First Baptist Church of La Crosse, Wisconsin
First Baptist Church of
La Crosse, Wisconsin
1209 Main Street
La Crosse, WI
(608) 782-6553


Not to Be Served but to Serve (Isa. 53:4-12; Heb. 5:1-10; Mk. 10:35-45)

I think I’ve told you of the small pieces of note paper that my father had on his office desk. It was one of the first things I remember learning to read. At the top was the legend “From the desk of Pastor John Herschel Ashley,” and, at the bottom was a part of our Gospel lesson: “…Not to be served, but to serve…” Even as a boy, I knew that my dad thought this saying was about him as a minister, and I thought that somebody ought to serve him at least once in a while. “…Not to be… Continue reading

The Impossible Kingdom (Amos 5:6-15; Mk. 10:17-31)

Today’s Lectionary passages make it pretty tough on “rich people.” They seem to say that God takes the side of the poor and is even against those who are rich. I have said to you before that, in the times of Amos and Jesus the overwhelming majority of people were poor, so that when they heard these words, they heard something different than we do. They heard that God was on the side of the 99% of people who were being downtrodden, exploited, and misused by the approximately 1% who assumed that the 99% existed for their comfort.

Our text… Continue reading

One Community of Love (Genesis 12:1-3; Hebrews 12:1-2; John 10:11-16)

As you know, this is the first Sunday of our World Mission Offering, in support of the work of American Baptist Missions Internationally. Today is also, fittingly, World Communion Sunday. The community of Christ is wider than we sometimes remember. Christian folks of many labels, styles, colours, and nations have already gathered or will gather around the Lord’s Table today. As well, it is no longer possible to live in our world today as if we Christians were the only people of faith. More and more we have co-workers and neighbours who are of a different faith tradition than Christian,… Continue reading

Caring in Community (Num. 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; James 5:13-20; Mk. 9:38-50)

Communities are funny places. Many people today misunderstand, I think, what communities are. They are not places where everyone is in the same place as regards looks, thinking, believing, and acting. Indeed, today, as we live in a digital world, people in communities may be in different physical places altogether, being face-to-face as we say, while other community members are hundreds, thousands of miles distant and connected electronically. This last part of community is one with which I’m just learning to cope. We will see more of these hybrid kinds of communities as we go forward, I suspect. True communities… Continue reading

Gently Wise (Prov. 8:1-11; James 3:12-4:3, 7-8a; Mk. 9:30-37)

Who is (or was) the wisest person you have known in your life? Think about it. Notice I didn’t say the smartest, I said the wisest. Smart people are not always very wise. Wisdom is not just theoretical intelligence, but is practical and has to do with ways to navigate fruitful courses through all that life brings.

Our scripture passages today concern those who think of themselves as teachers, and/or wise. Our readings help us find some ways to think about whether they (or we) really are. We set the stage with our reading from Proverbs 8 which is the… Continue reading

Speaking for Jesus (Isa. 50:4-9; Ps. 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38)

The beginning of a new Fall season is a good time to take stock of some of where we’ve gone together over the last 12 1/3 years. As I look back, some of the most common themes that have marked my preaching have been, first, that the God we meet in Jesus is a God of love, kindness, grace, compassion, and encouragement, not a stern, angry God who simply makes demands…or else. I hope that, when all is said and done, and I am but a memory receding in the rear-view mirror of your experience that you will remember (and… Continue reading

Coveting & Contentment

Today we finish our series on Ten Commitments – ten ways of life that are intended as normal outcomes of deciding to live in communion with God and in community with others. It occurs to me that these Principles have all been about boundaries drawn around different aspects of life that love God and neighbour intensely. Inside such boundaries, we have, each week, suggested positive behaviours that promote covenant values.

Eight of these boundaries deal with those things we do to show our attentiveness to God and neighbour, one of them deals with what we say to express ourselves in… Continue reading

Sticks ‘n’ Stones

Well, as I said, we’re getting close to done with the summer and with the summer series on the Ten Commandments – Ten Commitments that describe how covenant partners live and what their lives look like. They are similar to Jesus’ Beatitudes that describe normal Christian life in the broader context, first of the Hebrew tradition which has two branches or tributaries that flow from it, one is Judaism and one is Christianity. I am interested here, mainly and not surprisingly, in the Christian branch. The previous Commitments have all centred on the actions of covenant partners. This one shifts… Continue reading

Adding Value

It’s good to be back with you and back into our series involving the Ten Commandments, or ten commitments, that people make in accepting life in covenant with God and other partners. We have said that these ten words or sentences are not laws as such, but are Principles that outline broad areas of covenant life that deal with one or another of God’s Primary Policy Statements, summed up in the words:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. (Dt. 6:5) and…

You shall love your neighbour… Continue reading

Who Cares About Adultery?

I admit that the title for today’s sermon is, possibly, a little provocative, although it does set out an attitude that is quite prevalent in contemporary society: “Who cares about adultery”? I mean, even the word itself, adultery, has an old-fashioned, narrow-minded, puritanical, stink to it, doesn’t it. The word isn’t used very much outside of some churches. I certainly don’t use it much and I haven’t heard it used much here either.

In 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne published his famous novel The Scarlet Letter. In the work contrasted the “scarlet letter” (an “A” for “adultery”) that Hester Prynne was made… Continue reading