Princeton University Religious Life

Living in Community

Living in Community

Living in community is hard. Challenges come to every kind of community - families, congregations, denominations, corporations, colleges, and universities. People have different roles, formally, in each of them you’re the sister and you’re the brother, you’re the vice president and you’re the computer support; you’re the congregant and you’re the choir director; you’re a cook in the dining hall and you’re a professor. These are informal roles we play as well...

Who Should I Be

Who Should I Be

Fall officially began this past week. It may be my favorite season (I’m not ready to fully commit to fall as favorite because the beauty of nature in winter’s snows, spring’s blossoms, and summer’s golden radiances speak to me so deeply). Fall has the blazing oranges, reds, and yellows on the trees, then the crunching of those same leaves underfoot. All this I love. But fall has something that the other seasons don’t have for me, something unrelated to nature, something that truly gives me life: I associate fall with new beginnings.

Seasons of Mercy

Seasons of Mercy

Today is a Sunday with resonances that bounce all over these majestic, towering stone walls. Today is the first Sunday in our new academic year, and we honor that this morning by singing, “Earth and All Stars,” by giving a special welcome to our new students, an enthusiastic “welcome back” to our fabulous Chapel Choir and generally reveling in the joy of being all back together again: from wherever our summers have taken us. This Sunday is one of my very favorites, year after year after year. And, this year, this Sunday is also the exact 10th annive

In It for the Long Haul

In It for the Long Haul

Our biblical texts for today tell us the stories of two men, Moses and Paul, each of whom was God’s servant in the shaping of a faithful people.  Moses led the Hebrews through the desert for decades into liberation in the Promised Land. It was indescribably hard work, and at times it almost failed. He endured the people’s derision, stubbornness, misunderstanding, and mutiny.  He died before entering that Promised Land but in truth, the people didn’t need him anymore.

Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

Almost a decade ago, my husband and I attended the wedding of dear friends in Sicily. The groom is Norwegian and the bride Sicilian - the wedding was taking place in the Baptist church in Siracusa pastored by the bride’s father. My husband and I sat on the “groom’s side” of the aisle, which was packed with people from Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and us. We were all in our pews at least ten minutes before the service was supposed to begin. Meanwhile, on the bride’s side of the aisle the all-Sicilian guests were chatting, coming and going from

Now and Then

Now and Then

How do we know what God wants? I know - I’ll think of a number between 1 and 20, or let’s get out the Ouija board, or we’ll draw lots and see who gets the short end of things and then we’ll know what God wants! We all want to know what God wants, and we want to do what God wants. So let’s find the formula for what God wants. The simpler the better. Let’s create a simple, easy practice like rolling dice, or doing rock-paper-scissors, or eenie-meenie-miney-moe, and let’s get our answer now with the certainty that that

Love Builds Up

Love Builds Up

I was so happy when I saw this passage from Corinthians on the list of lectionary texts for today - the suggested passages for preachers, part of a three-year rotation. At first glance, these verses about whether to eat meat that has been sacrificed to pagan idols probably doesn’t sound very relevant to many people. There are lots of ethical issues that we keep turning over in our minds, but this isn’t one of them. Yet the Apostle Paul unpacks the issue so beautifully, showing the young Christian community of Corinth how central it is to the Gospel of Jesus Chris

Sermon by Prof. John Fleming

Sermon by Prof. John Fleming

Though teaching and preaching appear in the Bible as cognate offices, I have good reason to understand the considerable difference between them, and therefore to fear a charge of presumption in mounting the stairs to one of the world’s more imposing pulpits. I am a layman unordained. I have never studied in a seminary, and I have read little theology written in the last five hundred years. But I am a Christian, however feeble, and this chapel congregation is one of the Christian communities of which I am a member—so I’ll give it a try. I was a professor of litera

Testifying to the Light

Testifying to the Light

The Gospel of John does not say that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. It doesn’t - the other gospels do, but this one does not. John is named as a baptizer. The gospel says that John sees Jesus walking towards him, and it records John as saying that he had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. But it doesn’t say when that happened, and it doesn’t say that John was the one who had baptized Jesus. Many would say, “But the other three Gospels tell of John baptizing Jesus, so we know he did it.” I do accept that John baptized Jesus, but I’m grateful for the fact that the Gospel of John does not make it clear. If John is just a “regular” person calling people to repentance, if John is “just” a witness, if John is “just” a truth-speaker, then John is “just” like you and me.

Reimagining the Wilderness

Reimagining the Wilderness

Today’s lectionary reading serves as a musical prompt—I hear the voice of a tenor singing “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” from Handel’s Messiah. The reading from Mark echoes Isaiah and relays other images of the season: John the Baptist, born of aging parents, then appearing in the wilderness, clothed in camel’s hair and preaching repentence. His cousin’s own peculiar conception and arrival, announced by the angel, heralded by a heavenly host, witnessed by shepherds and their flocks, visited by the three kings.