home and the perfect, painless, joyful bliss that it is.  At other times, we fear death and discomfort and so we cling to this earth and create safety nets of comfort all around us.  We may not think or say we despise our heavenly home, but we work so hard for our earthly home that we cannot deny our worship of this earth.  

Paul says we have two homes.  One is here in our earthly body; the other is in heaven with our Lord.  One is temporary and one is eternal.  We cannot be both places at once and yet both tug on our heartstrings.  We can love this creation—Jesus does.  He loves His creation so much He chose to die for it.  And yet, we cannot love the creation more than the Creator. 

While we are on earth, we only get glimpses of the power, majesty and beauty of our God.  But those glimpses are awe-inspiring.  Enjoy it, enjoy them, and praise God for them.  Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. We must never stop craving to be with God because He is our forever home.  Our God who never forsakes us and chooses to dwell in us, while we are still in our earthly bodies.  That’s right until we are at home with the Lord, He is at home in us.  

So, whether we are at home or away, we keep our eyes on the Lord.  Let’s appreciate His creation, and remember He alone is worthy of all our praise, thanks and adoration.  Because, this earthly home we get so attached to at times, was made by Him and is a foretaste of all that is to come.  Until then, when we will be at home in the Lord, we are at home in our earthly bodies where our Lord comes to meet us. 

In Christ,

Pastor Erik 

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Be Sure To Vote!

But be sure that everything is done properly and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:26

I know talking about organization and procedures isn’t exactly fun for most people.  I am thankful for those with a gift in administration that do enjoy it! Our Church and School is run by you, the Committed Disciples of Cross.  The vote of the congregation, at a properly held and advertised Congregation Meeting, has the final say in all decisions (as long as they are not contrary to the Word of God that is!).  As a larger organization, the Congregation has established a Governing Board and an organizational structure to operate on behalf of the congregation since it would be impossible to function effectively otherwise. 

This all being said, there are certain items that must be approved by the congregation before they can happen.  We have three such items to address at our congregational meeting on June 13th. The meeting will be in-person after our late service on June 13th at approximately 11:00 AM.  If you are unable to meet in person, we would love to have you attend via zoom:  Zoom – Congregational Meeting

Items needing a congregation vote:

To designate a Divine Call to Jan Kinsel to serve as Parish Nurse at Cross.

  • With the exception of the Pandemic year, Cross had someone serving in this role for more than 20 years.  Jan has served as a volunteer at Cross in many areas.  Most recently, she has served as our adult choir director and on our Traditional and Wednesday night worship teams.  
  • Jan was certified as a Parish Nurse in 2017 and recently retired from her career in the medical field.  Most recently, she served the Kendall County Health Department as a COVID-19 contact tracer and then administering the vaccine. 
  • Over the last year, we have not replaced Mary Pat Bretthauer upon her retirement because we could not visit shut-ins or minister to seniors in care facilities or other human care needs.  Pastor Matt and myself were able to address the needs that did arise. 
  • Our local Senior Centers are opening back up and our ministries are valued and are missed in the community!  We have already hired Jan to serve in this role and re-engage these ministries, but she is theologically trained and eligible for a Divine Call which can only be done through a Congregation Vote. 
  • A YES vote would affirm the need and value of this ministry as well as indicate God desires for our congregation to utilize Jan Kinsel for this purpose.  A NO vote would indicate that resources would better be allocated to other areas of ministry.  This level of support for our seniors, shut-ins and others with ongoing care human care needs could not be achieved without this position. 

Build an Accessory Building on the Current Thrift Shop Property

  • The current Thrift Shop desperately needs increased space for all its vital work.  This includes, but is not limited to:  receiving, sorting and pricing of donations, storage for off-season items, and floor space for sales.
  • Off season storage is currently located in the unfinished space at Cross which is scheduled to become our new School facility.  This must be moved before we can begin construction.
  • We have looked into different locations that have been for sale over the past three years as well as building a new building on our primary campus.  Even when we consider selling the current Thrift Shop location, each of these options would come with a considerable loan in addition to moving to a less prominent location.
  • We believe we are blessed to be in a location on a prominent corner in the downtown of our community.  We are able to participate with Biz-Boo, Summer Fest, Christmas Walks and other community events because of the location.  We also own the property and have no debt for the ministry.
  • Currently, City ordinances are favorable towards accessory buildings that are utilized for the business, but not open to the public.  Previously, the congregation voted to allocate 5% of our total building campaign (half of the 10% tithe) to the Thrift Shop needs. The current total is $100,000 with a maximum of $300,000.
  • A YES vote will affirm the decision to solve this situation with no debt and without moving locations.  A NO vote would require us to continue to search for solutions and come back to the congregation with an alternative plan that would almost certainly require moving locations as well as taking out a loan to cover new construction costs.

Grant a Peaceful Release Sonya Lutze

  • Our fourth-grade teacher for the past 17 years is leaving and moving to Nebraska. Her husband’s work is requiring this move and we are sad to see them go.  Sonya is Called to Cross and was unable to secure a position in another LCMS school.  She will be serving in a nearby public school.
  • When a Called teacher leaves a ministry and does not go to another LCMS ministry, the proper process is to offer a “Peaceful Release”.  This indicates to our national church body (LCMS) that the minister is still in good standing.
  • A YES vote serves as a thank you and blessing to our faithful teacher of 17 years at Cross.  A NO vote would only be appropriate if you believe Sonya should not serve as a Called teacher in the future.  If you have reason to believe this, please contact our principal or Senior pastor directly before the congregation meeting. 

I know this is a lot of information, but it is deeply important to our current and future ministry, not only here at Cross, but also for our impact outside of Cross.  I believe Cross should not strive to be the best church “in” the community but the best church “for” the community.  This requires much sacrifice and effort.  It is not always easy, but the effort is rewarded with an impact that is eternal!

In Christ, 

Erik Gauss