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


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

Listening to the Community (2 Samuel 5:1-5; Mark 6:1-12)

Today’s Gospel Lesson puts together two seemingly unrelated stories: the story of what’s often called Jesus’ rejection by people in his hometown of Nazareth, and the story of the mission of disciples to extend Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee. To understand them and their relationship better, let’s pretend that we are, maybe, second or third generation Christians in about the year 75, listening to these stories from the Gospel of Mark that has recently become available for us to hear. We’re a mixed congregation. Some of us have Jewish backgrounds, some of us don’t. Our congregation isn’t doing very… Continue reading

Hope’s Song (Lamentations 3:22-29; Mark 5:21-43)

Some of you grew up singing the old favourite song “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as I did. The title and some of the words draw on a biblical passage that stands out as something different in the midst of a complex response to tragedy that is the Old Testament Book of Lamentations. The five poems of this collection are laments that respond, at a deeply visceral and personal level, to the tragedy of the Fall and Destruction of Judah in 587 BCE that literally tore their highest values to shreds. They didn’t believe that they could lose their country by… Continue reading

Danger at the Boundary (Jonah 1; Mark 4:35-41)

From time to time, I mention books that I have found useful in my life in teaching and preaching,. As I look back, I find that most of these have not been, strictly speaking, about biblical studies nor pastoral work, or, even necessarily religious books. I think I have mentioned before that one such book is the slim volume called Purity and Danger by the late British social anthropologist Mary Douglas. In this book Professor Douglas discussed how various cultures have defined what is “clean” or “safe” to do, and what is “unclean” or “dangerous” to do. One of the… Continue reading