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October Newsletter

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 15 November 2011

“Harvesting our Failures”


It’s harvest season. I recently received a photo message from my friend’s family farm during their harvest in Indiana. Apple picking season is in full swing, pumpkins can be seen at roadside stands, and the “harvest festival” of Thanksgiving will be upon us before we know it.


I’m of the opinion that many of us who haven’t farmed lose out on some of the rich imagery and stories in the Old and New Testaments. So many of the stories draw on agricultural contexts and situations. Jesus tells us “I am the vine.” Paul calls the primary virtues Fruit in his letter to Galatians. Jesus tells parables about workers in the vineyard and mustard shrubs, and throughout the OT, Israel yearns for “a land flowing with milk and honey”—crucial agricultural crops of the Palestinian area.


A lot of these stories might grab our attention more if we understood the agricultural world that illumines Scripture. Growing, pruning, and yes, harvesting, are important practices for Christians. Not too long ago, I was reflecting on some errors about which I said, “I messed up and won’t do that again.” A wise friend encouraged me to not just say “I won’t do this again” but instead advised, “harvest your failures.


When the farmer goes out to harvest, he is not just plowing over the corn and preparing the field for a future crop, but he is gathering the produce that will sustain the family through the winter, enable the maintenance of the tools and equipment, and supply the seeds for the next year’s planting.


Most of us are experts in description. We easily justify to ourselves why we needed to do whatever it was that we now look back on and wish we hadn’t done something. We talk of being frustrated because we don’t want to be angry. On more than one occasion I’ve tried to dismiss some error and said, “well hindsight’s 20/20.” We as both individuals and a congregation can look at our pasts and turn some of our experiences into produce, harvests, and fruit instead of just a file folder of what went wrong. We can harvest those failures and allow them to enable our future and sustain our present, just like the farmer. However, most of us don’t have the patience to actually harvest. Remember the scene in The Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner is plowing under his mature corn crop so that he can build the baseball field. I remember thinking to myself…couldn’t this wait until he harvested that corn to build the field? Often we are in too much of a hurry to move on from a painful or troubling experience to truly harvest it so that it helps us grow. It is much easier to just stuff it away somewhere and move on without really giving it much reflection.


This autumn as you pick apples, drive by a roadside stand of pumpkins, or celebrate the harvest—take the time to reflect on what kind of harvests you have neglected that might carry you through the next “winter” on your journey…and don’t forget to allow others to help you too. Every farmer knows that more hands will help the harvesting process.


Pastor Nathan


From the July Newsletter

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 31 July 2011

Last newsletter I wrote about our Church of God heritage and posed the question of whether it should be a root or a roadblock. I hope that what emerged is that it all depends on us. We have the resources available to us to be grounded within a particular tradition that has sought to serve Christ for over 130 years in the US and one that has increasingly seen the fruit of connecting to appropriate places within the broader Christian tradition that takes us all the way through history to the New Testament Church. Obviously where we tie into these traditions and how we interpret and apply our historical memory and knowledge requires much discernment.

This month, I want to touch on a wonderful opportunity for each of us to connect ourselves to one of Crossroads’ roots. Each year we set up a stable, rent some farm animals, and gather together to become cold. In the past couple weeks I had two people from other churches or organizations say something about the live nativity when they found out I was from Crossroads. “Oh you’re the church with the live nativity, right?” When we host the live nativity, we are offering our neighbors an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a way that centers on the birth of Christ. It provides a wonderful opportunity for young children to learn the story of Jesus’ birth, and hopefully provides numerous parents with the chance to tell their children “why those people are doing a play outside in the snow.”

