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


Impossible? (Amos 5:6-15; Mark 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. This makes many of us uncomfortable, since we live in a culture that measures success in economic ways, and we always like to think that God is like we are. It isn’t possible that God would disqualify us just for being successful capitalists, is it?

I have said to you before that, in the times of both Amos and Jesus the overwhelming majority of people were poor, so that when… Continue reading

New Life From the Bone Yard (Ezekiel 37:1-6; Acts 10:1-17,34-36; John 15:12-17)

One of the reasons I love the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is because it makes so much room for, understands and underwrites being in places of sorrow, desolation, exile, and dislocation in life. There’s no phoney, “There, there, life’s not really so hard” here. The Bible is too honest and true to life. Many of the Psalms come from “out of the depths,” as Psalm 130 actually begins. The exile to Babylon in the 6th century BCE was a time when every institution God’s people valued was trampled in the dust. Their families, their worship and faith, their politics… Continue reading

Lightening Up & Taking Care (Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-40,49)

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 even be in different physical places, some being face-to-face as we say, and other community members being hundreds, thousands of miles distant and connected electronically. As I retired from teaching, we were just approaching this way of teaching classes. It’s common enough now. I suspect we’ll see more of these hybrid kinds of communities. I must… Continue reading

Uncommon Sense (Proverbs 8:1-11; James 3:12-4:3; Mark 9:30-37)

Who is (or was) the wisest person you have known? Notice I didn’t say the smartest, I said the wisest. Smart people are not always 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. Todays’ scripture passages concern those who think of themselves as teachers, and/or wise.

Our readings help us find whether they (or we) really are. We set the stage with the reading from Proverbs 8 that speaks to us of the value of wisdom, and in a word, it is “better… Continue reading

Getting Behind Jesus (Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken this time to promote the idea of how important it is to interpret the Bible as it speaks to us in our own specific place as a community of faith, and not just as an ancient word to ancient people, all of whom are dead. Today I want to follow such words with some specifics of what listening to Jesus and following Jesus might look like for us.

Let me start by highlighting what, to me, seem the most important themes of 15 1/3 years of preaching. All of these will be… Continue reading

Distinctions (Prov. 22:2-3,8-9,22-23; James 2:1-10,14-17; Mark 7:24-37)

There’s a little statement by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter 15, verse 4 that reads: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.” Without getting into specifics, we might paraphrase Paul’s principle here by saying, “If we will give it thought, the scriptures still have relevance to us today.” In fact, this basic principle is what has led me to try and teach all sorts of folks to read the Bible better, both in churches and in seminaries.… Continue reading

Hearing the Words of Jesus (Psalm 15; Mark 7:1-8,14-15, 21-23)

One of the very first lessons I learned about Hebrew had to do with the word “to hear,” which is shama. In Hebrew, one hasn’t heard until one has acted on, or obeyed, what one has heard. Like so many other words in Hebrew, this one is more about action than strictly about attitude or experience.

We’re coming up to the beginning of a new season of Thursday Evening Education. Above all, there, we learn together to read the Bible well. To do that, one of the things that we need to remember, is that most stories in the Bible… Continue reading

A People Standing for Their World (1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-30, 40-43; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:66-69)

Today’s sermon is about who we are and what we do as the people of God. One definition of a Christian Church I thought of is “a people standing for their world.” Each word in this definition is important. The church is people not a building. Then, the church is A People, who have a common commitment to Jesus Christ as the centrepiece of our meaning structure. Then the church is a people who are not content simply to be safe inside the four walls of a building, but who know that the mission is in the world. Churches must… Continue reading

Feeding People (2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-14)

After worship, today we will share some food together. We sometimes joke about one of the Baptist distinctives being food around tables, but there is a serious side to this eating together business. First, taking physical sustenance is often a biblical symbol for taking spiritual sustenance, as in our Gospel Lesson. Second, it is together that we eat and drink, thus symbolizing that spiritual sustenance normally happens as we are together, rather than as so many little self-contained units. In our culture where we lock ourselves up with the internet so much of the time, this physically corporate dimension of… Continue reading

Vocation (Amos 7:10-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6: 14-29)

Over the last days and weeks most of us have been consumed by the story of the 12 Thai soccer players and their coach who wandered into a cave in order to do a team-building exercise. Indeed, when they became lost, it turned into a team-building exercise, not only for them, but for all kinds of volunteers from all over the world, with different languages, different political ideas, different economic systems, etc., all of them subsumed to one incredibly difficult and dangerous team effort to get them out, alive if possible. Who can forget the scene of the British diver… Continue reading