Sermon Journal

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June 2021

“Accept This Our Sacrifice of Praise”

Jun. 6 | Psalm 138 | David A. Davis

As we have been preparing this week to welcome a congregation, albeit a small one, into the sanctuary for the first time in 15 months, I found myself thinking about a sermon I preached about 14 months ago from our living room. I didn’t go back and look for it but I remember describing a return to the sanctuary for worship that would have all the trappings of Easter morning whenever we returned. 600 people, shoulder to shoulder, singing rousing hymns, and shouting “Christ is Risen”. While I cannot adequately describe how grateful I am to preach with people here in the room, it’s not quite that festival worship I imagined some 60 weeks ago or so…

May 2021

“Spirit of Adoption”

May 30 | Romans 8:12-25 | Mark Edwards

Last week was Confirmation Sunday and if you tuned in, you saw the color and joy of five youth joining the church.  I preached on the question of “What is the church?” Working from Romans 8, as we are again this week, I suggested that the question of “What is the church?” is intimately tied up with the great theological question “Who is called, foreknown, predestined, and justified by God for glory?”  I suggested both of these questions “What is the church?” And “Who is predestined to be with God?” are for the apostle Paul, both questions concerning “Who is in Christ?”  And Paul’s radical and scandalous answer, throughout his letter to the Romans and his other texts—our affirmation of faith was the Christ hymn of Colossians 1— is that “all things” are in Christ. Indeed all things are loved, created, known, and called to be glorified with Christ because God as Christ takes on the sin, death, hostility, and alienation of the world at the cross.  As Paul says for instance in Romans 11:32 “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” The cross of Christ is the great exchange between an ungodly world that is antagonistic and hostile to God, and the Son of God who has a natural right to all the thrones and riches of the good and gracious king…

“All Things”

May 23 | Romans 8:1, 26-35 | Mark Edwards

Today is Confirmation Sunday, and we gather in-person with their families to welcome Tessa, Madelyn, Olivia, Philip, and Isabel, to hear their public confirmations of faith, and to unite them to our church congregation.

I’m especially grateful to these five ninth graders. They decided back in September that because of the difficult year we were in, they wanted to go ahead and do Confirmation. They did not want to wait until life got easier. They wanted to use this time to think, pray, and learn about their Christian faith. Thank you too, Lilly, Kelsey, and Tyler, for serving as mentors and leaders during a tough year at the Seminary…

“Down by the River to Pray”

May 16 | Acts 16:11-15 | Lauren J. McFeaters

Not too many women have ever prevailed upon Paul.
Not too many women carried the day when Paul was on the loose for the Lord.
Not too many women have ever faced Paul and upped the ante.
But somewhere between a riverside prayer meeting, a conversion, and a baptism, came the establishment of the first church in Europe.
Lydia prevailed. She prevailed upon Paul and the traveling Apostles to be her guest; to agree that her home would be the best place to set up a new missionary center; a refuge for traveling evangelists; a harbor for worship, a port in the storm…

“Even You”

May 9 | Acts 10:44-48 | David A. Davis

To Lily (and all the baptized),

I baptized you today Lily and it is, it is astounding in every way. You’re not the first baby I have held this week. That would be our granddaughter Franny. But you are the first baby I have held and baptized in a really long time. So, thank you, Lily. Your baptism has brought your family together again after a really long time. And as I baptized you, there were family members participating from Germany. And there were members of our church family participating from all around, here in the sanctuary, in their homes all through our community, miles and miles away in other cities and states, and others just like your aunt and uncle from other countries…

“Wilderness Roads”

May 2 | Acts 8:26-40 | David A. Davis

Can there be a better way to hold afresh the notion of the wonderful, merciful and mysterious act of God than to hold a newborn baby? To hold a child just days old is to cradle all the mighty things that God has done wrapped into the creation of one new life. To stare into the face of a sleeping newborn child is to find yourself staring as if for the first time into the very grace of God. In this life there are those moments, chairos moments, when God draws so near. In this life, there are those thin places where God’s presence gives the body a shutter. In this life, there are those unforgettable experiences of the blessings of God so far beyond what you ever would have expected. Moments, thin places, and experiences that, in this life, give shape to the otherwise unfathomable love of God…

