Our readings for the morning are diverse. We have the story of the “call” of the prophet Jeremiah. We have what many consider to be the high point of Paul’s writing, a hymn, or a poem on the topic of Christian love. And we have (the other half of) Jesus’ sermon in his own hometown synagogue.
As different as these readings are, they are tied together by the fact that they all arise within conflict. Jeremiah was called into the political and social chaos that whirled about the end of the Kingdom of Judah. Jesus conflicted his listeners to the… Continue reading
This is the date on which we think about and celebrate our congregation’s birthday, and the day we have our Annual Meeting. Each year on this Sunday I try to have some word that might help us to think about a course through the year ahead. This is the 164th year of our existence as the first organized congregation in the city – actually begun in 1852, before La Crosse was incorporated in 1856. Today we look back with pride and some amazement.
This is also the third Sunday in the Epiphany Season, and an apt time to think about… Continue reading
On the Sunday after Christmas I took some time to unpack that wonderful passage in John 1 about the Word becoming flesh, and suggested to you that, in this act, God decided to be enfleshed, and embedded in the world, joined to it, if you will, in a deep, self-conscious, and spiritual way. On the next Sunday, Mark Stahlhut preached on the same John 1 text and talked about God’s fullness that dwelled in Jesus, from which we have all received. Between that prologue and our Gospel Lesson today, there is material that transitions the focus from God’s work in… Continue reading
We live in a confusing world, and many times we are forced to decide what to do with less than a satisfying amount of information or a sense of the implications of our choices. It’s just part of life that, every day, we have to choose one thing or another, one way or another, one action or another. It’s only occasionally that we get clarity about the decisions we make. Life is ambiguous and can come out many different ways. Even our choices seem limited much of the time, but we have to live with those choices nonetheless. As we… Continue reading
(This sermon is indebted to William P. Brown, Sacred Sense (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015): esp. 113-117 as well as his earlier volume The Seven Pillars of Creation (NY: Oxford, 2010), esp. 33-77).
Most of our time during Advent and Christmas have been spent on the very human birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem in, as Matthew put it, “the days of Herod the King.” Most of our songs and carols of Advent and Christmas (including those we have sung and will sing today) focus on that same reality. We all know that the shepherds are in Luke’s Gospel… Continue reading
On This Sunday, the choir of First Baptist Church presented Joel Raney’s Christmas Musical “A Thrill of Hope.” There was no separate sermon.
The words I read to introduce our first hymn were taken from what is called the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, and are commonly agreed to be some of the oldest poetry in the Bible, and so, arguably, some of the earliest words to express faith in the God of the Bible. Here they are, again, from the pew Bible: “Who is like you O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendour, doing wonders?”
This is, I think, a pretty good translation until we get to the last two words “Doing wonders,”… Continue reading
This is the Sunday we light the second purple candle on the Advent Wreath – the Candle of Peace. Each year as this candle is lit, I think that it’s a good thing that this is the second candle and that it comes after the Candle of Hope because it seems every year that I can remember, that peace is only a hope. Today, we truly live in a world where religious intolerance and hatred is white hot. Indeed, in this country which we say is a country of laws, we suffer violence because it is commonplace to shoot and… Continue reading
There he was, out in the wilderness that surrounds the Jordan River, bellowing about repentance. He was a bit of an oddball – John the Baptist. He wore garments of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He was doing all he could to look like Elijah or one of the early prophets of Israel (and you can see 2 Kings 1:8 if you don’t believe me). John ate locusts and wild honey. And yet, Luke takes immense pains to make the appearance of this oddball an event worth coordinating with no less than seven rulers of the… Continue reading