Chorus of Preachers

Living Tradition Home

Discover the diversity of preaching traditions at Duke Chapel. The Duke Chapel Recordings Digital Collection makes available sermon manuscripts as well as high-quality audio and video recordings of preachers from varied denominational, ethnic, social backgrounds between the years of 1942–2002.

A sampling of voices you'll find:
 
Selected Notable Sermons

But I do know that in spite of all the devaluation and misuse and betrayal of the word “service” in churches and society, these words of Jesus continue to lead us toward a life of freedom.

LETTY RUSSELL
The Impossible Possibility
(March 31, 1974)
One of the first women to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, long-time professor of theology at Yale Divinity School


CHRISTINE M. SMITH
Spreading and Moving the Table
(March 9, 1997)
At the time of the sermon, Professor of Homiletics at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minnesota


Jesus Christ did not come to clarify the enigmatic God. Jesus Christ did not come to help us put God into an incarnate box that we can carry around with us and show off as God … Jesus came as one created in God, by God, empowered to move with God into the pain, the passion, and the wonder of creation itself.

CARTER HEYWARD
The Enigmatic God
(November 20, 1977)
Pioneering lesbian feminist theologian who was one of 11 women first ordained in the Episcopal Church


PAUL TILLICH
Be Strong
(March 13, 1955)
German-American existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian who introduced idea of theology and culture 


JAMES H. CONE
Untitled
(February 13, 1997)
African American theologian best known for his work on black liberation theology and theology of the cross


ROSEMARY RADFORD RUETHER
Encountering Christ in the Form of Our Sister
(May 31, 1987)
Feminist theologian and advocate of women's ordination in the Catholic Church



JAMES FORBES
When God’s Acceptable Year is Unacceptable
(April 21, 1985)
First African American minister of interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City, ordained in the Baptist church


Perversity is the human condition, more or less, and providence is the business of God by which we see our way through the darkness and in that light. And by that light, wonder of wonders, even the impossible is both possible and plausible.

PETER GOMES
Perversity, Providence, and an Impossible Ethic
(February 19, 1995)
African American minister at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School who publicly self-identified as gay.


BILLY GRAHAM
Untitled
(November 17, 1985) 
Southern Baptist evangelist known for large-scale preaching "crusades" in the 20th century


There is something august about our humanity. Infinite, splendid, shining. And that when we are untrue to that, we are untrue to what we really are.

GARDNER TAYLOR,
On Remembering Who We Are
(January 27, 1980)
Renowned African American preacher and former senior minister of second largest Baptist congregation (Concord Baptist Church) in Brooklyn, NY


It is time to begin a pilgrimage to reality, to God’s promise, that we have to claim. We sing a new song when we dare to claim that future.

JOSE MIGUEZ BONINO
A New Song
(November 20, 1983)
One of the founders of Latin American liberation theology, senior pastor of the Methodist Church in Buenos Aires



When God created us, he blew into us the breath of life, so that forever afterwards each one of us became a God carrier, each one of us had to be treated with deep reverence, each one of us was fragile. God carrying us in the palm of his hands, each one of us created in the image of God, each one of us God's viceroy, God’s partner.

DESMOND TUTU
Untitled
 (January 19, 1986)
Nobel Peace Laureate, South African social activist who opposed apartheid, Anglican bishop


BERNICE KING
I Have a Dream"
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service, 
(January 15, 1995)
Youngest child of Martin Luther King, Jr. and ordained Baptist minister


The story ends, then, not with a return to the status guo of patriarchy but rather with women interpreting their own experiences and thereby creating a new beginning with men. Faith answers the fulfillment of life by radical reinterpretations.

