Sermons from Duke Chapel

Voices from “A Great Towering Church”

Sermons from Duke Chapel

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: Published: March 2005

General Interest > Duke University, Religious Studies

Many of America’s greatest Protestant preachers—Paul Tillich, William Sloane Coffin, Barbara Brown Taylor, Fleming Rutledge, Peter J. Gomes, Billy Graham, and others—have spoken powerfully from the pulpit of the “great towering church” that is the spiritual and architectural center of Duke University. This collection of fifty-eight of the most notable sermons proclaimed from that pulpit commemorates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking for Duke Chapel. It is a sweeping panorama of sermons selected and edited by Bishop William H. Willimon, Dean of the Chapel for twenty years and one of the most widely read writers on preaching in America.

Opening with the sermon preached in June 1935 at the dedication of the Chapel and closing with one by Willimon delivered at the beginning of the 2003–4 school year, this volume presents Protestant Christianity at its most eloquent and prophetic. Some sermons are pure meditations on biblical texts; others are period pieces in the best sense of the term, reflecting on such contemporary concerns as civil rights, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the wars in Europe, Vietnam, and Iraq. Willimon provides a brief introduction to each sermon, commenting on the work and thought of the preacher. Diverse in subject and style, the sermons collected in this volume are a treasure for those who love fine preaching, a resource for those studying the history of homiletics, and a light to rekindle the memories of those who have worshiped in the Chapel over the years.


“This book could be used as a text book in homiletics courses for the study of structure and content, by pastors in parishes seeking in-depth and grace-oriented extrapolations of the texts, and by laypersons seeking intellectual depth through devotional material that focuses upon Christ in the texts.” — David Lohr, Reviews in Religion and Theology

"[A] comprehensive mix of sermons. Some dive into explorations of Scripture, while others work to weave in the news of the day." — Matt Ehlers, News & Observer

"Bucking the assumption that expressions of the homiletic arts are suited only for the airwaves and acoustic space is this worthy offering from Duke University Press. . . . Inasmuch as questions of race, gender, faith, war, peace, violence and economic justice continue from generation to generation, these sermons remain pointed and relevant for our own time." — Deane A. Kemper,, Charleston Post & Courier

"The collection of good sermons in a single volume is rare. But Sermons from Duke Chapel is just such a collection. . . . Each is worth reading as part of the whole. Indeed Sermons needs to be read from cover to cover. . . . [T]he collection serves as a virtual record of the changing homiletical landscape over the course of the century." — O. Wesley Allen Jr., Lexington Theological Quarterly

"The collection reflects diversity in theme and viewpoint. . . These sermons evoked in me reflection, inspiration, occasional diagreement, and applause. . . ." — Rusty Wright, Duke Magazine

"This is the volume most inclined to gobble up your whole day if you're not careful, for you can watch the history of American Christianity unfold before your eyes in these sermons." — Jason Byassee,, Books & Culture

“The most impressive thing about the collection is the way that the Word of God may be heard and experienced through it. Although I have studied preaching through the ages, I am amazed—and grateful—for the way the sermons in this book can grasp my heart and mind and make me want to be more faithful in my discipleship.” — O. C. Edwards Jr., author of A History of Preaching

“These sermons are as rich and diverse and striking as the deep colors of the stained glass in the towering church in which they were preached. They display the craft of preaching through which Light shines. You will cherish this collection of sermons faithfully shaped, imaginatively crafted, artfully expressed.” — Hope Morgan Ward, Resident Bishop, Mississippi Area of the United Methodist Church

“These sermons recapitulate the nature of mainline preaching in the twentieth century and ponder aloud the place of Christian faith in a major ‘secular’ university founded in part out of a strong Protestant faith.” — David L. Bartlett, author of What’s Good about This News? Preaching from the Gospels and Galatians

“This book will be invaluable not only for people who love good preaching or who teach preaching, but for anyone wanting better to understand the last seventy years of Christianity. Each of the sermons is introduced by wonderfully witty and insightful remarks by Reverend Willimon. These alone are worth the price of the book.” — Stanley Hauerwas, author of The Hauerwas Reader


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William H. Willimon is Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. From 1984 to 2004, he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University. Willimon is the author of dozens of books, which together have sold more than one million copies. His book Worship as Pastoral Care was selected as one of the ten most useful books for pastors by the Academy of Parish Clergy in 1979. An international survey conducted by Baylor University in 1996 named him one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. Willimon lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. Introduction / William H. Willimon 1

