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


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The Candle of Joy (Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

On the Third Sunday of Advent, we light the only candle on the circumference of the wreath that isn’t purple–it’s pink–and it represents that which stands out on the wreath and in life. It’s for joy. That’s because joy, though not the same as silliness and giggles, often shows up “on our outsides.” That’s also one reason we celebrate Gaudy Sunday by wearing bright clothes; to emphasize that we do intend our inner joy to be outwardly obvious. That joy and joyful energy are important is shown by the fact that, in the Old Testament alone, there are more than… Continue reading

The Candle of Peace (Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to… Continue reading

The Candle of Hope (Isaiah 2-1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44)

Another season of Advent has begun, and so, we lit the first purple candle on our Advent Wreath today. We do it every year. And when we light this first one, we remind ourselves that this new season – this new church year – begins in and with this thing called hope. The last time I addressed you, I talked about the fact that there is no question that God is creating a new everything, but that the path to appreciating and appropriating that wonderful new everything is often an upward one, progress along which is only made, in the… Continue reading

New Everything (Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 21:5-19)

The Gospel reading contains a story of Jesus and some folks who were looking at the Jerusalem Temple. It reminded me of a group of tourists visiting Washington DC, and commenting about one of the many monuments and memorials, “My isn’t this impressive and lovely.” Jesus responded to them, not that the temple wasn’t these things, but that, as lovely and impressive as it was, that “the days would come when not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down.” That must have sounded almost irreligious and unpatriotic. It led Jesus to talk about two separate,… Continue reading

Not Finished… (Haggai 1:15b-2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4,13-17; Luke 20:27-38)

Well, the day after tomorrow is election day. Some say it’s the most important election in a century (or ever!?). I think many of us have been overwhelmed by the unprecedented negativity, personal attacks, general nastiness and lack of civility in the last months. I also think that many of us are at least as worried about what happens next, with the possibility of violence at the polls and later. We hear rumours that, already plans are afoot in Washington to make the next President’s term unpleasant and difficult. And, so, the gridlock with which we ended will be that… Continue reading

Continuity of Faith and Action (Isaiah 1:10-17; Luke 19:1-10)

As I’ve said, today is All Saints Sunday. According to the New Testament, saints are followers of Jesus. They don’t have to qualify in special ways, but are garden variety followers of the Carpenter of Nazareth. Today’s lessons speak of how spiritual life, or following Jesus, is supposed to work out. There is to be a continuity between the worship we do “in here,” and the work we do “out there.” Many people think that it’s, sometimes, easier to see this in the Gospels and the New Testament than it is in the Old. After a lifetime of teaching the… Continue reading

Blessing and How to Wreck It (Joel 2:23-27; Psalm 65; Luke 18:9-14)

Here we are, almost at the end of October. Of course, here in the Midwest, the weather can be unpredictable, but this year, we’ve had a wonderful, warm autumn season to this point. So, I’m glad to think about Psalm 65 today, which is a public or community confession that it is God who gives the goodness we experience in life. It is good to be reminded that the Bible does not look at the world as “evil, fallen, nature” that exists apart from God, but as a good work of God done for human blessing. It is the very… Continue reading

Keep on Keeping On (Genesis 32:22-31; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8)

Today’s scripture texts are about perseverance. Perseverance for us may not seem a very exciting idea, nor very cheerful. There’s an old song that’s entitled “Keep on Keepin’ On,” and, in one sense, that’s perseverance. It can be just trudging along, putting one foot in front of another, day after day. And isn’t that the way our lives sometimes are? Our biblical texts add one further point: they encourage us, in one way or another, to put that one foot in front of another, and sometimes, painfully, slowly, “trudgingly” keep on keeping on in what we think is a right,… Continue reading

Seeking the Shalom of the World (Jeremiah 29:1,4-6; Luke 17:11-19)

I don’t suppose it will do to begin two sermons in a row by saying that the passages are hard and don’t seem to go together well, so, without denying that this is so, I will say, instead, that these passages, especially the Gospel, may easily be misunderstood. It seems to me that where the passages enter into dialogue is about how those who are called to faith in God (and the Gospel adds “in Jesus”) relate, at the same time, to their culture, which is a product of human design and effort. People of faith, through the millennia, have… Continue reading

Servants of the Servant (Lamentations 1:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10)

It seems that, of late, the Revised Common Lectionary is assigning very difficult passages. I am constantly surprised how many difficult things Jesus said. They do seem to make the life of discipleship hard.

I might also add, that at first sight, you may have wondered how the Old Testament lesson fits together with the two from the New Testament. Well, it does, sort of, but through the back door. One of the difficulties in the Book of Lamentations for many people today, is that it’s such a downer. All five of the poems that make it up are sad.… Continue reading

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