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More than Fish Fry Season

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 28 March 2011

Isaiah 58

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

March 13, 2011—First Sunday in Lent

Sisters and Brothers,

A lot is happening around Crossroads these days.I know my calendar is filling up with various opportunities to learn and grow together.Just today, we have a Newcomers’ Class and a Unity Service in addition to our regular weekly services.Around the corner is the Christian Women’s Connection retreat and the Sunday School teachers’ Refuel with other Church of God congregations in Wisconsin. I’m also happy to announce a church family bowling outing at Bowlero Lanes (117th and Burleigh)—Saturday March 26th @ 9 am.

But most importantly, Focus 40 begins March 16th.There are over 500 congregations in the US participating in this journey together. The preaching leading up to Easter will push us to consider the confession I hope is on all of our lips: Jesus is Lord! We will talk about prayer, fasting, and priorities in our individual lives and the life of the congregation.I do want to warn you that I will likely invite you to do something you’ve never done before (and don’t worry…one of the ideas will be totally new to me too!).As we move through this Lenten season, what I hope emerges is a deeper recognition of what the cross and empty tomb mean for our life today and tomorrow.Obviously this won’t mean the same thing for all of us since we’re all at different places on the journey of discipleship.

For some in our congregation this may be the first year of intentional Lenten fasting, while for others the challenge may be the same as it was for Israel in Isaiah 58—you’ve “done” Lent for so many years that you will struggle to appropriately focus your time of prayer and fasting.Whatever your previous experience with fasting and Lent, I hope you will keep an open attitude throughout the Focus 40. God is not sitting in the clouds waiting to see how well we fast in order to “twiddle” the right knobs and give us what we want, but God does desire our loyalty to the call of discipleship.

This Lent I hope you do get to take in a good Fish Fry (and maybe because you’ve chosen to fast from meat on certain days), but my true hope is that our life together will be strengthened by sharing in a concerted effort to practice and embody our loyalty to Christ and our faithfulness to the path of discipleship, obedience, and love.

In Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Nathan

February Newsletter

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 08 February 2011

From the Pastor’s Study: The Importance of Everyone


1 Cor. 12

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.


January 31, 2011


I’ve been stuck lately by the breadth of needs and gifts of this community. We all bring so many different things to the table. Over the past few weeks I’ve witnessed or heard about such an amazing variety of ways that you all are caring for the needs of each other and the needs of the church. When people hurt, we need comfort and to be comforters. When people hunger, we need food and we need cooks and grocery shoppers. When people gather for worship on Sunday morning, so many people give of their time to make sure everything is ready—music, lessons, food, bulletins, a cleared parking lot, sound, etc. One of the realities of my life is that when people out in public find out I’m a pastor they often mention where they go to church, that they’re planning to go back to church, or give me a reason why they haven’t been lately. I try to convey to them that being part of a church family is really important but avoid the kinds of guilt motivation. I say this to be clear, I’m not trying to lay on blame for missing last week or provide guilt motivation to keep you coming, but WE are all missed when we’re absent from the body.

One of the central aspects of following Christ is living together as a community. Community can be hard but it can also carry us through situations and moments in life that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to handle. The pictures of Jesus we have in the New Testament show him spending time with his disciples. There were definitely times when Jesus was alone for various reasons, but the majority of what we learn about Christ’s witness is lived with others. As we continue in a series on 1 Corinthians, one of the crucial issues is how to live together.

I am eager to witness and be a part of what we can do together this year. Already in 2011 I’ve seen so many positive signs of our congregational family looking after each other. I hope you’ll look for opportunities to reach out to each other—both in seeking and offering help, wisdom, discernment, and mentoring. Community is much more than the clichés. It is our calling as Christ’s body and his Church. God works through the unique mix of people here at Crossroads. If you have an idea of how you can further participate in the body, if you are looking for some opportunities to serve, or if you have a need that the body can help you with—please let me know.



In Christ’s Peace,


Pastor Nathan


Too Busy Not to Worship

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 08 November 2010

When I was a student at Anderson University we had twice a week Chapel services. Attendance was taken, using your student ID number—probably the reason I still know that number today. We were “allowed” approximately 10 absences per semester. Then when I began Seminary, Chapel attendance was optional—presumably because we would all “choose” to be present in worship. Not everyone however in Seminary chose to attend worship regularly. Often people would explain why with words like, “I’m just too busy.” “I have too much to do.” “I have to finish up the assignment for class.”