There is another and I suspect even more important aspect of the live nativity that some of you may not have considered. As one of the newer persons to our church family, I have been struck by the way that my participation in the live nativity has tied me to some of you and some previous family members who have passed on or have moved away from our fellowship. When I was being sized for my robe as a wiseman, I learned of Josh Smith, his height, his connection to this congregation and about his work in Maryland as a pastor. I also got to see David Titter wear the Elijah costume and learned of how that role was filled for many years by Guenter Schmidt. Many other family names came out as I heard stories of previous years…Foth, Dustin, Schwarz, Tanner, Nietzche, Fridley, and others. When we gathered last fall for our Centennial celebration, one of my favorite things was seeing so many photos of people in live nativity roles. As a new member of the family, I was immediately connected to countless others from the past…walking in their paths so to speak. What a wonderful blessing for our children, youth, and new family members to have a connection to our history. The Live Nativity connects us to each other, unites us in an outreach to our community, and offers an important time of fellowship near Christmas.

What are some of the other ways that you feel connected to our past? As you spend time in prayer, study, and reflection this month, I want to encourage you to think about the ways that we are connected to each other, the past, and how we want to enable connection to the future. And hey, while you’re at it, maybe you can make the trip up to Rock Springs for a day or more during Family Camp…it’s another wonderful opportunity to walk in the footsteps of others who have been before us while also being re-energized for discipleship.

In Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Nathan

Continuing through Easter

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 25 April 2011

The Church continues to celebrate Easter through June 12th and Pentecost

Someone once asked Lesslie Newbigin (a Christian missiologist/theologian) whether, as he looked to the future, he was optimistic or pessimistic. His reply was simple and characteristic:    "I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!"

--Cited by N. T. Wright in his book, Surprised by Hope

Let us endeavor together to live as Easter People!

Special Thanks to Pastor Jim Cook of Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis for sharing this quote with me.

"Participating in God's Kingdom Now"

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 27 April 2011

I came across this in N. T. Wright's book Justification today. It captures the idea I have been preaching that we are to participate in God's Kingdom all around us:

"God, the Creator, must 'judge' the world in the sense of putting it right at the last--and... God has brought this judgment into the middle of history, precisely in the covenant-fulfilling work of Jesus Christ, dealing with sin through his death, launching the new world in his resurrection, and sending his Spirit to enable human beings, through repentance and faith, to become little walking and breathing advance parts of that eventual new creation." (251, emphasis added)

Preparing for Life in the New Creation

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 11 April 2011

Sisters and Brothers,

I write this column wearing a baseball hat and trying to push the idea out of my mind that it is Opening Day and I’m sitting in the library carrel instead of watching a game on TV. Players and fans are all excited for the end of Spring Training and the big event…but Opening Day, as special as it is, also entails a summer full of games. I personally can’t wait to joyfully “waste” a few hours either at Miller Park or in the backyard listening to a game and grilling some hot dogs.

Lent is a time to prepare for an event far more important than Opening Day. Even more than Opening Day, Easter is absolutely a central celebration during the church year and congregational life. We can forget—especially during our Lenten preparation—that Easter is more than the end of a fast, a big celebration, and the day to gather with family for ham. When we celebrate the empty tomb, Jesus’ triumph over the principalities and powers, and our reconciliation to God through Christ we are also celebrating an Opening Day of sorts. We can’t forget that Easter seals the New Creation that was inaugurated in Jesus’ Incarnation. Devotion to a life that seeks Christ’s will and accepts the New Creation life should follow the big event of Easter.

The month of April brings us the final 24 days of Focus 40. So far we’ve taken the opportunity to focus on sharing food, relationships, and vocation. In the upcoming weeks we’ll also focus on other aspects of our lives and be prepared to offer your insights from your Focus 40 experience on Palm Sunday April 17th. Focus 40 is preparation for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, but what we learn about God and ourselves also carries us forward as we seek to live into the New Creation—lives that accept the truth that we have been created and claimed for lives in relationship with God. The dean of my seminary liked to share about a possible translation of 2 Cor 5:17 for which the Greek text is difficult to convey in English: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ; New Creation!” This month, let us finish the preparation, celebrate the event, and continue in lives that interject “New Creation!” into the world.

In Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Nathan

2 Cor 5:17-18

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”


Notes from the pastors of Crossroads Church of God