Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – The King’s Coronation

Palm Sunday is here. This weekend we will celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The entry reads like the coronation of a King. Kingly coronations and parades/processions are linked throughout history like peas and carrots. On May 6th of this year there will be a new King over the United Kingdom. If you look at the plans for that day, before the ceremony there will be a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey named “The King’s Procession”. After the Ceremony there will be another procession, this one from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace. This procession is called “The Coronation Procession”. That is two parades in one day!

This was no different in Jesus’ day. The tradition of the Hebrew people, from the time of their first King Saul, has been attached to a donkey. The image this gives is of a Servant King who is there for the people he serves. At times a king would ride a war horse to symbolize the fight against Israel’s enemies but, even then, the king should remain in service to God and God’s people.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey the people worked into a frenzy. For centuries the oppression of Roman leadership and other outside nations had held political control over Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. Was Jesus the long promised Messiah that would lead them to victory over their oppressors? Would Jesus establish the Kingdom of God once again by putting a descendant of King David on the political throne? The people seemed to think so.

Jesus rode into town on that donkey and the people believed He would deliver them form political oppression. Jesus did deliver them, just not the way they wanted Him to.

Jesus as King was not about political reform or the establishment of an earthly kingdom. Jesus as King established the Kingdom of God on earth. A Kingdom of repentance and forgiveness. Wen Jesus is on the throne of your life it doesn’t matter who is on the throne of the government.

Even to this day the self-proclaimed people of God would prefer political power and worldly wealth. We would prefer a King who rode in on a white stallion or a powerful chariot. We would prefer laws that would control our land and make it a safe and prosperous place to live. Even to this day we miss the Messiah in the desires of our flesh.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God.” “Love the Lord your God with all your Heart Soul Mind and Strength.” When we seek God first. When Jesus is on the Throne of our life, and we live for Him. All these other issues tend to fade into the back. What good is it for the world to take all my possessions or even my life when I have eternal life and treasures stored in Heaven?

The ability to “Have no other gods” is not possible on our own. The daily battle we have with our own flesh and the world proves too much and overwhelms us. We are not alone. We have a Savior, a King who has come to save, a King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Messiah. He comes to you riding a donkey in peace and forgiveness, hope and redemption. Even after He comes to us and we crucify Him in the sin of pride and worldliness, He remains with us.

Jesus establishes His throne in our hearts and minds. He awakens our spirit from fear and death with His Holy Spirit. He unites us together in a Kingdom of believers that reigns now and will reign forever. It may not look like much at times, but it is in fact the Power of Salvation for All who believe.

Join us this weekend as we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus and throughout this Holy Week. Each service is unique and leads us on the journey to live as God’s chosen people in a kingdom under our King who sits on the throne forever.

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, April 2, 2023
1 Peter 5:6-11; John 12:12-19; Matthew 6:9-13

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Call Committee Updates

Seasons of leadership transition can be challenging. They can also be an opportunity to recognize weaknesses and seek to improve. While it is always difficult to say farewell to important and loved leaders in the faith, it is also a season to lean into God and remember it is God who provides through these leaders and He will continue to provide as we seek Him.

The Call (Search) Committee for our next Discipleship team member is excited to announce that we have two candidates who will be visiting campus in the near future. These candidates have different expertise and different backgrounds and we are excited to meet them and their families.

Jessica Dvorak will be visiting this weekend! This visit was planned quite quickly but we are confident that it will be a blessing to Jessica and her family to visit before Easter rather than wait until after Easter. Jessica married Chris in 2012 and next year their son Noah will be in kindergarten. Jessica completed her DCE certification in 2016 while taking time off as a teacher to raise Noah.

Jessica formerly taught English in high school but has been serving in ministry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa since 2014. She began as a volunteer and has grown in her role and experience ever since. Jessica has served all ages but specializes in jr. high through college-age ministries. With Noah entering school next year, she is excited to continue her growth and is open to God’s direction. Her husband is a high school English teacher.

