Princeton University Religious Life

Sermon Archive

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.

Sermon
September 14, 2014

Last April, during Holy Week, this Chapel hosted a performance of Hayden’s Seven Last Words of Christ, performed by the wonderful Brentano String Quartet.  Each musical rendition of Christ’s seven final utterances was preceded by a brief homily, and I offered the one on, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I used a phrase (I did not make it up) during that reflection that some people in attendance told me later was very meaningful to them: “Not...

Sermon
May 18, 2014

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.

Sermon
April 20, 2014

Well, here we are again, my friends, on Easter morning. Day has given way to day, month to month; the seasons have turned, and turned, and turned again; the winter was a rough one, but now again we find ourselves on this morning of all spring mornings, the day of the Lord’s resurrection. The tomb is opened; all the dark and the dank inside of it, inside of us, is exposed to the sweet bright rays of heaven. “[N]ow hell is a joke,” as St. John Chrysostom wrote 1600 years ago; “finished...
Sermon
April 6, 2014

Bones tell stories.   I have heard a few.  In August 2000, I walked with a group of students into a room full of bones in Guatemala City.  The bones had been recovered from mass graves around the country, bones left in the earth during the decades-long civil war between leftist insurgents and the government’s army; a war that killed, by the U.N.’s conservative estimate, over 200,000 people, mostly Mayan villagers.  In 1996, the United Nations estimated,...

Sermon
March 30, 2014

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...

Sermon
March 2, 2014

“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”...
Sermon
February 16, 2014

What does it mean to live “the good life”?  To many, a quick answer would center on leisure, luxury, aesthetics and beauty, lifestyle, comfort.  (I wouldn’t mind having these things myself!) To think of “the good life” in this way is to think about a pleasant life, one of ease and loveliness.  Another way is to think of “the good life” as one that embodies and inhabits goodness, however...

Sermon
January 26, 2014

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...

Sermon
December 24, 2013

Seasons have come and gone; the earth has renewed itself and retired again, and we find ourselves here once more, on this silent night, this holy night.  Much has happened in each of our lives; we are the same people that we were last Christmas and yet we are not.  We have grown, sometimes through the lovely things that happen to us and sometimes through the challenges, the pain.  We have been reminded of – and perhaps experienced...

Sermon
December 15, 2013

We have come to the third Sunday in Advent.  We make our way deeper and deeper into this holy time.  The birth of the Messiah draws nearer – or rather, we draw nearer to his birth.  He will be there, he is there; we are on the move.  We are the ones on a journey.  We are like the three kings, already lumbering on a long road towards Judah, following that star.  Christ will be born in 9 days’ time, and...