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

Pastor’s Corner

Staffing Changes

There are a lot of them following this unprecedented year!

Thank You and Farewell

  • Mrs. Sonya Lutze has been an amazing fourth grade teacher at Cross for the past 17 years, making learning interactive through many fun and educational activities.  She has also overseen Cross Cares and directed various choirs.  Her husband’s new job for Menards takes her to the Omaha, Nebraska area where she will be much closer to all of her family. 
  • Mrs. Teri Wilger has spent 20 years as a dedicated classroom aide with a majority of those years spent in preschool classrooms.  She looks forward to spending more time with her three grown children and a soon-to-come grandbaby.  
  • Mrs. Lynn Torok has spent 13 years as a dedicated classroom aide with a majority of those years (but not exclusively) in kindergarten.  She has been taking classes to learn medical coding and looks forward to the chance for her work to be more mobile. 
  • Mrs. Mary Konrath has served as our Human Resources / Office Manager for 15 years after many years in the corporate arena.  She will be spending more time with her recently retired husband but not nearly as much time as she’ll be spending with her scrapbooking and Cricut machine!

We will be celebrating these wonderful women of God and their dedicated years of service on Sunday, June 6 at our 10 AM outdoor worship service. 

Welcome!

  • We welcome Mrs. Jan Kinsel onto our team as our Parish Nurse.  She will lead our efforts with the re-opening of local senior care centers and other human care ministries.  Jan completed her Director of Church Ministries degree in 2017 but has never been placed in a congregation.  We will ask the congregation to extend her a Divine Call at a special congregational meeting to be held Sunday, June 13 at 11 AM in the sanctuary.
  • Mr. Craig Mattes is a certified Director of Christian Outreach who recently launched his own business helping churches with social media and communications. 

There is more to come!

We are currently putting a Call/search committee together to identify a teacher for kindergarten and one for second grade for the 2021-22 school year.

Keep this team in your prayers as we keep you in ours!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

In His service and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pentecost:  For All Nations

The recent Israeli-Palestine conflict has lasted for ten days.  The war has waged for millennia.  The worst part is that it is a glorified fight over an inheritance.  Granted, the inheritance is an eternal one, rooted in God’s plan of redemption for the world.  In other words, it is an important inheritance for all people for all eternity.  But, unfortunately, neither one of them will ever receive it.

The root cause is back in Genesis when Abraham (Abram at the time) and Sarah (Sarai at the time) doubted God’s promise to give them a son.  Instead of trusting and waiting, Abraham agreed to father a son named Ishmael with their servant, Hagar.  In Genesis 17, God said that this was not how His Covenant Promise would be fulfilled and restated His promise that they would have a son and this time said he would be named Isaac. 

When Isaac was born, Abraham sent Ishmael and Hagar away.  But Ishmael was circumcised, given the promise of God from Abraham, and God promised to bless Ishmael even though Ishmael wouldn’t receive the Covenant Promise. 

The Palestinian (Arab) people claim Ishmael as their ancestor.  The Jews claim Isaac as their ancestor.  Both claim the land of Abraham to be theirs and also claim their understanding of God to be the truth.  What does this mean for us as Christians?

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Covenant God made to Isaac.  Historically, Christians have sided with Jews because of this unity.  Christians after all are called the “New Israel,” adopted in through the waters of Baptism and the blood of Jesus.  While it is great to have this common ground, the true reality is that both Jews and Palestinians (Muslims) have rejected the true God.  Palestinians reject Him by denying Isaac is the son of the Covenant; Jews deny Him by saying Jesus isn’t the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

At Pentecost God gives the disciples the Holy Spirit so they can proclaim the Gospel in ALL languages to ALL people.  This is regardless of their ancestry or reputation.  The beauty is that, while the Holy Land is immeasurably meaningful to us as Christians, our hope isn’t in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Our hope is in the Savior who was born in that land, through the promise of God to the people.  Our inheritance is in the truly Holy Land of Heaven.  

We should not take sides in this battle for land any more than we should ever take sides when two people God loves are fighting.  Our role in warfare is to be the peacemaker who stands for truth.  Yes, sometimes standing for truth does require going to battle, but this should be a last resort.  When we are able to freely proclaim the Gospel, that is where our feet should remain firmly planted.  We are blessed to share the importance of forgiveness and unity in the work of Jesus Christ; this is the only thing that will ever finally end any conflict. 

