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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Loosening Knots (Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8)

Last week, on the First Sunday of Advent, when we lit the candle of hope I suggested to you that the hope of which the Gospel of Jesus speaks is not wishfulness, but is a strong trust, that God would both send Jesus the Messiah to our hearts and minds in a new way, and that God would, ultimately, come to dwell with us to bring justice, fairness, peace, joy, and love, not just as fluffy, “spiritual things,” but things involving right actions of neighbourly concern for the least, the last, and the left behind.

Our task this morning is… Continue reading

We Need a Little Hope Right Now (Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37)

Today we start a year full of readings that are centred on the oldest of the Gospels, the Gospel of Mark. On the first Sunday of that cycle of readings — the First Sunday of Advent — our theme, year by year, is hope. It is easy enough to use the word “hope” in the midst of our happiness of the Thanksgiving season, and our general affluence, and say things like: “I hope that we get a white Christmas,” or “I hope that this sermon isn’t too long,” so I get to the restaurant before the Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans… Continue reading

Risky Business (Jeremiah 7:1-15; 1 Peter 4:7-11; Matthew 25:14-20)

A long, long time ago, a prophet named Jeremiah preached a sermon, a summary of which is found in Jeremiah 7:1-15 that most scholars call the Temple Sermon. There is also a shorter summary of this same sermon in Jeremiah 26 that tells us that Jeremiah preached this sermon in the Temple at or near the coronation of King Jehoiakim in Judah in the year 609 BCE. A mere dozen years before this there had begun a great religious revival in Judah that eventuated in the removal of local places of worship in the land, leaving the Jerusalem Temple as… Continue reading

God, The Centre (Psalm 90; John 15:1-15) Reverend Maxine F. Ashley

“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Those are words penned by poet W.B. Yeats following WWI when he saw society, as he knew it, falling apart. Change was just coming too fast. Nothing could hold together. It is a common sentiment today, too, I think. I hear people say they are afraid to turn on the news in the morning because they never know what may have happened overnight. It has been a particularly bad season with devastating hurricanes and tornadoes, wildfires and other so-called natural disasters. And in addition there is the anger and conflict all around. There… Continue reading

Waiting in Another Place (Haggai 1:15b-2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; Matthew 22:23-33)

The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” is set in the little Jewish village (the Yiddish word would be shtetl) of Anatevka in Russia.. The Russian powers (that were Christian by name at least) had co-existed with the Jewish folk for a long time, but now, a cold wind blew from the Czar that dictated that Jews were no longer welcome as they had been, and Anatevka was to be purged of its inhabitants. They all had be leave or face violence. One of my favourite lines is spoken, at almost the end of the play, by the old rabbi (or… Continue reading

The Hands and Feet of Jesus (Genesis 12:1-3; Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 5:1-12)

Last Wednesday was All Saints Day and today is All Saints Sunday. In the Bible (either Testament) being a saint is being “holy.” To be holy means “set apart to God’s values and service in the real world. These last words are crucial. God’s “saints” are in touch with the realities of life in the real world. The Bible is clear that God made the world (now “how,” but “that”), and, according to John 3:16, God loves the world. God puts saints in the world to be a blessing for the world as an active demonstration of that love. The… Continue reading

Taking a Long Look (Deuteronomy 34:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46)

Today we’ll have our third quarterly luncheon and meeting, even though we’re now almost a month into the fourth quarter of 2017. Hard to believe. It always seems to me that we start moving more and more quickly toward the next year by the time we get to the fourth quarter. As we have gone on together, I have realized that no one predicts the future very well. What will 2018 bring? How will we, as a community of faith, meet the new year with a vision of mission to our communities? I hope that some things will stay the… Continue reading

Who’s In Charge Here? (Isaiah 45:1-7; Matthew 22:15-22)

One of the things we hear about quite frequently in the news now is the tax reform the congress is preparing to take up. There is no question that it has been a long time since the tax-code has been worked through and brought up to date. I am old fashioned enough to believe that it would be much better with free debate and bipartisan cooperation, but I am not naïve enough to think that it will probably go that way. As far as taxes go, most of us think that we pay too much and everyone else pays too… Continue reading

Receiving It & Weaving It (Isaiah 25:6-9; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14)

In the last two weeks, we have listened to Jesus take on some very religious people who thought they had God’s ways all figured out. They came from families that had been “good” for a long time, and had a good deal of community prestige. Their local communities of faith trusted them to be leaders. It’s possible that if many of them were alive today, they’d be among the 1% who would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax. They were everything most congregations want lots of. Matthew tells three of Jesus’ parables in a particular way, not really… Continue reading

Using It or Losing It (Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46)

As many of you who listen week by week will know, I struggle with the view that God is an angry, vengeful deity who demands as many good things as we can do in order to win our way to glory, and if we don’t is anxious to punish us either immediately or eternally. It won’t surprise you, perhaps, to know that I have struggled against that view all my adult life. I am happy to tell you, yet again, that the bedrock of my faith in God is that God loves each one on earth and is not angry… Continue reading

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