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


Blessings and Curses — No Really! (Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:20-26)

Today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons were probably put together because, on the surface, they share the characteristic of being  “blessings and curses” or “woes.”  No really – blessings and curses don’t really play with most of us today. While we might like to think of ourselves as “blessed,” we don’t usually think in terms of “cursing” others or “being cursed,” ourselves. It all sounds outdated, medieval, and, frankly, a little creepy. The Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 15 deals with the resurrection, which, on the surface at least, has nothing obvious to do with “blessings” or “curses,” but seems… Continue reading

The Summons (Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11)

Today’s scripture lessons use distinct kinds of literature to relate three particular life-changing experiences with God.  We are liable to name each of these passages the account of “a call” from God. First we read Isaiah’s call to the prophetic office and ministry. There is also the story of some Galilean fishermen  to answer Jesus’ call to God’s service. Finally, we hear Paul relate tradition he had received concerning those to whom the risen Christ had appeared by faith. He concluded this account with his own story of Christ’s call to God’s service in a oblique reference to his experience… Continue reading

Knowing In Part, Wholly Known (Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30)

Do you remember your first day on your first “real” job?  Did you have any anxiety about what was going to be expected of you?  I did.  Although I had grown up in a minister’s home and cannot remember a time when “church things” were not part of my own background, I had chosen what I thought was a different path.  I had prepared long and hard for an academic career in biblical studies. I had just finished my doctoral dissertation and was awaiting a possible oral exam back in the UK.  I had, further, just finished teaching for one… Continue reading

Theory and Practice (Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:23-31a; Luke 4:14-21)

One of the pieces of curriculum that Maxine and I designed nearly a quarter century ago now for students studying to become ministers, involved putting the required courses that they were taking in a particular term and integrating them together into a context of ministry, including preaching, teaching, counseling, administration etc., that ministers do every week. We also kept track of problems they had in non-academic ways, which more frequently put ministries off track than do simple academic issues. We tried to help them with strategies to work on these matters while they were still with us, when we and… Continue reading

Abundance for the Fearful (Psalm 36; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11)

This morning’s readings are very rich, and so I cannot begin to talk about all that’s in them, or even a few things.  I will stick to one or two.  I will start with our Old Testament Lesson from Psalm 36.  First, a word on how the Psalms are best read and appreciated. Sometimes I’d begin a course of lectures on the Psalms by saying that the Psalms are “the Hebrew Hymn Book,” and generally, that’s right, but there are other worship materials also in the Psalms. What’s crucial to grasp here is that the Psalms are, like our hymn… Continue reading

Getting it Wrong About Baptism (Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:21-22)

Luke’s story of Jesus’ baptism is one of four, one in each of the Gospels. Mark’s is the oldest and is the basic source of Matthew and Luke.  John is on his own.  Each story makes its own points, and eliminates some points of the othersEach was written to a community and a context that needed to grasp the centralities of Jesus’ baptism in ways relevant to them. So it is for us.

Now Christian Baptism, and the baptism of Jesus by John, had their differences As far as we can discern from archaeology and… Continue reading

Herod or the Child (Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12)

January 6th is Epiphany day. In our day an “epiphany” is any normal happening in the world that somehow clarifies or reveals something previously hidden from us or unclear to us. The word Epiphany is a barely-disguised Greek word that means, “appearance” or “demonstration,” and is related to a verb that means “to display,”  “reveal” or “demonstrate.”   

Epiphany is the Season of the Church Year when we shift our attention from “Jesus in a manger” with, more or less local importance, to Jesus as an adult whose life, ministry, and teachings displayed or demonstrated the character and values of… Continue reading

Nothings and Nobodies (Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 2:1-14)

As Luke came to tell the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, he took pains to put them at a specific time and place so as to anchor them in this world.  At the same time, when he came to thinking about the meaning of the coming of Jesus, he often did it in the form of songs or poems, what we might call Dr. Luke’s Christmas Cantata.  We’ve mentioned a couple of these songs in past weeks:  the song of aging Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and of Mary the Mother of Jesus in chapter 1, which… Continue reading

Journey to Joy (Isa. 35:1-10 Luke l:46-55)

On further reflection, I would title this sermon “Isaiah, Mary, and Scrooge” (but not necessarily in that order).  In fact, the last shall be first.  Last Tuesday, Maxine and I went to the Twin Cities to see a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ great little story A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater.  We went last year, too, and enjoyed it immensely, so we were looking forward to a repeat of this great performance.  Well, this was, as I was reminded by the program notes, the 44th consecutive year for A Christmas Carol at the… Continue reading