April 2021


Apr. 25 | Philippians 4:4-9 | Nassau Youth

(Audio Only)

“Love That Restores”

Apr. 18 | John 21:1-19 | Andrew Scales

This weekend, Len and I, like so many members of the University and the wider Princeton community, have been grieving the death of our friend and colleague Imam Sohaib Sultan. Imam Sohaib was the Office of Religious Life’s Chaplain with the Muslim Life Program, and he passed away from cancer on Friday evening at sundown, the first Friday of the holy season Ramadan…

“So Jesus Sends You”

Apr. 11 | John 20:19-31 | Len Scales

We’ve spent the last seven weeks in dialogue with Jesus during his farewell discourse in the second half of John, and as we live into the post-resurrection Easter season, we are sticking with the disciples a little longer.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find the disciples locked behind closed doors. Mary Magdalene has seen the risen Jesus and heard him speak her name, she’s told the rest of the disciples, and still they are hidden away. Their fear and grief remain. I imagine the disciples are bewildered and exhausted. It is there in the rawest memories of trauma that Jesus shows up and says “Peace be with you.”…

“Hangers On”

Apr. 4 | John 20:1-18 | David A. Davis

Mary, you, and I, we all have something in common, now. There is part of this resurrection scene in the Gospel of John that we now relate to more than ever. Mary didn’t expect to see a Risen Jesus that morning. She didn’t even think about seeing him in the flesh, seeing him from head to toe. When the one she thought to be the gardener called her by name and she recognized Jesus, Mary must have started to reach out. Maybe with just a hand. Maybe she was going in for an embrace. She certainly wasn’t just going for an elbow bump. The gospel doesn’t describe the attempted touch only the Lord’s response. But clearly Mary was so surprised to see him, so grateful to see him right there before her, so pleased to be in his physical presence that her first move was to touch. How many times has that happened to you the last year?…

March 2021

“The Absent Disruptor”

Mar. 28 | John 12:9-26 | David A. Davis

To say that Palm Sunday in John is an understatement is, well, an understatement. In our collective study of the Gospel of John these last weeks of Lent, it has been noted more than once that unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John tends to linger in scenes and long conversations: the Wedding at Cana, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Last Table Discourse, and Jesus’ High Priestly prayer that itself spans an entire chapter. The traditional Triumphal scene comes in John in four verses. And that might be generous. The brevity must explain why in twenty years of preaching on Palm Sunday from this pulpit I have tackled John exactly once…

“In The World”

Mar. 21 | John 17: 6-19 | David A. Davis

The 17th chapter of John, the last chapter of the Last Supper Discourse, is labeled by the tradition as Jesus “high priestly prayer.” Priestly, as in Jesus is petitioning God on behalf of the disciples. Lifting them up to the Lord in prayer. Priestly, as in Jesus is commissioning them, ordaining, sending them into the world on his behalf. If the setting of the prayer was transposed through time and place to the chancel of a sanctuary somewhere, someplace, it is as if the disciples would be kneeling before Jesus as he prayed. And as prayed, Jesus would be laying hands on each one…

“Complete Peace”

Mar. 14 | John 16:16-24 | David A. Davis

It’s not just preachers who are searching for the right word or words this week. Journalists, writers, influencers, sports figures, business leaders, teachers, students, neighbors, family members, young, old, every one of us; looking for the right words to describe the last year. The last Sunday we were together in the sanctuary was March 8th, 2020. Professor Eric Barreto led adult education in the Assembly Room. I preached on Luke 4, Jesus standing up to read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. The Lenten series was called “The Shape of Salvation”.  It feels like that Lord’s Day was forever ago. Or does it feel like that day was just yesterday? I can’t really decide…


Mar. 7 | John 15:26-16:15 | David A. Davis

This morning I would like to invite you to join me in pondering the 7th verse in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of John. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go. I will send the Advocate to you.”(v.7) “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away.” Jesus said, “it is to your advantage that I go away.” This departure, this absence, to see him no longer, it is to your advantage. And the disciples, somewhere inside must have been thinking, “advantage…really?” After I go, Jesus said, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” Nevertheless, it is to your advantage that I go away. Really?…

February 2021

“Comfort and Calling”

Feb. 28 | John 14:1-7, 11-17 | Aisha Brooks-Lytle

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“Following Afterward”