2. The Cathedral and the Campus, June 2, 1935 / Lynn Harold Hough 9

3. Be Strong, March 13, 1955 / Paul Tillich 18

4. Moral Crisis in a Troubled South, April 29, 1956 / H. Shelton Smith 24

5. Even the Desert Shall Bloom, April 7, 1957 / Eugene Carson Blake 30

6. Education for Failure, April 14, 1957 / Waldo Beach 36

7. June 2, 1957 / Gerald Kennedy 42

8. Postmortem on a Salesman, February 1, 1959 / James T. Cleland 51

9. The Courage to Care, February 14, 1960 / D. Elton Trueblood 59

10. The Idea of a University, January 29, 1961 / Robert E. Cushman 63

11. Human Weakness and Divine Strength, February 24, 1963 / Martin Niemoller 71

12. Burdened with Erudition and Paralyzed with Indecision: A Sermon on Learned Paralytics, March 12, 1967 / William Sloane Coffin Jr. 76

13. Communion Meditation, October 1, 1967 / Jurgen Moltmann 81

14. Homecoming, October 22, 1967 / Thomas A. Langford 86

15. And So What Have You Done for Me Lately?, December 10, 1967 / Albert C. Outler 91

16. Thou Shalt Not Kill, June 9, 1968 / Thor Hall 98

17. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, October 26, 1969 / Browne Barr 104

18. God's Helplessness-Our Help, April 12, 1970 / Eduard Schweizer 109

19. Address Not Known, March 7, 1971 / Edmund A. Steimle 114

20. What Is Religion All about, Anyway? A Dialogue Sermon, September 5, 1971 / Clarence G. Newsome and Howard C. Wilkinson 120

21. The Christian in a Revolutionary Age, September 26, 1971 / Myron S. Augsburger 127

22. A Necessary Tension, February 6, 1972 / D. Moody Smith Jr. 138

23. The Generous Eye, June 11, 1972 / John W. Carlton 143

24. Finding Answers, September 23, 1973 / Billy Graham 148

25. The Impossible Possibility, March 31, 1974 / Letty Russel 153

26. The Wisdom of Being Foolish, May 10, 1975 / William Stringfellow 158

27. What's the Story?, May 11, 1975 / Ernest T. Campbell 166

28. The Bible Today, October 24, 1976 / W. D. Davies 172

29. That You Might Have Life, January 23, 1977 / Will Campbell 180

30. Not to Condemn Us, April 17, 1977 / Carlyle Marney 186

31. The Enigmatic God, November 20, 1977 / Carter Heyward 193

32. Righteous Anger, August 27, 1978 / Clarence G. Newsome 202

33. The Gothic Principle, January 21, 1979 / Howard Thurman 208

34. Seeing and Not Seeing, October 21, 1979 / Leander Keck 211

35. Have You Been to Damascus?, March 20, 1983 / C. Eric Lincoln 218

36. The Usefulness of a Useless Vision, November 6, 1983 / Martin E. Marty 223

37. There is a Point in Living, November 13, 1983 / Donald Macleod 229

38. The "Ah" of Wonder, September 30, 1984 / Louis Patrick 235

39. Mainline Churches, February 10, 1985 / John Vannorsdall 241

40. Slogans-And Hurts Underneath, February 16, 1985 / Walter Brueggemann 246

41. Christmas Party, December 15, 1985 / Elizabeth Achtemeier 251

42. It Matters Greatly, February 23, 1986 / William Muehl 257

43. Jesus' Final Exam, November 9, 1886 / Thomas G. Long 264

44. God Under Pressure, March 8, 1987 / Grady H. Hardin 270

45. When the Cross Lays Hold on You, September 18, 1988 / Peter Storey 276

46. November 5, 1989 / Fred Craddock 282

47. I Have Seen the Future, November 15, 1992 / Richard Lischer 288

48. Children of the Kingdom, February 13, 1994 / Tony Campolo 293

49. Storm at Sea, June 19, 1944 / Carol Marie Noren 304

50. An Impossible Ethic, February 19, 1995 / Peter J. Gomes 309

51. A Chief Text of the Church, April 23, 1995 / Eberhard Bethge 316

52. A Sermon at Duke University, October 15, 1995 / David G. Buttrick 322

53. Awaiting New Wine, February 27, 2000 / Patrick M. Clark 326

54. We Do See Jesus, October 8, 2000 / L. Gregory Jones 330

55. Stargazers, January 5, 2003 / Ellen F. Davis 337

56. The Enemy Lines Are Hard to Find, March 16, 2003 / Fleming Rutledge 342

57. The Snake Savior, March 30, 2003 / Barbara Brown Taylor 348

58. The Best-Kept Secret in the Bible, June 3, 2003 / James A. Forbes Jr. 354

59. Confused, yet Curious, about Jesus, August 31, 2003 / William H. Willimon 362

Index to Scripture 369
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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3483-5
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