Princeton University Religious Life

Sermon Archive

2012-13 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.

June 2, 2013

It was in May of 1961 that Norman O. Brown, then a professor of classics at Wesleyan University, delivered an epoch making Phi Beta Kappa address, later published in the Atlantic. Its title: “Apocalypse: The Place of Mystery in the Life of the Mind.”  

This address may be as pertinent today as it was more than half a century ago.   Hence my willingness to plagiarize his title.


May 26, 2013

One cloudless night in 1889, Vincent Van Gogh looked out the window of his sanitarium room in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, and saw a night sky so packed full of stars, and wonder, and beauty, and cosmic power that the next day, when there was enough light to do so, he painted from memory a picture that has become one of his best known, The Starry Night.  The moon and stars are like bursts of fireworks on a dark blue background.  The artist used oil...

May 5, 2013

Many years ago, in the month of May, my seminary classmates and I were preparing to graduate.  One of them, a dear friend, was looking forward to returning home to Michigan.  She had let her denomination know that she felt called to serve a church in inner-city Detroit, hopefully one with both a Spanish-speaking congregation as well as an English-speaking one, as she was fluent in Spanish.  She was excited to minister within the roughest neighborhoods, amongst...

April 21, 2013

It has been quite a week.  Particularly unnerving, in a way so unique to terrorism, are the marathon bombings in Boston.  And then there is the massive explosion in West, Texas.  Those are added to the “regular” acts of nature or humanity that are the background to every week – deadly earthquakes in Iran and China, tornadoes and severe weather in the center of the U.S., bombings of innocent civilians in public places in far-off countries – bombings...

April 17, 2013

This passage that we have just heard from the Book of Acts is only a fragment of a much larger story.  In it, the apostles are on fire with the Holy Spirit, which had come upon them earlier at Pentecost.  They are teaching and healing all over Jerusalem, they are proclaiming the truth of the resurrection, they are bringing faith to life in many, they are easing so much suffering of body, mind, and spirit.  The Sanhedrin, the religious council, had told them to...

March 31, 2013

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”   The beginning of all that is – formed, fashioned, crafted in love by the Creator to be lovely, to reflect divine love, to have in bearing and essence the simplicity of beauty, grace, holiness – exquisitely the beloved of God.  This is the beginning of the...

March 17, 2013

On a visit to friends in London 22 years ago, I found myself a guest for lunch at the home of one of their friends.  When that gentleman heard that I lived in New York City, he lit up; he asked me if I were familiar with New York Hospital.  I was.  He proclaimed with deep fervor, “They saved my baby!”  It turns out he’d been working in Manhattan ten years earlier, and his only child was born during that time.  He was very premature, had many health...

March 3, 2013

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” is the title of a best-selling book by Rabbi Harold Kushner.  It addresses theodicy – the perennial challenge to people in every religious, spiritual, and secular community, of the great WHY.  Why do horrible things happen to anyone, especially those who are really fine people?  For those of us who believe in God, and who do not believe that God to be capricious, mean, uncaring, uninvolved or vindictive, but...

February 10, 2013

On the church calendar, the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent is Transfiguration Sunday, when we reflect on Christ’s divine transformation in the presence of several of his disciples. I’ll confess that the Transfiguration Sunday sermon is among my least favorite to prepare of the church year. The disciples didn’t understand or know what to say in reponse to Christ’s transfiguration, and neither do I! It’s a holy mystery. This year, as you’ll hear, I have striven to understand...

February 3, 2013

Jeremiah is called to be the prophet of the nations; no other prophet has been called to such an international expectation. Many prophets have been called to the north and south and to even a nearby village or two, even Amos enters another kingdom far from his home, but no prophet has ever been called to such an international dominion. Furthermore, God is has called Jeremiah from his birth, from the womb even, and God knows and trusts all of the gifts that...