Emilie Glaw will also be visiting Cross. She and her family are scheduled to visit after Easter on Wednesday, April 12. Emilie serves a congregation in Geneseo, IL and oversees all discipleship ministries as well as music. She is dual certified as a DCE (Director of Christian Education) and DPM (Director of Parish Music) so, as you can imagine, she will be quite busy from now until after we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord!

Emilie married Jim in 2008 and they have a first grade son, Jonathan. Emilie’s favorite work is with children and their families. She loves coordinating and organizing ministry like Vacation Bible School. She believes parents are key in the spiritual formation of their children and loves to help parents grow in their confidence and ability to live as God’s people at home and in the world. Emilie is looking to serve in a setting where she is able to spend more time dedicated to Children and Family ministry.

Please continue to pray for these candidates and our entire call committee. Please pray for our volunteers who continue to sustain and support the ministries in this time of transition. We look forward to visiting with our candidates and their families and seeking God’s direction together.

“Your word (O LORD) is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, March 26, 2023
Genesis 2:5-9, John 11:17-27

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Blessed St. Patrick’s Day!

Surprisingly, I have never written a pastor’s corner about Saint Patrick. At least I could not find one in my history! Usually, this time of the year I am writing about the chaos of Lent in the church, new staff, budgets, building projects, and final items as the ministry and school year begins their final phases.

I almost did that again this year as we once again are embarking on call committees, building updates and our own spiritual walk with the Lord as we approach the Cross and the Empty Tomb of Holy Week. I decided instead to take a moment and remember St. Patrick.

St. Patrick is a man surrounded by truth and myth. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th which commemorates the day of his death in 461AD. We do not have records as to the date of his birth, we only know he was born in Britain and at the age of 1 was captured and enslaved by invaders from Ireland. He was forced into hard manual labor for six years until he escaped.

Upon St. Patrick’s arrival in Britain, he was convicted in His Spirit to return to Ireland as a missionary and teach the pagan Nation of Ireland about the saving Good News of Jesus. Before his arrival as a missionary, Ireland worshipped the sun as their god and had many religious rituals. Instead of requiring the Irish to abandon all their cultural traditions, he taught them to consecrate them to God.

The invention of what we now know as the Celtic Cross is credited to St. Patrick and is thought to be the sun superimposed over the Cross. This is to remind them that Jesus is the creator of the Sun and all things worship Him! The Irish worshiped their gods by celebrating around bonfires; St. Patrick is said to have encouraged them to celebrate with fire at Easter time. He is also credited by using the locally popular three-leafed shamrock to teach the people about the nature of the Trinity of our Creator God.

What is true and what is legend about St. Patrick is somewhat difficult to prove. But what everyone agrees on is that St. Patrick was an instrument of God’s grace in Ireland. He did not remain bitter towards his captors, instead he shared the Good News of Jesus with his enemies. He was also generous in that He brought Jesus into their culture and encouraged them to worship him in a way that made sense to them and those around them rather than completely conform to the cultural ways of other believing people.

Upon his death, the Nation of Ireland had been transformed from a nation worshipping false gods to a place filled with faithful followers of Jesus. They had established churches, monasteries and schools to ensure the Good News would be shared with the future generations.

I pray regularly that I will be filled with generosity and sacrifice, similar to that of St. Patrick. Today I am inspired to add that my heart would be open with the same generosity and sacrifice not only for God’s people and unbelievers, but for my enemies as well.

Have a blessed St. Patrick’s Day and may your heart and mind be transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ in your life. May He also inspire you to share that Good News with others in a way that they can receive it as well.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, March 19, 2023
Romans 1:1-7; John 9:1-41

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Created For Faith

Faith is God’s love language. If you have ever read or heard of “The 5 Love Languages” you know that different people prefer different expressions of love. While we all like to be shown love and appreciation in multiple ways there are certain expressions that mean more to us than others. A positive word of affirmation may make your month, whereas someone else may feel immeasurably loved when they receive a small gift of appreciation.

How do we tell Jesus we love Him?Do we give Him gifts? Spend quality time with Him? Share words of affirmation with Him? In some ways we could say “yes” to all of these, but if we are seeking God’s true love language it wouldn‘t be any of the traditional 5. What gift do we give God he hasn’t already made? What words do we share with Him He didn’t already put on our heart?