PHYLLIS TRIBLE
A Story of Radical Faith
(April 16, 1978)
Old Testament scholar who was a pioneer in feminist biblical interpretation


PETER STOREY
When God Turns the Tide
(June 17, 1990) 
South African Methodist minister who was president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and the South African Council of Churches 


MARTIN A. NIEMOLLER
Human Weakness and Divine Strength
(February 24, 1963)
German pastor imprisoned in Dachau by the Nazis (1937-45) because of his outspoken criticism of the Nazi regime from his Berlin-Dahlem pulpit


 One Sermon I'm Grateful For...
Recommended Sermons from Duke Divinity School Faculty and Staff
Luke Powery
Dean of Duke Chapel,
Associate Professor of Homiletics

Recommended Sermon:
Howard Thurman 

The Gothic Principle
(January 21, 1979)

 
 

"I love Howard Thurman because he constantly holds the tensions and paradoxes of life—the outer and inner life, the material and the spiritual, the human and the divine. This sermon does exactly that by claiming humans need to live by bread and not bread alone. Humans are in time with their feet on the ground like rooted pillars but also reach like the gothic arches beyond time into timelessness. 

Thurman searched for common ground among the races with the ultimate aim of reconciliation. With that in mind, I’m writing a book entitled Becoming Human: The Spirit, Race, and the Future of Ministry, drawing deeply on the well of wisdom from Howard Thurman. 

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The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery is the dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School. His teaching and research interests are located at the intersection of preaching, worship, pneumatology, and culture, particularly expressions of the African diaspora. He is the author of Spirit Speech: Lament and Celebration in Preaching; Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope; Rise Up, Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals; and Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals. He has co-authored an introductory textbook on preaching, Ways of the Word: Learning to Preach for Your Time and Place. He is also a general editor of the nine-volume lectionary commentary series for preaching and worship titled Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship.
Brittany Wilson
Associate Professor of New Testament,
Director, Doctor of Theology Program

Recommended Sermon:
Beverly Gaventa, Open and Unhindered(January 31, 1988)

 

"As someone who has spent a good amount of time puzzling over the strange--and abrupt--ending of the book of Acts, I can't help but recommend this sermon by my former doctoral advisor, Beverly Gaventa. Though preached back in 1988, the message is still timely!"

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Brittany E. Wilson's research focuses on issues related to embodiment, gender, and the senses within the New Testament and the ancient world more broadly. Her first book, Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts, (Oxford University Press, 2015) won the Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise. Her current book, The Embodied God: Seeing the Divine in Luke-Acts and the Early Church (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), explores the question of divine embodiment.
Charles Campbell
James T and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Homiletics

Recommended Sermon:
William Stringfellow The Wisdom of Being Foolish(May 10, 1975)
 

"Stringfellow is my favorite theologian, and I was excited to find a sermon by him—and to hear his voice.  Then I was especially thrilled by his emphasis on foolishness!  It’s not a sermon I would recommend as a “model” for language and form.  But it is pure, bold Stringfellow, with the central themes of his work addressed directly to the university.   [Let’s just say he doesn’t mince any words.]  In this sermon, Stringfellow speaks prophetic truth."

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Charles Campbell's Commentary on First Corinthians (WJK, 2018) and his book Preaching Fools: The Gospel as a Rhetoric of Folly (Baylor University Press, 2012) describe how the foolishness of the cross shapes Christian preaching. Campbell engages William Stringfellow's theology directly in two other works: The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching and The Word on the Street: Performing the Scriptures in the Urban Context. Campbell's forthcoming book, The Scandal of the Gospel: Preaching and the Grotesque, is based on his 2018 Beecher Lectures. He has been teaching preaching for over thirty years.
Bishop William Willimon
Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry

Recommended Sermon:
Samuel Proctor What Is Our Standard of Success(December 9, 1994)

 


"This was my friend, Sam Proctor’s, last sermon in Duke Chapel. I remember every sermon he preached but this one stands out as particularly engaging.  Sam took as his text the story of Jesus and the rich young man in Mark.  He beguiles the congregation into the story (noting that many of them are young and successful, just like the man in the story) and then Sam weaves the biblical story with his own story – growing up in the days of legally enforced racial segregation, being one of the first chosen for a big job at the Norfolk shipyards, then walking off that job because Jesus had called him to prepare for Christian ministry. 
 

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Sam’s sermon is rich, meandering, full of charm and gentle wit.  His lengthy diversions and digressions are skillfully woven into the fabric of the sermon. 
  
But mostly what I admire about his sermon is that it is a gospel-grounded attack upon much of what the modern university stands for and many of the idolatries that hold us captive, especially the idolatry of “success.”  Yet Sam makes this attack with graciousness and thereby seduces us into receiving his sermon."


