Walsh preaches at Harvard
Chaplain John Walsh had a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Sunday, including the opportunity to deliver the sermon that day at the Memorial Church at Harvard University. It was an honor, he said, he received both for himself and for the University of Redlands.
Walsh, the Omer E. Robbins Chaplain to the University, was invited to preach by Rev. Peter J. Gomes, his “dear friend and colleague” and someone he describes as “one of the most beloved American theologians.” Gomes has served as the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970. He invites distinguished spiritual leaders from all over the world to speak there.
Walsh graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1977, and said the invitation to speak was “an old grad student’s dream come true.” He first preached at the church in February 2008, which was the Sunday before the 2008 primary election in Massachusetts.
“As a grad student, I would go to the chapel on Sunday when all of the amazing theologians would speak and sit amazed.” For Peter Gomes to “bless me and to invite me back twice to be one of those is a high privilege.”
The Thanksgiving event was a much “bigger Sunday”, he said.
On the Liturgical calendar, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010 was not only Thanksgiving Sunday, but it was also the last Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday before Advent, Reign of Christ Sunday and Christ the King Sunday.
Choosing to combine these themes, Walsh delivered a sermon entitled “Living Thankfully in the Reign of Christ.”
The foundation of his sermon was inspired by Pope Pius XI, who in 1925 created Christ the King Sunday amidst the backdrop of the post WWI world in which the church was losing authority to the rising authoritarian powers of the state. As Mussolini and Hitler began claiming God-like power for themselves and gained zealous followers, he said,
Pope Pius XI wanted to reaffirm Christ as King, reminding Christians of their true leader.
In the congregation of 500 or more people, Walsh recognized the faces of Redlands alumni and several of his former teachers, including his advisor from Harvard, Dr. Harvey Cox. “I felt like I was making them all proud,” he said. “I take it as a high honor, not only for me, but also for Redlands,” he said.
“There are still a lot of things I want to do, but preaching at Harvard was one of the many things on my list.”