Pastor’s Corner

Thankful: For You!

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

These words are from Paul to the faithful believers in the town of Philippi. You can read them in the book of Philippians where they serve as the opening greeting in Paul’s letter to the Church. These words may also sound familiar to you because we use them as a blessing over the newly baptized. In the newly baptized, God has begun a great work that He promises to continue each and every day until it is ultimately completed on the Last Day, when Christ returns.

As God’s chosen people we still find ourselves in the in-between. We are made perfect and whole in our baptism now, today, and yet we live in a world and dwell in a flesh that isn’t quite eager to comply with the new reality. The old is gone, the new has come, but the realities of the old Adam still work against our born-again Spirit.

For this I say Thank You! Thank you to each and every one of you who battle with me and all the saints to allow the light of Christ to shine through. Thank you for shining that light through your forgiveness when I fail. Thank you for shining that light through your prayers for support. Thank you for shining that light as we work, serve, play and love our community and each other together, as a family of faith in this place.

There are no words to describe this unity of faith and Spirit except church. We are the Church, the body of Christ working together. We receive God’s blessings and those blessing overflow to one another. We support each other in times of trial, pick one another up when we fall and celebrate life’s triumphs together. All this while storming the gates of Hell and overcoming the lies and deception of the evil one.

Wow, my family and I are blessed to be a part of this community of believers. I pray God’s blessings for each of you this Thanksgiving. May you find peace in His promise to continue that good work within you until that Last Day!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 27
Genesis 12:1-8, Romans 4:1-8, Luke 1:39-56

Pastor’s Corner

Thank You, Will and Kayla

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) This famous passage frames for the believer that everything we experience in life has a “season”. Birth, death, war peace, laugh and weep. King Solomon writes these words, not in an effort to tell us everything is good, far from it. These words remind us that God watches over, works in and works through every experience we live.

No one anticipated Kayla and Will would be moving on from Cross at the same time. No one that is except our God who knew one season was ending and another beginning. No one knew that Kayla was going to be such a great fit here at Cross. No one that is except our God who led her to begin her full-time ministry here. No one knew Will would start here as a single man and three and a half years later leave married, with a son and having endured a three-year pandemic. No on that is except our God, the Great Physician who provided through it all.

Some seasons feel more joyous, like Kayla’s Advent Costumes or Will’s Nine Square Youth nights. Some are more challenging, like saying farewell to two servants of God and their families. But God promises that in every season we have the opportunity to grow and lean on Him for our peace and Joy.

Thank you, Kayla and Will, for sharing your life with us. We mourned deaths in your families, we celebrated weddings and baptisms. We laughed at silly videos and cried at sad announcements.

Thank you, Will and Kayla, for investing in our lives. You celebrated life’s accomplishments with our young ones of all ages. You cried when their pets died and prayed when they had sick family members. You taught them about God’s love and showed them that same love, unconditionally.

Now it is time for another season.

Kayla, we wish you well as you train and mentor the young ones of St. Peter Arlington Heights. We know that they will love you just as we have. We know that they will be blessed just as we have. We know that you will help them to grow and that they will help you to grow, just as we have. Maybe, just maybe you will learn a second song on the guitar or not since that is part of your charm. Whatever you do, do it all for the Lord and you will be blessed and be a blessing to those you serve.

Will, you and Liz and Leo are stepping out in a leap of faith. A new season in life as you consider a career change or simply a season away to heal and grow and then return to youth ministry. These seasons can be most scary, but they are also the most rewarding. When we allow God to lead us through the most difficult days, we appreciate the good days all the more as we praise His name.

There is a season for everything, not every season is easy, not every season is good. But, in every season, God is with us, working God through all things for those you love Him. May God continue to guide your steps and may you forever have joy that the seed you planted, watered and nurtured will continue to grow and bear fruit. May you also forever have peace that the Lord goes before you, preparing in advance the work He has in store for you.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 20
Mark 10:17-27; 2 Corinthians 8:1-10

Pastor’s Corner

Thank You!

Thanksgiving is still several weeks away, but it is never too early to start showing gratitude. Today is an easy day to show thanks as it is the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” Originally known as Armistice Day which, in 1918, marked the official ending of World War I, we now celebrate all of our military veterans on November 11th. This day of gratitude reminds us that we have the largest and most powerful military in the world, and it is still entirely comprised of volunteers. Yes, these volunteers receive compensation, but no amount of compensation or gratitude can express the importance that these men and women play in our world to create and maintain peace and, when necessary, put their life on the line to do so.