A bishop in the United Methodist Church, Professor Willimon served as the dean of Duke Chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University for 20 years. He returned to Duke after serving as the bishop of the North Alabama Conference from 2004 to 2012. Willimon is the author of 70 books.

Alma Tinoco Ruiz
Lecturer in Homiletics & Evangelism
Director, Hispanic House of Studies

Recommended Sermon:
Arthur James Armstrong King of Kings? Ha!(March 30, 1980)
 

"I am grateful for Bishop A. James Armstrong’s tribute to Saint Oscar Romero given on March 30, 1980, the Sunday after his assassination. Bishop Armstrong preached from Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus’ humble entrance to Jerusalem. He contrasts the kingdom of God with the kingdom that people, especially people from the United States, want to build for themselves, affirming that the unemployed carpenter in peasant garb is not the kind of leader most people from the U.S would endorse. With a calm but firm voice, he condemns nuclear and other 'exotic new weapons,' as well as the United States’ projected military budget in 1985 of nearly $250 billion.

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He then notes that Archbishop Romero had recently written to President Carter, warning him not to send further military aid to El Salvador because it would be used to extend a reign of repression. Solemnly quoting from the sermon Archbishop Romero preached at the funeral mass of Father Octavio Ortiz Luna and four youth, who were assassinated by the National Guard in 1979, Bishop Armstrong states: 'We live in a world in which sin is enthroned and the kingdom of God means a struggle. It is a struggle in which we have no need for sword or gun … This struggle we conduct with guitars and hymns; a seed is sown in the human heart and the world is transformed.' Then, raising his voice, he reminds us, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The seed of Archbishop Oscar Romero has been sown.”

I would now add, "And that seed has given much fruit in El Salvador and around the world.'”

Professor Tinoco Ruiz is a practical theologian whose work centers on the intersection of homiletics, pastoral care, and evangelism. She sees in the sermons of Saint Óscar Romero a profound response to the traumatic injuries the marginalized and oppressed people of El Salvador were experiencing during the years he was the archbishop of San Salvador (1977-1980). Influenced by Saint Romero’s preaching, Professor Tinoco Ruiz is exploring how preachers can effectively address the trauma experienced by marginalized and oppressed communities, particularly the community of undocumented immigrants from Latin America in the United States.

Jeff Conklin-Miller
E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Christian Formation, Director of the Methodist House of Studies

Recommended Sermon:
Leontine Kelly The Character of Christian Waiting(November 14, 1976)

 


"Leontine Kelly was a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC in my teenage years. She was elected a bishop in 1984- the first African-American woman to be elected a bishop in the UMC- and served in the San Francisco Area (California-Nevada Annual Conference). She retired in 1992, when I was in seminary at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Before I left Garrett-Evangelical, the seminary installed new stained glass windows in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful. Alongside often overlooked contemporary saints, like Mortimer Arias, the image of Bishop Kelly was included in one of the windows, drawing attention to her years of Christian witness in the Church and the world.
 

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She came to the dedication service for the window, and I still remember her benediction from that service— if not the words, then the power behind them. A few years ago, a photo turned up from a clergy colleague in California: a picture of then-retired Bishop Kelly at an Annual Conference meeting, holding my daughter, Emma, who was just a baby at the time, in 1999.

Before all of this occurred, while still serving in the Virginia Annual Conference, Rev. Leontine Kelly preached this sermon at Duke Chapel, in the year of the US bicentennial. Here, she preaches on the “Character of Christian waiting.” Kelly says Christian waiting is a faithful patience that acknowledges the sovereignty and activity of God. But she also warns us that waiting is not sleeping. Christian waiting is characterized by hope, and as such, remains awake, engaged, and active. Christian waiting finds expression in the discernment and activity of discipleship, in the work of Christian witness.

I was particularly drawn to a story Kelly tells in the sermon from her childhood living in her father’s parsonage and her brothers’ discovery in the dark cellar of a tunnel connecting the parsonage to the Church in Cincinnati, not far from the Ohio River. They later determined that this tunnel was part of the Underground Railroad. Not in the “lovely woodwork” or the “beautiful chandeliers” of the Church, Kelly says, but rather, in this dark and dusty basement tunnel, “there is a witness of this Church, a witness underground.” This is the character of Christian waiting, according to Kelly.