Feb. 21 | John 13:31-38 | David A. Davis

In the Gospel of Matthew, when the Pharisees and Sadducees were gathered together with Jesus, one of them who was a lawyer put a question to Jesus as a test.  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt. 22:36-40)

“When the Mantle Drops”

Feb. 14 | II Kings 2:1-16 | David A. Davis

Elijah, Elisha, and the mantle drop. It is a classic old Testament story ripe for telling. A narrative full of imagery, all kinds of symbolism, and a list of places whose names should ring a bell. It is also an account that includes actions and things that are said that bring to mind other notable texts of the Hebrew bible. The mantle itself; Elijah’s cloak, remember how it appeared up on Mt Horeb after the wind and the earthquake and the fire. When Elijah heard the sound of sheer silence he came out of the cave, wrapped his face in this mantle as the voice of the Lord came to him. When Elijah first called Elisha, Elisha was working the plow. Elijah passed by and threw that mantle over to him. No words of call, no “follow me”, just the tossed mantle…

“Heard What?”

Feb. 7 | Isaiah 40:21-31 | David A. Davis

“Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted.” Weary. Weary. The psalmist writes “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood by bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Weary. The biblical writer of II Samuel tells how when Israel was yet again at war with the Philistines, how David, even David, the mighty warrior, how David “grew weary.” Jeremiah the prophet, in one of his personal laments, tells of how he cannot stop proclaiming the Word of the Lord. “within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in.” Way back in Genesis, as Rebekah and Isaac were realizing that the challenge of parenting was just as hard once the twins grew up (Esau and Jacob), Rebekah was in angst that her favorite child would marry the wrong girl. She said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of all these Hittite women.” Weary. Even in the bible it can mean so many things

January 2021

“Practice What You Preach”

Jan. 31 | Mark 1:21-28 | Kevin O’Neil Vandiver

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“The Sorrow and The Healing”

Jan. 24 | James 5:13-16 | Lauren J. McFeaters

We are a people of prayer. We pray for every kind of reason and in every kind of circumstance. We pray when we’re in distress and when we give thanks. We sing our prayers when we have something to celebrate or lament. We pray at birth and at death. We pray alone and together. We pray while crying and while laughing…

“God’s Esperanza Work”

Jan. 17 | Job 6:24 | Joanne Rodriguez

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“The Giver of Life”

Jan. 10 | Genesis 1:1–5 | Andrew Scales

The most exciting thing about being a second grader at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, is that you receive a Bible at the start of the school year. During the Time for Children at the 11am service, my fellow eight-year-olds and I lined up in front of the entire congregation. Fourth graders took turns handing us Bibles while they read a verse chosen especially for each one of us. Our pastor prayed with us, and then we went downstairs for Sunday School…

“Another Road”

Jan. 3 | Matthew 2:1–12 | David A. Davis

I learned something about “homage” just recently. It came from a surprising source. I didn’t learn it by reading and studying Matthew 2:1-12 yet again this week. It didn’t come in a particular study of the Greek word in Matthew. Most of us have little to no experience with “homage”; neither the word nor the practice. But my surprising source is sort of all about “homage.” At the very end of the final episode of this season’s Netflix series “The Crown”, Prince Phillip, husband of the queen, is making a rather weak effort to comfort and encourage Princess Diana who is distraught about her marriage to Prince Charles and the realization that she will always be considered nothing but an outsider in the royal family. After acknowledging that he too has been nothing but an outsider in his marriage to the queen, he then says this: Everyone in this system is a lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider, apart from the one person, the only person, that matters. She is the oxygen we all breathe. The essence of all our duty. Your problem, if I may say is you seem to be confused about who that person is.” And the screen shows the Queen standing alone at the altar of the church on Christmas Day

December 2020

“Creator Child”

Dec. 27 | Psalm 8 & John 1 | Mark Edwards

It is the last Sunday of 2020.  What a year. At least for many of us.  I won’t insult the many who have experienced far worse, far more frequently, by calling this, as Time magazine did, “the worst year ever.”  But it has thrown many challenges at many people, many of whom have lived otherwise quite protected lives.  More sadly it has thrown many challenges to many people who already face far too many challenges. 2020…