One of the memorable messages from my Seminary orientation at Duke Divinity was about those times when we would think we were too busy to go to the midday worship services. The Dean reminded us that especially then…especially when we felt overwhelmed, we would be wise to take the time (one hour) to gather together and worship.

As the leaves disappear from the trees, the frost shows up each morning, and the Milwaukee winter begins to set in, we will all undoubtedly begin our literal or mental checklists. Most of us will become extremely busy with preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of our lives will be consumed with shopping, decorating, travelling, wrapping, cooking, and managing end of year tasks at work, school, or home. But we are wise to remember…especially when we feel overwhelmed, worship forms us and orients our lives in a way that transforms us and our understanding of everything else we do. We as people living in our society are too busy not to worship. Too busy not to pray. Too busy to forget Who makes our lives possible and meaningful.

In Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Nathan

From the Pastor’s Study:Dec. Newsletter

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 11 January 2011

Sisters and Brothers,


The Christmas season and the end of the year are upon us. Hopefully you will find yourself with opportunities to celebrate the gift from God of entering the human condition. We proclaim that this entails a redemption of humanity and also shows that life on earth is good, not something to be avoided or abandoned. My hope is that you will experience God as you participate in office parties, family gatherings, gift exchanges, our Live Nativity, and other expressions of service, celebration, and giving.


At this time of year, I often think of so many people who have made my life what it is. Just this week I emailed a former professor about the positive role he played in my development as a pastor. I also look at the picture hanging on our refrigerator from my nephew and am filled with joy that he took the time to draw and send it to me. Our expressions of thanks and appreciation can be some of the most meaningful gifts we give at this time of year—don’t miss the opportunities! Christmas can be a wonderful time of reflection upon what we’ve been given, how we’ve done well, and what we should improve. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of reflection. I hope you will take the chance to reflect upon and thank someone for his or her positive influence in your life. A second aspect of reflection is that it helps us to orient our goals for the future.


This is also the close of 2010. Looking forward to 2011, what do you hope to do and be? I want to remind us all that Christianity is more than your mental belief and assent to certain statements about God and Christ. If you are one to make a New Year’s resolution, may I encourage you to consider a way that your faith might be deepened this year—either through knowledge and understanding or practice. Don’t accept the story so often told in our society that your religious faith is something private and personal, not to affect the rest of life. Instead, allow your core experience of God’s love to overflow in your use of time, money, opportunities, and challenges. We have a source of life and encouragement in Christ and the gathered community each week. We each go back and forth between being people who need to give and needing to receive. The wonderful thing is that when we live together as a committed community, it almost always balances out.


Merry Christmas as you celebrate the gift of Christ!


In His Peace,


Pastor Nathan

Meaningful Quotations

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 05 November 2010


I'm going to begin adding some quotations from those things that I read and hear in my study for sermons and writing.

"The time has come for Christians to extend hands of fellowship and recognition to each other and to find ways of working together for building up the church of God in human society. The walls of sectarianism that tend to divide and separate the people of God must be destroyed, for they are incompatible with the Christian gospel and the Christian concept of life."

--Reed, W. E.: A Story to Tell.


“I don’t know how many books are in your library dealing with scripture but whoever wrote them their work will reflect their faith and their worship or their lack of it. It will reflect how they questioned the scriptures and the answers they found from them. Their work will show how they were addressed by scripture and how they answered and responded. Always behind the book is the writer. There is something being shown of the writer’s life. …this is true about any sermon we preach. They will reflect something about the scriptures… The greatest thing anyone can say to you after you preach is ‘thank God I see that text more clearly than I saw it.’”


James Earl Massey,

2010 Gardner C. Taylor Lectures--Duke Divinity School


‎"Whoever hears the message of the resurrection of Christ in such a way that in it the cry of the crucified has become inaudible, hears not the Gospel but a myth of the victors."

--Johann Baptist Metz in "The Church after Auschwitz"



Notes from the pastors of Crossroads Church of God