I teach courses and write about evangelism and Christian formation, and I think about the shape of Christian witness. This sermon is a powerful reminder that our hope is in God who holds the past and the future and in that faith we can be patient. But waiting is not sleeping, and our witness continues in our discipleship, even the smallest acts offered up in the face of overwhelming and immovable circumstances. Even in a tunnel in the basement. Even in Leontine Kelly. Even in us."

 

Professor Conklin-Miller teaches courses in Christian formation, mission, evangelism, and ministry in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. Drawing from conversations in theological ethics, missiology, practical theology, and the Methodist theological tradition, Conklin-Miller’s research considers the theological relationship of the Church and the world and the connections between ecclesial practices of formation and faithful witness. . His most recent book is  Leaning Both Ways at Once:  Methodist Evangelistic Mission at the Intersection of Church and World. As an ordained elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Conklin-Miller has more than a decade of experience serving local churches in Southern California as an associate pastor, co-pastor, and senior pastor. 

 

David Goatley
Associate Dean for Vocational Formation and Christian Witness, Director of the Office of Black Church Studies, Research Professor of Christian Theology

Recommended Sermon:
Charles Adams The Humanity of God(November 24, 1996)

 
 
 

"I am glad this sermon exists in the collection because it challenges the head, inspires the heart, and challenges the hands to fulfill the demands of love through service to those who are vulnerable and victimized. Adams draws on Scripture, literature, current events, and life's experiences to help one see and hear the message. He moves swiftly between polarities, names dichotomies, exposes the incoherence of how many Christians say one thing but do another, and shows how God reveals Godself in holiness and in humanity. Adams does not avoid complexities, ambiguities, or tragedies and will not dismiss the "raw reality of the cross." He reminds us of the both the judgement and grace of God and calls us to understand that love demands our faith to be made known in service to those who would be dismissed and despised. The God of holiness judges us by the victims of the world, but there is hope for us through the love of God, the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit."

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Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley's research interests include how liberation theologies and contemporary missiologies inform leadership strategies for pastoral leaders globally. An ordained Baptist pastor with ministry as an urban missionary, denominational leader, congregational pastor, theological education, and global missions executive, Goatley's publications include Were You There?: Godforsakenness in Slave Religion; A Divine Assignment: The Missiology of Wendell Clay Somerville and editor of Black Religion, Black Theology: Collected Essays of J. Deotis Roberts. He is the director of Duke Divinity School's Black Pastoral Leadership Collaborative which discerns, designs, and disseminates leadership strategies from the Black Church for the Whole Church.

Lester Ruth
Research Professor of Christian Worship

Recommended Sermon:
Will WillimonGlimpses of Eternity(February 5, 1989)

 



"I write to express my appreciation that this sermon is in the repository of DukeChapel recordings. I appreciate its presence there not only as part of a larger corpus of Willimon sermons (he is certainly one of the best-known American preachers at the end of the twentieth century) but especially also because it one of several sermons I see in this collection on so-called lesser feast days. This particular sermon on February 5, 1989 was the feast of Transfiguration. That feast along with other days like the Baptism of Christ, the Ascension, Maundy Thursday, and Pentecost are often overlooked or handled poorly by preachers notwithstanding how important the events were in the economy of salvation seen in Jesus' life and ministry. Thus I applaud this collection containing multiple sermons on each of these 'lesser' feast days."
 

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Lester Ruth is a historian of Christian worship with particular interests in the early church and the last 250 years, especially the history of contemporary praise and worship. He is passionate about enriching the worship life of current congregations, regardless of style. He believes that careful reflection on the worship of other Christians—whether past or present, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox—can serve to enrich the church today. Dr. Ruth is a member of the Charles Wesley Society and served as president until the spring of 2016. He recently co-authored Flow: An Ancient Way to Do Contemporary Worship with contributions from Duke students and alumni. He and Dr. Swee Hong Lim are working on a larger history of this same liturgical phenomenon to be published in 2021, called A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship: Understanding the Ideas that Reshaped the Protestant Church.