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Sermon Journal

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“Silent Hospitality”

Nov. 28 | Luke 2:1-7 | David A. Davis

“Because there was no room for them in the inn.”  That’s all it says. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  So little said about the location, the actual birthplace of the infant Jesus. So little said about the inn that was full and the manger where Mary laid him. And yet everyone of us knows that the family was surrounded by animals. Everyone of us knows Joseph stopped in place after place trying to find a place for Mary to deliver her child. Everyone of us knows there was an innkeeper. There always was an innkeeper. There has to be an innkeeper, right? Maybe the most talked about character, or better said, the most portrayed biblical character that wasn’t. The innkeeper. It is because of the absolute tyranny of the Christmas pageant. Not this Christmas pageant or that Christmas pageant. Just the Christmas Pageant…


“The Anonymous Reunion”

Nov. 21 | Revelation 7:9-17 | David A. Davis

A long time ago I was sitting in a coffee shop here in town talking to a visiting scholar who was here for a year either at Princeton Seminary or the Center of Theological Inquiry. I can’t remember which. The professor was joining us for worship each Sunday so I was looking to offer a pastoral welcome of sorts. What I didn’t expect was a conversation that changed how I thought about preaching resurrection hope. Our casual get acquainted conversation turned challenging and intriguing for me as I listened to the scholar’s stinging critique of the church’s proclamation on Easter and at most funerals. The gist of the argument was that preaching resurrection should not sound like the content of a greeting card…


“Are You My Mother”

Nov. 14 | Matthew 12:46-49 | David A. Davis

Jesus was speaking to the crowds. He had been teaching and healing all around Capernaum, that fishing village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was on a roll and had his listeners in the palm of his hand, The crowd was a mix of disciples, followers, interested bystanders, scribes, and Pharisees. They had seen him heal the man with the withered hand on the sabbath. They were listening as Jesus kept saying a lot that was just hard to understand. “No city or house divided against itself will stand…Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters…whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come…For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.”


“The Hunger”

Nov. 7 | Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 | Lauren J. McFeaters

If we were to put our collective reflections of this parable, all together, in a big pot and stir, we could come up with 10,000 sermons. It’s as well known as The Good Samaritan and has been told from every perspective under the sun.

There are sermons, poems, films, operas, art created from the standpoint of every single character: the father, the older brother, the younger brother, the servants, the farmer from the far-off country…


“Preaching at the Watergate”

Oct. 31 | Nehemiah 8:1-12 | David A. Davis

Today, October 31, according to our theological tradition, in the year 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at All Saints Church in Wittenberg. Accordingly, October 31st is Reformation Day. So in celebration and acknowledgment, Noel Werner picked a Martin Luther hymn to begin worship this morning. The choice of this second scripture lesson, however, was not motivated by Reformation Sunday. We are continuing our adult education/small group/preaching series on biblical stories of reunion and restoration. The text from Nehemiah I am about to read to you is simply next in line. But, as happens more often than not for preacher and congregation Sunday in and Sunday out when they come together and bring the world, church life, family life, and even the calendar to bear on a particular biblical text, Holy Spirit happens. As it turns out, Nehemiah chapter 8 has everything to do with the theology birthed in the Reformation…


“Good Weeping”

Oct. 24 | Genesis 44:14-45:8 | David A. Davis

You remember Joseph. He wore that coat of many colors that his father gave him. Some translations call it a long robe. But there is nothing memorable about a long robe with sleeves. You remember the coat of many colors. You remember Joseph. His brothers all hated him because he was a father’s favorite child. A child of Jacob’s old age. A favorite child born of a favorite wife. You remember Joseph. He was the dreamer. Dreams that he would rule over his brothers. They would bow down to him. Dreams that didn’t go over very well. It’s not just his dreams though. There’s the dreams he interpreted with God’s help. The dream of the cup bearer. The dream of the baker. And, of course, the dream of Pharaoh that Joseph understood to be a dream about a famine in the land. Joseph the dreamer…


“Like Seeing the Face of God”

Oct. 17 | Genesis 33:1-11 | David A. Davis

We started our fall linked-in series this week: Together Again, Biblical Stories of Reunion and Restoration. This morning our story tells of Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis. Small groups this week talked about Esau and Jacob. In Adult Education, Dr. Anne Stewart from Princeton Theological Seminary is talking about Jacob and Esau. The audio recording will be available on Monday on the Adult Ed page of our website. And I am about to take my swing at Esau and Jacob. Next week we stay in the Book of Genesis and turn to the story of Joseph and his brothers. Dr. Dennis Olsen will be joining us for Adult Education. If you have not signed up for a small group, you can still have access to the study guide on the small group page in the Adult Education section of the website. I hope everyone who plans to join us for worship next week can take some time to read the chapters in Genesis that tell of Joseph and his brothers. It is always difficult to recap some of these Old Testament narratives and still have a bit of time for the rest of the sermon. That is exactly what I am going to try to do with Jacob and Esau…


