Pastor’s Corner


Who are you?  Who am I?  We answer this question all the time.  We answer when we introduce ourselves for the first time:  “I am a mechanic, pastor, nurse, teacher…”  We answer this question when we look in the mirror:  “I am ugly, beautiful, fat, tall…”  We answer this question when we look at our accomplishments:  “I am amazing, a failure, improving, struggling…”

Society has tried to tell us we are what we do; this has long been the case in our culture where we introduce and evaluate our life based on the tasks we address during the work week.  But, times are changing.  Children and young adults are being taught by our society to identify themselves with their inner feelings, to discover their identity by what they like and feel instead of a task they accomplish. 

This is intrinsically a healthy shift.  Unfortunately, at the same time, our country is shifting away from God.  In an effort to get away from unhealthy external identifications, people are turning toward unhealthy internal identifications. 

The problem with identifying ourselves with our feelings and perceptions of the world is two-fold.  First, our feelings are swayed dramatically by our environment, influences and mental health conditions of the moment.  Second, God tells us our identity comes from Him and Him alone.

It is not always easy to find our identity in Christ.  The influences are all around us and bombard our senses every moment of every day.  It is “natural” for us to identify with things we can taste, smell, see, and otherwise experience.  Our interaction with God, on the other hand, is often limited to a few hours a week or less.  This isn’t a fair fight.

God is able to overcome these odds, but He asks for our participation.  He calls us to turn away from the temptations of the material, physical world and see there is something bigger unfolding.  He invites us to be in a more frequent relationship with Him through reading the Word, prayer and in Christian community.  God gives us His Holy Law so we are able to recognize temptation and turn from it.  If we are not utilizing these amazing gifts, is it really any wonder why we begin to identify and turn toward the world’s misconceptions?

It is heartbreaking when people we love, and especially our children/grandchildren, get enticed by the ways of the world.  It shouldn’t, however, be surprising or hopeless.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls, gathers and enlightens His people.  He won’t turn His back on us.  He continues to invite us into a full identity in Him. 

When our loved ones turn away from God and turn toward the world, it is often because they don’t “feel” God’s presence in their lives.  We can’t control how people feel, but we can fulfill our identity in Christ.  Our identity as believers is to be IN Christ, and in so doing, BE Christ to one another.  If we can spend less time telling others how to do what God wants and spend more time being who God made us to be, the impact will be undeniable and people will be drawn to our Father in Heaven.  

Jesus was typically more compassionate with an unbeliever than He was with the believers (the Church at the time).  This doesn’t always seem fair, but it isn’t intended to be.  As believers we have the greatest gift anyone could ever receive:  a relationship with the Almighty Creator and eternal life in Christ!  With these amazing gifts comes both blessing and responsibility.  We are called to love others as we have first been loved in Christ:  sacrificial, overcoming, truth-living love.  This is our identity.  It is who we are. 

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Unwashed Hands

Now, when the Pharisees gathered to Him (Jesus)… they saw that some of His disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.”  Mark 7:1-2

I hoped the title might gain your attention.  In this season of pandemic hand washing the idea that someone might touch their face and then not wash while once again singing “Sweet Caroline” is repulsive.  Can you imagine how the Jewish community felt when Jesus’ disciples sat down to dinner with “unwashed” hands?!?!?! 

Full disclosure:  The washing the disciples didn’t participate in was not a cleansing of dirt but rather a ritual cleansing where they made themselves presentable to God and each other.  This distinction makes a difference to us, but it did not to the Jewish community.  In fact, it was probably more acceptable in Jesus’ day to have dirt on your hands when you ate than it was to opt-out of the ritual cleansing. 

The Jewish community was constantly ritualistically cleansing all sorts of things; they called this baptism.  They would baptize dishes, rooms, and yes, even their bodies.  The ritualistic cleansing was commanded by their religious leaders to remind them of their need to be made presentable to God.  It isn’t good enough for God that we are physically clean on the outside; He wants us to be pure, inside and out. 

When Jesus’ disciples didn’t participate in the ritualistic cleansing commanded by their leaders, it was seen as defiance toward God.  This lack of ritualistic cleansing also ran the risk of making the other Jews unclean as well (in their eyes).  When the Jews eating with Jesus expressed their frustration with these actions, Jesus called them to an important consideration.  Jesus asked if they were cleansing themselves for God or for man.  God baptizes once, and we are made pure and clean forever.

This is not an easy question to ask, and sometimes it is even more difficult to answer.  But, it is important that we ask this question of ourselves and one another regularly.  The Jews would have told anyone who asked them that what they were doing was to honor God, but in fact it wasn’t something God asked them to do. 

