Review: Preaching God's Transforming Justice

December 18th, 2012

From the Preface of Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year C:

 “We send this book forward with the prayer that God will use it to help recreate the world as a community of love, peace, freedom, mutuality, respect, security, and abundance. May it be a resource for preaching that, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, empowers social transformation.”

Why yet another lectionary resource? Why this one?

Editors Ronald J. Allen, Dale P. Andrews, and Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm have compiled reflections on every Sunday of the year based on the Revised Common Lectionary. In addition, they have included what they call twenty-two additional “new holy days for justice,” including International Women’s Day, Salt March Day: Marching with the Poor, and World AIDS Day, to name but a few. Of the ninety writers, scholars, and activists who contributed, half are women, half men. About forty percent are African American, Hispanic, Asian American, or Native American. Some will be familiar; many are new.

It was Robert McAfee Brown, theologian and preacher, who once noted: "Who we listen to determines what we hear. Where we stand determines what we see. What we do determines who we are." This new lectionary study helps us all listen with new ears, see with new eyes, and live into new lives as committed and faithful disciples. In these ninety voices, we hear the power of God’s life-giving intention for a world of justice ringing through the Word each week. As a companion to other lectionary studies, this new volume assists the preacher in reflecting theologically and ethically on the social implications of the texts each week.

Part of the power of this new volume is that it transcends the temptation to ground teaching and preaching about social justice in a few well-loved and well-worn texts, but weaves the threads found throughout the unfolding year. One of its stated goals is to help preachers and congregations develop a deep and broad theological vision from which to interpret the world.

The Introduction provides an overview of the different “voices” in Scripture (priestly, wisdom, and so forth) with some initial indications as to how each speaks to the theme. The prophet is described, for example, as a kind of ombudsperson who compares the behavior of the community with God’s purposes of inclusive blessing. These different voices are then developed in greater depth and specificity in the readings for each Sunday and special day.

Additionally, this resource intends to point individuals and congregations to practical guidance for living more justly. One of its stated emphases is prophetic preaching with a pastoral goal. The emphasis is not just on proclamation, but on the transformation of lives and communities through the Word.

Although the over-arching emphasis is on social justice, the writers are not of one perspective. They are diverse in terms of exegesis, theology, and ethical viewpoints. Together, they are liberation theologians, neo-orthodox, process, socialist, and post-liberal, who offer nuanced and often differing perspectives on the text and the social world. What is presented is not “party-line,” but rather an invitation to conversation and dialogue—with the author, one another, and with the Word itself.

If you add but one new lectionary resource to your shelf this year, preachers, this one is worthy of your highest consideration.

comments powered by Disqus