At Pentecost we are reminded that our calling is to receive and share the Holy Spirit.  Our calling is not to defend a land or a church or a law.  When the Gospel is proclaimed, then and only then are people changed.  When the Gospel is believed in a land, any land, then that Land and its people are in fact Holy.

“… if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Pastor’s Corner

Ascension (Another 40 Days)

Jesus had two 40 day long events bookend His ministry on Earth.  The first and most remembered are the 40 days in the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan.  These 40 days are the inspiration for Lent.  Believers are encouraged to give up an earthly temptation (meat, chocolate, alcohol, etc.) for the same time period in order to better focus on God’s Word and promises.  

The second 40 days occurred at the end of Jesus’ ministry and comprised the time between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into Heaven.  This Sunday we will celebrate Ascension Day (even though it was officially Thursday, May 13).  Ascension officially concludes the earthly ministry and presence of Jesus.  It also marks a crucial reality.

This second 40 days is arguably the most important 40 days in human history, yet we often forget about them.  Ascension frequently passes without even a mention in most Christian churches today.  Why is this?  In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted.  Every single one of us humans can relate to temptation.  We live with and give in to temptation every single day.  If we are truly blessed we might even battle against temptation from time to time.  On the other hand, very few of us can relate to rising from the dead, walking the earth for six weeks and then floating into Heaven on a cloud while still alive. 

For the 11 disciples and all the followers of Jesus, the second 40 days formed the foundation on which we all stand.  During these pivotal days, the disciples asked this question of Jesus many times:  “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

For 40 days they asked and asked and asked Jesus if He was going to finally raise Israel to its proper place of glory and power above all other earthly nations.  For those 40 days the disciples relentlessly wrestled with the reality that the people who killed Jesus were going to get away with it.  Jesus didn’t come to get revenge on unbelievers, murderers, or misguided Jews.  Jesus came to restore these people into a relationship with their God, their God who created them and still loved them. 

The disciples looked their enemies in the face; they stared down their own blood relatives and yearned for all that was wrong to be made right.  Jesus’ reply to all this?  He ascended into Heaven. 

Jesus took those last 40 days to transfer His mission to His followers.  This wasn’t about some supernatural power grab.  God didn’t come to Earth to grab the reigns of the universe; He has never let go!  Jesus came down to remind us it isn’t about what is seen; it is about what remains unseen. 

Jesus did restore the Kingdom of God.  He did it on the cross by paying for our sins.  Jesus did restore the Kingdom of God by sending His people to be His representatives to all people.  Just like the Jews (Hebrews) had done throughout the Old Testament, now all the baptized (adopted) children of God are sent to the ends of the world.  

These second 40 days could go unnoticed, but they shouldn’t.  Just as Lent teaches us we are continuously tempted, these second 40 days teach us we continually have the power of God as our fingertips.  We have the power to love sacrificially, forgive graciously, give generously and live abundantly.  God has transferred the responsibility and the power to proclaim His Kingdom to His children, every single one of them.  

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Appreciation

This week is traditionally Teacher Appreciation Week.  So, let’s start there.  Last summer, in the height of the pandemic Principal Paul and I had some difficult decisions to make.   When we approached the school staff about meeting in-person or online or hybrid learning for the fall, EVERY ONE of them agreed the students needed to be together, every day, by any means necessary, if at all possible.  

It may seem like a small thing, but in reality it is an immeasurable thing.  Our staff has just as many opinions and viewpoints as any group of people, but they chose to find unity in serving our students and families even with their own health risks and countless other unknowns.   This unity allowed Paul and I and our leadership to focus on a plan to move forward knowing we had the full support of our team.   That hasn’t wavered—even once.    

EVERY ONE of them has worn a mask every day, whether they agreed with it or not.  EVERY ONE of them has completely overhauled how they teach to adapt to the State mandates, EVERY ONE of them has taught their lessons in person and electronically and often at the same time! EVERY ONE of them has been prepared, all year long, to teach from home at the drop of a hat.  EVERY ONE of them has rallied for the sake of their students, families and as a representative of their Lord.  I couldn’t have more appreciation for any group of people.

But, we couldn’t do it without our families.  This week our families have celebrated our teachers like no other time in history.   Our families have supported and persevered through all of the rules, policies and ever-changing guidelines.  Throughout it all our families chose to appreciate that we were trying to stay open every day and provide normalcy in a great Christ centered educational environment. 

Our church staff gives great effort to resource and support our school ministry as a unified congregation.  As our school had to literally spread out to every corner of this facility, our church staff stepped up and relocated or eliminated any obstacles that stood in the school’s way.   They have remained flexible and changed on a moment’s notice to provide chapels, virtual solutions and adapting in countless ways that are unsung and frequently unknown because they do it without complaint.   