Over and over in the scriptures God reminds us that, with all due respect, we have very little to offer God. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a pretty good list of things we often value with regard to God, speaking in tongues, preaching the mysteries of God, faith to move mountains (performing miracles), giving gifts to the poor. But God wants “love”. What does love look like from us to God?

Psalm 51:16 says, “God does not take pleasure in our offerings”. In other words, God doesn’t find joy in us performing the acts of love towards Him or others if we don’t have love in our hearts. Psalm 51:17 continues on, “My sacrifice is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise”

A broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart are fruits of faith in our lives. When we believe God’s word is true it brings contrition in our heart that we do not measure up to God’s standards. When, we trust God is a forgiving God, it allows us to bring our brokenness before God and allows Him to heal us. This is how we tell God we love Him; we allow Him to heal us.

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus himself declares how much God loves “Jerusalem”. Jerusalem in this context is the faithful people of God. He loves them and yearns to heal and protect them “like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” but the faithful people would not let Him.

Too often we try to show love to God by “healing ourselves so I can be a blessing to God”. We try to do the right things and meet His expectations. We push God away because we feel like a failure or helpless in our sin. When, the whole time, all God wants is for us to have faith and trust that He wants to be the one to heal our hearts. The love language of God is faith or trust in Him as our healer and our protector. Come to Him all who are weak and heavy laden and He will give you rest.

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, March 12, 2023
Psalm 95:1–7; John 1:1-5, 14

Pastor’s Corner

Trusting Jesus For Joy

In our weekly worship meeting we were discussing the Trust in the Lord devotional for Lent. The question was, “Are we as good at trusting the Lord to bring us joy as we are at trusting Him when we are sad?”

My first reaction to this question brought humble confidence that I do go to God in times of joy. I have taught others for 20 years to remember to pray prayers of thanksgiving along with supplications (requests for help). I am far from perfect, but I feel I have done that well and over the years have trained myself to begin almost every prayer with a “thanks” before a “please”. But, as discussion continued I realized that wasn’t the question.

Do I need more than Jesus to have joy in my life? I started to feel a bit more conviction as I realized all of the ways the Devil and my flesh have allowed joy to be robbed from me, recently. As my children have grown so have my worries for them, my ability to provide for them. As I have aged, my worries for paying for college and retirement and weddings have increased. And what about all the fun things I still want to do, I may never get to do those.

Dreaming about fun things to do is part of being human. In fact, the idea of being blessed to be a blessing is from God himself. God’s people were given a Promised Land they waited for centuries to receive and waiting for the Promised Messiah brought hope and joy for thousands of years. The promise of a date night on the calendar can be an amazing relief to tension in a marriage and planning a family vacation (staycation) can be just the right medicine for a house that is always on the run. But, what about Jesus?

Trusting Jesus for joy means we need fewer activities and fewer vacations in order to be happy. Trusting Jesus for joy means we are not dependent on the next “break from all the stress.” Jesus has things to say and peace to offer right now in the midst of the chaos. But this isn’t about doing less, this is about trusting Jesus more.

The Fear of Missing out (FOMO) is a paralyzing fear in our culture. We see all the great pictures on social media and see all the toys our neighbors have and we want it too. We think we need it too, or at minimum feel we are missing out when we don’t. But we have Jesus, do we trust Him for our joy?

We don’t have to wait for a date night or a vacation to find peace or to reconnect. We can cut unnecessary things out of our lives now. Cutting things out gives us more space to be together with God and each other. Can we find joy in Jesus and each other? Joy in simple friendships and joy in sharing life, sharing meals, sharing a laugh?

I know in my life, at times, I am robbed of joy by comparing what I don’t have or can’t provide for my children rather than tallying what I do have and what I have provided. And to be honest, I have way more joy with Jesus than I ever would without, even if I gained the whole world.

“Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” John 1:16-17

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Scripture Readings for Sunday, March 5, 2023
1 Corinthians 8:4-9; Romans 1:16-17,21-25