Princeton University Religious Life

Sermon Archive

2008-09 Sermons

We invite you to reflect upon these sermons, offered at the Sunday morning service at the Princeton University Chapel. We hope that you find them to be a resource to you in your own spiritual journey.

March 1, 2009

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...

February 8, 2009

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...

January 11, 2009

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...

December 24, 2008

“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,...

December 14, 2008

“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...

November 23, 2008

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...

November 9, 2008

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...

October 5, 2008
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...
September 21, 2008

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...

September 14, 2008

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...