None of us have been perfect, not even close.  But we have all—teachers, families and staff, chosen to remain humble in our failures and have extended forgiveness and grace to one another.   In times of great stress, true character is often revealed.  I could not be prouder and more humbled by this amazing community of faith.  Thank you, we appreciate you and I am overjoyed that we have been able to celebrate together this week.   I believe it is a true celebration of how Paul encourages the church to be with one another.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:1-4

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – Summer is Here!

I know the official start of summer isn’t until the end of May.  I also know school at Cross doesn’t get out until early June, but why not get started now on the fun-loving season of summer?  Last summer, in response to the pandemic, we started outdoor worship services.  These were a huge hit!  We are bringing back our outdoor worship services starting now!

Beginning Sunday, May 2 (this weekend), all our worship services will be outdoors.  The outdoor worship services will be held at the same times as our indoor services with Traditional being held at 8:00 AM and Contemporary being held at 10:00 AM.  The outdoor services will happen on the first and third Sundays of each month.  

The outdoor services have been our highest attended services throughout the pandemic and we anticipate it to be the same way this summer as well.  Outdoor services are fun and safe and a great way to reconnect with God and with the people of God at Cross.  We look forward to seeing you and your family as we Walk with God in Worship this Summer. 

Here are a few tips to make the outdoor worship experience the best it can be.  

  • Download the “hiscross” app onto your smart device before you arrive for easy access to the worship folders. Links are also provided below.
  • Bring your own chair, drinks, etc.  Remember, we have a pavilion now but you will still need your own seat.
  • Enter the parking lot off Ament Road—parking is in the Upper Lot. There is limited parking available in the lower lot to accommodate those with special needs or people who will remain in their vehicle throughout worship.
  • Upon entry, there will be a table for communion supplies.  If you are communing, please keep these with you until we commune together as a family of faith.
  • Restrooms are available through the West Lobby (Office) Entrance.  
  • You are invited to remain after service and reconnect with each other. 
  • It works best to exit the parking lot onto Route 47 near the Youth Center, especially as people start arriving for the next service and the welcome tables are still set up.
  • If the weather dictates, we will move indoors into our Sanctuary and use our Large Gym for overflow space.  

We look forward to seeing you at Cross for our outdoor services. Praying for good weather and great fellowship. 

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:25

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – May(hem)

May is fast approaching and life around here at Cross always gets pretty exciting with the school year coming to a close and our congregation ministries transitioning to our summer schedules.   This year, we are adding the excitement of rebooting life and ministry as a worldwide pandemic refuses to ride off into the night.   

I wanted to take a few moments and share where we are headed as a congregation.   I couldn’t be more proud of how we have worked together over the last year to rise above this pandemic and make Gospel proclamation the most important thing.  We didn’t get caught up in bitter politics and divisive language; it wasn’t easy!  Instead each of you chose to make the best of a horrible situation and move forward with Christ as our leader.

As a staff and as volunteer leaders, we are looking to continue to do more of the same by focusing on the Gospel and putting aside divisiveness.   Kendall County is among the highest percent of vaccinated counties in the state.  As of this writing 97% of all people over age 65 have received their first shot and 47% of people 16-64 years old have as well!  This means, we are well under way to reaching the vaccination rate that our state leadership says we need to move to Phase 5 (70% of seniors and 50% of people age 16-64).

Mask wearing has always been about slowing the spread of the virus and loving your neighbor.  These things are still extremely important.   In situations where people are in close proximity for long periods of time and risk of transmission is high, we still strongly encourage and will continue to require mask wearing.  Examples of this would be in our school, in our Wednesday night ministries and when gathered inside socializing.   

At the same time, we have modified our Sunday morning worship to greatly reduce the risk of transmission.  We have roped off every other row, we do not get up and move for the offering or communion.  We do not have donuts and coffee for socializing and we have a maximum capacity in a large, high ceiling room.  Because of all the reasons stated in this letter, I believe it is once again reasonably safe to allow people to attend our worship services without the requirement of wearing a mask.  The benefit of offering mask optional, indoor worship is greater than requiring masks for all. 

Beginning in May, our 1st and 3rd Sunday worship services will be with communion and remain outdoors, weather permitting.  The 2nd, 4th and 5th Sundays will be indoors where all worship services will be mask-optional.  We will continue to encourage social distancing by “family” and rope off every other row.  The Fellowship Hall and the large gymnasium will serve as overflow.  