“Confession”

Oct. 10 | Hebrews 4:12-16 | Lauren J. McFeaters

In the seven days since we were last together, there has been a lot of news:

  • a new total of global COVID deaths: 4.55 million, in the US: 713,000 deaths.
  • A COVID vaccine company, purposely holding back vaccines from the poor.
  • The explosion of eating disorders among our country’s teens.
  • The surge of trepidation in Taiwan.
  • Failures to stop sexual abuse within the church that has global denominations scrambling to understand the betrayal and cover-up.
  • Fire. Heat. Drought.
  • And 20 new extinctions of animals and plants…


“The Imprint of Glory”

Oct. 3 | Hebrews 1:1-4 | David A. Davis

You won’t be surprised to know that I have a lot of conversations about Jesus. This week as I sat with these first few verses of the Letter to the Hebrews, I found myself thinking about all those conversations. Not the kind of conversations that happened at cocktail parties, or on the soccer sidelines, or on airplanes when someone found out what I did for a living. And not the conversations in classrooms or on campus or at a presbytery meeting where a candidate is being examined for ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. No, this week, as I have been pondering the Letter to the Hebrews, pondering “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being”, I have been recalling the really important, deeply felt, intellectually challenging, honestly searching, lifegiving and life-forming, one on one foundational kind of conversations I have again and again about Jesus…


“Stumbling Blocks”

Sep. 26 | Mark 9:38-49 | David A. Davis

I laughed out loud in my office this week as I read a commentary on this passage from the Gospel of Mark. I can promise you that it is not common to find humor in a biblical commentary. That’s not to say that biblical scholars lack a sense of humor (or at least any that might be here in the room or joining in worship virtually!) One would just not expect to find something funny when it comes to the genre of biblical commentaries. But here is the sentence that made me chuckle: “…most interpreters…insist that Jesus would not have intended that his followers maim themselves.”  Most…not all…


“The Wisdom from Above”

Sep. 19 | James 3:13-18 | David A. Davis

The Epistle of James is known for “works”. When the church thinks of James, the church thinks of “works”. For those who celebrate the Letter of James and those, like Martin Luther, who critique it, it’s about “the works”. When it comes to James, you can’t get away from the works.  “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above…be doers of the word, not merely hearers…


“The Inclining Ear of God”

Sep. 12 | Psalm 116 | David A. Davis

“I love the Lord, who had heard my voice, and listened to my supplication, for the Lord has given ear to me whenever I called”.  The Lord has given ear to me. The Lord, the Lord who created the heavens and the earth. The One who called Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation. The Lord who spoke to Moses from a burning bush. The God who heard the people’s cry amid the bondage of Pharaoh. The Lord God Almighty has given ear to me. God hears…me?…


“Food For The Journey”

Sep. 5 | I Kings 19:4-8 | Len Scales

For some of us this story might sound surprisingly familiar, since Rev. Yedea Walker preached the same text only a few weeks ago. We are hearing it again so soon because UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association, the network of over 200 Presbyterian campus ministries, of which Princeton Presbyterians is a part, crafted liturgy around this passage to celebrate college students and young adults. I’m grateful for Jasmine & British, campus ministry colleagues from HBCU’s who wrote this morning’s liturgy and selected this morning’s Scripture readings for our connectional church to consider together. Yedea focused on the power of rest for Elijah, and this morning I want us to turn to God’s provision for Elijah…


“The Common Purpose”

Aug. 29 | I Corinthians 3:5-11 | David A. Davis

 Common purpose. “The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose.” Common purpose. A closer translation of the Greek would be a bit simpler. The one who plants and the one who waters are one. One plants. One waters. But only God gives the growth, the Apostle writes. So the common purpose isn’t from the planter or the waterer. The common purpose is God’s purpose. You will remember that Paul addresses the strife in the Corinthian church right up front in chapter 1 of First Corinthians. After the greeting, the salutation and the thanksgiving, Paul begins the body of the letter with this appeal:” I appeal to you by the name of Jesus Christ, that all of you, be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  The same mind in the language of Paul, is the “mind of Christ”. The same purpose in the language of Paul, is the very purpose, the common purpose of God. Furthering God’s field. Expanding God’s building. Or to use another of the Apostle’s terms, showing, living, witnessing, proclaiming, “a more excellent way.”


