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


Yokes and Rest (Zechariah 7:9-10; Matthew 11:25-30)

I want to begin this morning with a little announcement. This will be the 650th sermon I have preached from this pulpit. I keep track of these things, and tell you of them from time to time, mostly because I cannot believe it. That’s more sermons than I have preached in both my other congregations combined, and all the guest preaching slots I preached when I taught in seminary. About 45 years ago, when I started my ministry, if someone had told me that I would preach 650 sermons (and counting, mind you) in one spot, I would have laughed… Continue reading

Welcome Home (Jeremiah 28:5-9; Matthew 10:40-42)

Let me remind you that our journey through Ordinary Time is intended to emphasize the teaching of Jesus. This year the Revised Common Lectionary takes the Gospel of Matthew as its primary source for that teaching in dialogue with the other lessons. As we began Ordinary Time, we started by putting God at the centre and emphasizing how Jesus is the lens through which we see God. We followed that up by emphasizing that Christian life is a journey that begins and ends with God in Christ. We illustrated the beginning of the journey with baptism. Last week, we saw… Continue reading

It Depends on How We Look at It (Jeremiah 20:7-13; Matthew 10:24-39)

In your bulletin today you have two pictures that are sometimes called “optical illusions.” When you look at the bigger picture on the back of the insert, do you see a face or do you see a landscape? Most people, it seems, see a face.

In the smaller one that is beneath the order of worship, do you see a goblet or vase, or do you see two profiles? There is a little sign on the communion table that sat for a long time on my father’s desk and for thirty has sat in my own study. Do you see… Continue reading

The Road from Here (Exodus 19:1-8a; Matthew 9:35-10:4)

Last week we began Ordinary Time by thinking about God and about how Jesus fits into the Christian idea of God. We need to keep all those thoughts at the centre of what we do as a congregation. We have set our own agenda on this second Sunday after Pentecost by participating together in what my father would have called the beautiful ordinance of believer’s baptism. We have been witnesses to, and really participants in Sawyer’s baptism. As I said, baptism is the act of God who calls, the act of the person (in this case Sawyer) who responds, and… Continue reading

…Always and Everywhere… (Genesis 1:1-2:3; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20)

Today the Lectionary is not subtle. It’s Trinity Sunday, and we are assigned two of the most obvious statements of God as triune in all of scripture: the Great Commission and Paul’s benediction from 2 Corinthians 13. Anyone who thinks that the New Testament knows nothing of the Trinity has to climb over these texts.

I remember once being invited to speak to a group of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim university students, along with a rabbi and an imam, to explain the view of God in our respective traditions. It quickly became clear that Christianity was different in that it… Continue reading

“Those Who Wait…” (Isaiah 40:3-5,27-31; Acts 1:4-5;2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13)

I was taken by Isaiah chapter 40 long ago when I was just learning Hebrew. Through the years it has become my favourite passage in the Bible and has fed my soul over many decades now, as I come back to it again and again. This time I have come to it, asking to be fed yet again, by trying to think through what its words might say interpreted in the light of the feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today.

At Pentecost, the Church celebrates its divine empowerment for the mission of going out into the world in God’s… Continue reading

What’s Up with Ascension Sunday? (2 Kings 2:1-3,9-12; Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53)

Sometimes, after visits of family or friends, when they go, one of the things that is hard to deal with is the silence. After we work hard to get the house and our work back to normal after taking time off visiting, etc., the quiet can become almost deafening. And it can be a little sad and lonely. And solitary. Ordinary life has its moments of silence and solitude and even loneliness.

I’ve always felt a little bit of a “let-down” like that on Ascension Sunday. We’ve just been through the Easter Season, with all its proclaimed new life and… Continue reading

Cherished (Psalm 139:1-12; Acts 17:22-31; John 14:15-21)

I want to be honest with you. I have never been able to connect very well with the passages in today’s lectionary readings. I do OK with the Psalm that forms the Old Testament Lesson, but the other two have been, through the years, pretty difficult and opaque to me. As time has gone on, I have also had more and more difficulty preaching and teaching what doesn’t, first, make sense to me. This isn’t an intellectual issue – I can figure out the meaning of the passages all right, what I struggle with is their significance for me or… Continue reading

Listening to the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23; Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-11)

There’s no doubt in my mind that two of the lessons for this morning are among the best-loved readings in the Bible. The first is the 23rd Psalm, the second is Jesus’ Bible study on that Psalm in John 10.

If we start, as we should, at the beginning, with the Old Testament, we find this most wonderful description of the God of Israel. I know there’s a lot of thunder up on Mt. Sinai, and there’s a lot of noise about war and killing and punishment and many other disturbing things about God, ourselves, and others down in the… Continue reading

The Welcoming Community (Isaiah 25:6-9; Luke 24: 13-35)

Both Old and New Testament Lessons today speak of the God who is made known in acts and attitudes of openness and hospitality. These texts also encourage those who would be the People of this God who invites hospitality, to set a table in their community-life together, so as to become welcoming and inviting to one another and other folks in the wider world. This hospitality is not only a matter of food, but of openness, and an invitation to study, listen, and participate in community life.

Today’s Old Testament Lesson comes from what may well be the last layer… Continue reading