We have done a tremendous job of supporting one another throughout this pandemic and I pray we continue to do so.  Many people will still wear masks and many will not; these decisions are deeply personal.  It just so happens, we can see each other’s decisions in plain sight.  Some of our people have chosen to wear only the best masks from the very beginning, others have chosen to remain out of the public as much as possible to avoid wearing masks.   Wearing or not wearing a mask does not make a person any more or any less of a Christian or any more or any less trusting in God.   

My desire, in making this decision now, is the same as it has always been with every decision.  We want to honor our leaders at the local, state and federal levels.  We also need to implement those guidelines in the way we think is best for our people and circumstances.  We have people who have not been inside the sanctuary for over a year as they wait to be able to worship without a mask.  Others have attended every week and worn a mask even though they didn’t agree.  I believe it is now the time to move forward on this guideline to once again welcome back another group of people to Cross that we have been missing.   

These are difficult times; there is limited and conflicting information everywhere you look.  The Devil is actively trying to distract us from the Mission of God; we will not let him win.  We have prayed and researched and monitored and waited for the best times to make the best decisions.  Everyone has not always agreed, but your support and love for one another has always won out.  I look forward to praying and listening to each of you as you work through these challenging times and, as it has been with any decision this year, some will cheer and some will disagree.  I pray we continue to take the time to learn how each of us is different and also united together for the sake of the Gospel.  

Thank you all for your partnership in the Gospel and thank you all for your graciousness.  This has been and remains a tremendously challenging time to lead; it seems as if there are no “right answers”.  In times of intense and difficult decision making I rely heavily on God’s teaching in Romans 12:1–that, as we selflessly worship God with our whole life, He gives us the ability to discern His good and gracious will.  And, Romans 8:28 assures me that when I fail to properly discern His will, He is still actively working good even through my poor decisions, for the good of those who love Him.  Praise God that He is good, gracious and merciful!

In Christ, 

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Pastor’s Corner – How Do I find Peace?!?

When Jesus appears to His disciples after His resurrection in Luke 24, He proclaims, “Peace be with you.”   After this greeting, the scripture says the disciples responded by being startled and frightened.   This. Is. Perfect.

Over the years of reading scripture, I have often thought about why Jesus says peace be with you.  This is a similar situation in my mind about why angels always say “Do not be afraid” when they show up on the scene.  As humans, we are relatively comfortable with the physical world.  We interact and observe the physical realm every hour of every day.  As human beings, we are also naturally afraid of the unknown.  When the spiritual realm invades the physical realm this can be very frightening. 

I don’t think that is what is happening here.

Well, of course it is what is happening here, but I don’t think it is the only reason Jesus is offering them peace.  In the Gospel of John, we read the disciples were gathered in this room, behind locked doors because they were already afraid.   The disciples were already afraid of the physical world they were experiencing.  Jesus had been murdered; were they next?

When Jesus shows up on the scene, He offers peace.   Of course it is a word of encouragement because anyone witnessing a dead man, who was now alive, would need some reassuring.  But this peace reminds me of the same peace Jesus offered these same disciples in John 14.  The disciples and Jesus were gathered in the upper room around the events of the Passover supper when Jesus teaches them about His Father’s house with many rooms.  How Jesus was going to leave them and prepare a place for them and then return for them.   Jesus declares “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” 

Then, Jesus offers the disciples peace in Verse 27.   This peace, Jesus says is not like the world gives so “do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  The imagery of this is glorious.  John 14 is the last night Jesus would be with them until He rises again.   Compare this to the fear and trembling of the disciples the next time Jesus is with them.  He gives them the same peace while they are hiding, afraid of the world, just like He encouraged them not to be.

How many times has my life been the exact opposite of how God wants it to be?  How many times have I ignored Jesus and trusted my flesh instead?  I love this image of the disciples huddled in a locked room afraid and Jesus says “Peace” and they freak out.  They knew already in their minds what they were going to do if this ghost, that looked like Jesus, made a peep.  Instead, Jesus encouraged them to find peace, not in the world or in their gut or in a reasonable solution.  But instead, to have peace from Him.

Peace in the midst of our fear. Peace because of our fear.  Peace that comes from knowing Jesus.  Peace from knowing that in Jesus all things are possible.  Peace from trusting that even if we die, we still have Peace and Joy forever with Him.   No, it is nothing like the world gives, and for that I am truly Thankful!

Christ is Risen!

Erik Gauss