As a follower of Jesus, the military for me has always served as a reminder about our Lord who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. It is far too easy to think about Jesus as an image. None of us have ever met Him in person and as such, our imagination of Him can become skewed. Jesus had a mother who cried as He hung on the cross. Jesus had friends who grieved His passing. Jesus had followers that fought to protect Him. Jesus was honored as He too was laid in a tomb.

Like our military, Jesus didn’t discriminate about who he fought and died for. When you serve in the military for America you don’t fight for Christian, or Muslim. You don’t fight for any race or color. You don’t fight for any sexual identity. You fight for freedom, and the right to express your differing opinions with one another. You fight because “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..”.

While deserving of high honor and full gratitude, our military isn’t perfect. It is after all a human military which represents a nation run by humans. But, I am forever grateful of the sacrificial work they have done and continue to do which is such a great reminder of the only One to truly volunteer to put His life on the line for freedom. This freedom, however isn’t the freedom to have any opinion we want while we are alive. This freedom is freedom from death itself. A freedom to live forever with Jesus and all believers forever!

This freedom is for ALL people without exception. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God doesn’t ask us to change before He accepts us. He doesn’t tell us to shape up or ship out. God comes along side us as we are lost in sin and deception and says “I love you, just the way you are. Follow me.”

The only army that can grant peace that lasts, true freedom, and liberty and Justice for all is the Army of God. We are each called to voluntarily sacrifice our lives as well, for the sake of saving others from sin and death. When we turn to Jesus we are commissioned to create unity through mercy and grace to our enemies. The same mercy and grace Jesus extended to us “while we were still sinners”.

Thank you, military men and women, and for all the friends and family who support and sacrifice along with them. Thank you, Jesus, for Your sacrifice which gives me freedom today and for all eternity. Thank you, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, our battle belongs to the Lord and we are blessed to make an eternal difference!

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 13
Matthew 6:19-24; Philippians 4:10-17

Pastor’s Corner

The Boy Who Cried, “Saint!”

When we make outlandish claims, it becomes difficult for people to believe us. When we lose credibility, it doesn’t matter if we then say something profoundly accurate, people won’t believe us. This is the long, taught truth of the fable of the boy who cried “Wolf!” The boy was lonely and bored tending the sheep by himself and so he cried out “Wolf!”. The townspeople rallied to help him. He liked the attention he received from doing it so much so that he continued to do it whenever he was lonely. One day there truly was a wolf but the townspeople no longer believed the boy and didn’t come to help.

What does the boy who cried “Wolf!” have to do with All Saints’ Day? All Saints’ Day is a day we remember that the people of God are perfect in every way even though we still struggle as sinners. Countless people have noticed this reality and called the church hypocrites, or two-faced or not trustworthy.

In some ways this is true, the church is made up of sinners. St. Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that he is the foremost sinner, chief of sinners, some have said. I like to say, he was the best there has ever been at sinning. And Paul has a point; he was a murderer and that is just the beginning of his list of sins. But, St. Paul also said this in the exact same breath, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”.

The fact that we sin doesn’t disprove our godliness. In fact, it is the very admission of the presence of sin that makes us godly. If we admit our sin Jesus takes it from us and pays the price for it on the cross. He then credits us with His godliness.

It is Paul who reminds us of the depth of his sin so that we will celebrate even more the enormity of Christ’s forgiveness and the vastness of God’s Grace. The bigger our sin, the more guilt we feel, the more we celebrate that Jesus paid the price and forgave that sin too. Jesus taught us this very truth when He told the parable of the two men whose debts were forgiven. One man’s debt was very large, one man’s debt was smaller. Jesus asked the question who would be more grateful? The one who had the greater debt forgiven.

My experience is that, for mature Christians, our issue isn’t remembering how big a sinner we were or are, it is believing that God’s grace has completely forgiven ALL our sin and that we are now truly Saints! We are afraid that we will be seen as hypocrites and be like the boy who cried “wolf”. We don’t want to lose our credibility or tarnish the name of Jesus. But that is exactly what we do when we fail to accept that we are fully forgiven. We discredit His work on the cross and give a foothold to all the false teachers who say we need to do our part.

The problem isn’t saints who sin, its saints who don’t point to Jesus. Jesus is who and what that makes us holy. It isn’t my actions, my choices or thoughts. It’s Jesus covering me with His robe of righteousness. It is Jesus washing me with the waters of baptism, it is Jesus whose blood was shed for my forgiveness. Remain humble and then boast in Jesus and His forgiveness. You are after all, His holy and forgiven saint and maybe, just maybe, another sinner might be sainted through your witness.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I (St. Paul) am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 6
1 John 3:1-3; Matt 5:1-12