Princeton University Religious Life

For What We Will Be Known

For What We Will Be Known

I just got back from a wonderful three-week trip with students to Thailand and Burma.  There, we joined in with young faith-based activists from all over South and Southeast Asia who were being trained in skills that would enhance their work – empowerment through deep listening, interfaith dialogue for peace building, faith and social analysis, consumerism and faith, faithful resistance to all forms of dominations, and more.  One exercise began with making us participants examine our own identities – what do we understand them to be, how do we live

Selling Out

Selling Out

I attended a dinner party a few nights ago with a few couples from the neighborhood where I live in Philadelphia. One of the people there is a veteran of the Vietnam War (as is my father-in-law). He was very interested to hear of my own experiences of Vietnam, which I visited in 2005, leading a student group as I do every summer to some other country. He has not been back since he was deployed there in the ‘60s.

I told him what I found: a country whose government is holding fast to a communist political structure, while also trying to create more liberal economic structure. I am neither a political scientist nor an economist, but it was very interesting to see a communist government insist that, in the 21st century, communism can be spliced to afford an authoritarian style of government, while promoting a different, free-market economic system.

Servants at the Banquet

Servants at the Banquet

Twenty-five years ago this fall, I started seminary.  I wasn’t exactly sure why I was going – I couldn’t point to a particular professional path that would come from it.  I only knew that it was the right next step in my life.  I also felt certain that I was not “ordain-able” material – that I would not become a minister.  I was sure that I wasn’t a good enough person, and that I certainly didn’t have enough faith.  Ministers are made of much better stuff than I!  I am a very regular person, and regular is not enough.

Unchained

Unchained

“I would write,” someone said to me recently.  “I would write if I didn’t have such challenges with my work – such preoccupations.  I could find the time to do creative writing if only my job didn’t present one issue after another, demanding my attention, my time, and whatever I have left of creativity.”  I imagine that many of us can resonate with this sentiment, even if our vocation isn’t writing.  Without various pressures – ones we are certain are external – we would be free to be creative, intellectual, artistic, athletic, reflective, spiritual

Along the Road

Along the Road

I have the impression - perhaps you do too - that there is a greatly heightened emphasis in our culture now on living well.  (Or, maybe I am simply more attuned to the current fads in an ever-present emphasis on self-improvement and quality of life.)  It does seem that, for those of us who do not have to struggle to live, a significant priority is on living well.  For growing numbers of people I know, this means “detoxing” - dietary and physical habits that counter the impurities in our bodies from what we have eaten and drunk a

Reinvention!

Reinvention!

Our biblical texts for today are so full of good news!  “Really?” you might be thinking, “that Luke passage sounds pretty dire.”  But truly – such wonderful news is here:  although life presents the worst challenges, ones that mangle our bodies, minds, and souls, we are always resting in the loving palm of God’s hand.  Through the challenges we face, God reinvents us, un-mangling our warped selves, and setting us on paths of righteousness, goodness, and mercy.  The last word is always God’s, and it is an ear shattering declaration of l

I Peter 2:18-25

I Peter 2:18-25


I preach on the lectionary, the three-year cycle of biblical readings established by a number of scholars. It offers me structure; a through line, a diversity of topics; it challenges me to wrestle with texts that I might otherwise disregard. I have a confession to make in this regard: This week I tampered with the lectionary; I added the verse just before the passage that the scholars who created the common lectionary had meant us to begin with.

Looking On the Heart

Looking On the Heart


A man comes into town, leading a young cow on a rope.  Everybody knows who he is – he is very well known and respected.  But people scurry inside.  They bolt their doors and shutters.  I wonder if the man’s expression is one of sorrow, or frustration, or fear.  He was feeling each of these things.  He had been sent into town on an errand he did not want to do, and for which he could be killed.  He had loved Saul, the great king, but God had rejected him, because he had disobeyed.  Saul did not do what God had commanded in fighting a violent, neighbor

Getting High

Getting High


“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.” Oops! Wrong opening line. I should have said, “One day, Jesus of Nazareth was walking along with his pals when he decided to take them up a high mountain, and suddenly he started to glow as bright as the sun, and even his clothes were gleaming white.” The title of Kafka’s brilliant, bizarre short story is “The Metamorphosis.” The Greek word for “transfiguration” is “metamorphosis,” a meta (large) morphing into something very different.

Called Out

Called Out


Cast your mind back to when you applied to college (a few of you are not old enough; for others of you the memory will be fresh from last year; some of us will need to do some mental digging).  There were applications to be filled out, visits to various schools to see if they were the right fit, interviews, standardized tests, essays.  Whether we applied to one institution or to a handful, we went to them.  We chose where we wanted to study; we appealed to those places, we tried hard to make them choose us over other worthy candi