“Rescue in the Night”

Aug. 22 | Daniel 6:1-5 | Chancel Drama

(Text and Audio unavailable)


“Taking A Nap”

Aug. 15 | I Kings 19:4-8 | Yeada Walker

(Text and Audio coming soon)


“Teachable”

Aug. 8 | Galatians 3:23-29 | Lauren J. McFeaters

As we found out last week, in Paul’s opening words of this Letter, he’s quite enraged, infuriated. When we meet the Galatians today, they have been further trounced upon by Paul.

You will remember Paul is the founding pastor of the Galatian churches and word has reached him that opponents are guiding his churches away from an inclusive gospel; casting doubt upon Paul’s apostolic authority. Paul is accused of preaching an immature, underdeveloped type of faith…


“Obedience”

Aug. 1 | Galatians 1:1-12 | Lauren J. McFeaters

I don’t know how many of you were huddled in your basements, closets and hallways Thursday evening, as Tornadoes roared in to our surrounding counties, but the ferocity of Thursdays weather had nothing on Paul’s explosive temperament shown in this text. Did you hear the absolute contempt for anyone who tries to dilute the Gospel?…


July 2021


“Left Off The Dance Floor”

Jul. 25 | II Samuel 6:12-23 | David A. Davis

Some might remember that the conversation Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John is the longest conversation Jesus has with anyone in the four gospels. Longest in terms of number of verses, dialogue, and the narrator’s portrayal of the moment. But the Samaritan woman doesn’t get a name in John. A long lingering conversation with Jesus that upset the disciples who couldn’t believe Jesus was talking to her. And she doesn’t have name. Then, pretty much in complete contrast, there is in the Old Testament, a woman whose name is Michal. Who, as you can tell from the snippets of I and II Samuel I read to you, appears briefly on the scene and then disappears for awhile only to come back again…briefly. The reader knows her name but has to work a bit, take a few notes, connect the dots, to learn of her story…


“When You Catch…Holiness”

Jul. 18 | II Samuel 6:1-15 | David A. Davis

This summer we are tackling a few of “quite the bible stories”! Last week, poor old Saul. Well, how about Uzzah. Poor old Uzzah. A few Sundays ago, we read David’s ode to Saul and Jonathan after David had been told of their death on the battlefield. In the chapters that come after that in II Samuel, David becomes king of Judah and then king of Israel and Judah. With the desire to reestablish Jerusalem as the military stronghold and the political and religious center of the kingdom, David sets out to get the ark of God that been in the hands of the Philistines and return it to Jerusalem. With 30,000 of the chosen men of Israel, plus all the people, David went to get the ark. The ark was in the house of Abinidad up on a hill. As the bible tells it, David brought a new cart to carry the ark and Abinidad’s sons were driving the card; Ahio and Uzzah. Ahead of the ark bearing the ark of God, David and the people were dancing, singing, and praising the Lord with all their might. Quite the festive procession…


“A Theater of Silence”

Jul. 11 | I Samuel 28:3-25 | David A. Davis

I would like to invite you to find your seat, to take your place here in the theater about to be created by the reading of the biblical text from I Samuel. Think a ways back to a time you were in a theater, maybe the last time you saw a play here in Princeton at McCarter Theater. After a quick dinner in town and a rush to get to the theater, you find your seats minutes before the houselights dim and the curtain goes up. As you try to shift gears from “getting there to being there” you take a few deep breaths to try to clear the fog after a crazy busy day. Because you don’t even remember the name of the play, not to mention what it may be about, you leaf through the playbill looking for some notes, some snippets, something to help you prepare for what you are about to experience on stage…


“When God’s Wings Get Clipped”

Jul. 4 | Ruth 2:1-16 | David A. Davis

The bride was a member of the Philadelphia Opera Company. The groom was a Presbyterian minister who happened to have a trained tenor voice. I was standing where I always stood at weddings, which now would feel uncomfortably close to the couple. They had just exchanged their vows and the rings. Before I offered what the liturgy calls the nuptial prayer, they broke into song. I wasn’t surprised by that. I knew the plan. What surprised me was sheer volume coming from the both of them that pretty much seared my eyebrows. They sang a duet that was musical setting of a biblical text:

Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me