I imagine there are many things you are doing right now that you think are for God, but if you think and pray, you might see things differently.  One area that this happens a lot for me is with my children.  I want to protect them, provide for them, etc., but God wants to refine them through their trials and have them come to Him when they need provision.  If I protect them from every struggle, God can’t pick them up and heal them; if I provide for their every desire, they don’t realize they need God.

With my finances I want to manage them for my family.  But God wants me to manage them for His Kingdom (of which my family is certainly part).  The list goes on and on, and the distinction is subtle. 

The purpose of refinement isn’t to increase restrictions or burden; it is to increase freedom.  When we are working WITH our Almighty God, rather than struggling AGAINST Him, life and peace begin to take root.  It is a long journey to peace sometimes, especially when we want something different than what God seems to be providing. 

Remember, He is refining ALL of us to be in relationship with Him.  He loves us and is working good in all things for our sake.  Jesus died for our sins and ensures salvation for everyone who believes in this gift.  He doesn’t need us to make ourselves presentable.  He desires us to present ourselves to Him who made us.

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

School Time!

This weekend we will celebrate the beginning of our 140th school year with our Blessing of the Backpacks and re-dedication of our school staff!  In addition, our Sunday 10 AM service will be OUTSIDE!!!  As I look at the weather prediction now, it is shaping up to be a glorious day.  We have been praying for this for some time, and I invite you to join us in prayer for this exciting launch to a milestone year.

This year is shaping up to be another tremendous year.  While we were able to have students in person last year, this year will look and feel a lot more like the school and church ministries to which we are accustomed.  It doesn’t mean the year won’t have its challenges.  In fact, every year has its challenges. 

1 Peter 5:8 reads, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  That is right; the Devil is actively prowling for someone to devour.  Rest assured:  he isn’t looking to attack the unbelievers and the ungodly; he is looking to attack the followers of Christ.  The Devil is looking to deceive, distract and destroy the children of God away from the will of God.

Jesus reminds us that we are never fighting our enemy, the Devil, alone.  God is with us.  The power of the Holy Spirit is within us and at our full disposal.  Jesus Himself has already declared the victory for all who believe.  

What this means is that there are many challenges in the world, most of them brought on by sin, selfishness and the Devil.  These challenges are frequently an attempt to take our focus away from the thing that matters most.  What matters most is that the saving Good News, the Gospel of Jesus, be shared and lived out for all people… ALL people.

I am continuously humbled by how this church and school rally together around the Mission of Jesus.  We have a long way to go, but there is still a lot to be celebrated.  The light of Christ shines into the community around us and has for 140 years.  This one could be one of the most challenging in recent memory.  Our desire to be “done” with the pandemic is being tested by the lingering questions of that worldwide pandemic.  This is only a distraction of the evil one.  Masks or no masks, COVID or no COVID, the world still needs a Savior; I still need a Savior.  

Thanks be to God He gave us that Savior.  Praise be to Jesus that He is that Savior.  Blessings to you and all of God’s children that nothing would distract us from being and sharing the Light of Christ to the world and one another… no matter what!

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.  And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”  Romans 8:11

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Let’s Celebrate!

This Sunday, August 8, we will hold our annual congregational meeting and launch our 140th year in ministry!  We will gather in the sanctuary at 11 AM and celebrate how God worked through you, the people of Cross, to let His light shine, even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic!

After we celebrate the previous year, we will look forward to the upcoming year, our 140th together!  We will seek to call Adele Totsky as an additional kindergarten teacher.  We will pray over and elect our new congregational leadership.  We will receive updates on our Building Campaign and share some upcoming ways to celebrate our 140th anniversary.

This year will require tremendous resolve.  While many of us desire the restrictions of the pandemic to remain in the past, the most recent variant is keeping COVID in our daily thoughts.  Our government leaders continue to make broad stroke mandates.  We continue to follow Christ’s command to make disciples. 

God has given us our government leaders, even when we disagree with them.  God has given us wisdom to use to honor all our leaders, even when we disagree.  Thankfully, through prayerful discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to seek and find unity – unity of mission and unity of resolutions to solve even during the most challenging of circumstances. 

We are so privileged to have Christ be our leader for 140 years here at Cross.  We ought to all have great confidence He will continue to lead us forward and also give us the faith to follow where He guides. 

I look forward to seeing you all, in person, at our congregational meeting and working together as the Body of Christ during this 140th anniversary year!

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss