Princeton University Religious Life

Wings Like Eagles

Wings Like Eagles

Each year, as you may know, one of the three synoptic gospels (that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, interspersed with passages from John) are assigned to preachers who wish to follow a prescribed set of weekly texts. We have recently begun the year of Mark’s gospel, and I’m so glad. It’s my favorite. Yes, yes - each gospel is wonderful, and together they provide a complete picture of Christ and of his work, through his life and death, for our salvation. I resonate with the poetry of John, the economic justice of Luke, the pastoral mercy of Matthew, and then there’s

One in Christ

One in Christ

This past week I came across the story of Ruth Graham, wife of the evangelist Billy Graham. It seems that, in the 1970s, Mrs. Graham made a trip to Germany. One day she had lunch with the wives of conservative German pastors. Mrs. Graham dressed nicely and respectably for this nice and respectable event. She was, I am sure, a model of decorum. The clergy wife seated across from her, however, became visibly upset. It seems that, in the theological opinion of these women’s community, it was considered reprehensible for a married Christian woman to wear makeup or to be clothed in anything influenced by contemporary tastes in fashion. Such things made women look too much like “the world.”

“O Come, Desire of Nations”

“O Come, Desire of Nations”

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”  It was sometime in the late 400’s or early 500’s of the Common era when these lines were first written down. Marauding tribes were sacking what was left of Roman civilization. The period we call the “Dark Ages” was beginning. The great libraries of Europe were on fire. The administration of Rome may not have been gentle or even just but it imposed order, and as it sank under the waves of flame and of axe it took with it texts and histories

Jonah 3:10 – 4:11 ~ Matthew 20: 1 - 16

Jonah 3:10 – 4:11 ~ Matthew 20: 1 - 16

I began writing this sermon last Monday, noting that Lehman Brothers had just filed for bankruptcy protection while Merrill Lynch was just bought by Bank of America. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been bailed out by taxpayers, Countrywide Mortgage had already been bought by Bank of America, and Bear Stearns had been gobbled up by JP Morgan – Chase. I wrote, too, that the insurance giant AIG seemed to be circling the drain. The next day I amended my sermon text to note that AIG was going to be bailed out. The next day I inserted something about Washington Mutual and Wachovia. The next day, I gave up keeping track altogether.

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 and Matthew 25: 31-46

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 and Matthew 25: 31-46

Some years ago, at the campus I was then serving as Chaplain, there was a T-shirt popular among students in one of the Christian groups. It read, “ Salvation: It is not enough simply to be a good person. John 3:16.” I wanted to print up a rival T-shirt that would read, “That’s not what Jesus said! Matthew 25: 31-46.” This passage from Matthew’s gospel is one of my favorites in all of scripture because, in all honesty, it gives divine confirmation to something that I very much want to be true, something that makes great spiritual sense to me. (Aren’t

Messing People Up

Messing People Up

Some years ago, I heard a colleague tell the story of a phone call that came in to the then Dean of the Chapel at a sister university. It was a father on the other end of the line – the father of a young lady who was an undergraduate at the school. “You’re messing her up,” the father said to the Dean. “What do you mean?” asked the good Reverend Dr. Dean. “You’re messing her up,” said the dad. “She has all these ideas. She has all these questions. We sent her to your university with a solid foundation, raised in the church, knowing right from wrong, a good girl. But you’re messing her up! She’s gone on your mission trips, attended your services and Bible studies. She’s got different ideas!”

Jesse’s Tears

Jesse’s Tears

Last Tuesday was not a great day for the Republican Party. Last Tuesday was not a great day for the Democratic Party. Last Tuesday was a great day for all the United States of America. It was a great day for all her people, no matter how they voted, because on Tuesday we took a giant, collective step forward towards being the Beloved Community of our founders’ dreams. A black candidate for President was judged not, as King put it, “on the color of his skin but on the content of his character.”  We have come a long

Genesis 9: 8-17; Mark 1: 9-15

Genesis 9: 8-17; Mark 1: 9-15

This past week the ban was lifted on the publishing of photos of the coffins of American war dead. We are allowed, again, to see the tragic cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That violence is again on the front page of our newspapers. Mass graves have recently been identified in Poland – they seem to date to the Second World War and be the bodies of German refugees from the Soviet Union. Another mass grave, says my newspaper, has just been found near a police station in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

“In the beginning” begins the Gospel of John, and also the Book of Genesis to which John harkens. In the beginning of all things Christ was there, although he had yet to appear among us in human form. That he does this holy evening, in a cattle stall, in a far-away country, to unmarried teenagers, in a persecuted and occupied population. Christ has always been with us says John, from the beginning, through all human and natural history, partaking of creation, working our redemption, always acting in the long, slow, and undefeatable arc of the

But I Press On

But I Press On

In my pastoral capacity I have the privilege of talking to many people about what they value, what they believe, what they practice, and also what they refuse to value, believe and practice. One attitude that I’ve certainly seen over the years in some people is a lack of interest in organized religious or spiritual communities because it’s thought that they come with rules – rules for personal behavior or moral opinions. Many people simply do not want willingly to sign on to be accountable to something. It feels binding. Who wants to