Preaching God's Transforming Justice -- A Review

PREACHING GOD'S TRANSFORMING JUSTICE: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B   Edited by Ronald J. Allen, Dale P. Andrews, and Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Editors.   Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.  Xxv + 518 pp.

                Those of us who primarily preach from the lectionary appreciate resources that address these specific texts.  I have a number of these resources, including the recently completed Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, series from Westminster John Knox.  This publisher has added another helpful resource to their collection, this one looking at the texts from a social justice perspective.  This volume, which looks at the texts for Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, “concentrates on how the lectionary readings can help the preacher identify and reflect theologically and ethically on the social implications of the biblical readings.”  It also highlights twenty-two “Holy Days for Justice,” such as Martin Luther King’s Birthday and World AIDS Day (p. x).

                I’ve decided to offer an interim review of the volume, for I am currently using it in my own sermon preparation.  I must add that I am friends with one of the editors of this volume, and from a conversation about this volume, I was told that he (Ron Allen) was the primary editor of this volume, and that the other two editors are focusing on years A and C.  I’m sharing my thoughts on the volume at this time, because we’re already well into Year B.

                The editors, in this case Ron Allen, have recruited a wide range of contributors, some of whom are academics and some are pastors.  A quick look at the list of contributors will reveal well known names and some who are much less well known.  There are women and men, and people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds.  What they hold in common is a commitment to social justice and a belief that Scripture speaks to such matters.

                The format is simple.  A writer takes up the four texts of the day – Hebrew Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel – and wrestles with it with a social justice lens.   The addition of the Social Justice Holy Days is quite helpful, for preachers will often focus on these important issues and having texts and commentary to turn to is important.  Additionally, the presence of these Holy Days is a reminder that we live in a broader social context that extends beyond Sunday morning.   

As with any multi-author volume there is unevenness in the presentations, but that does not hinder one from hearing the text a new.   It is of course, but one resource.  It is insufficient on its own, but taken together with one’s other resources, this volume will broader our preaching horizons.  It will enable us to see the texts in a new light, for social justice remains a central focus of the prophetic tradition, a tradition that undergirds the preaching tradition.  Called to preach, we are called to speak to the questions of the age, and justice is always at the forefront of our questions.    

We are blessed to have this new addition to the series of important contributions for preachers that WJK Press has published in recent years.   Many of us have found their Feasting on the Word series to be a tremendous blessing to our preaching.   Since Ron Allen is the primary editor of this volume, I will also point out the value a three volume lectionary commentary set that he wrote together with his colleague from Christian Theological Seminary, Clark Williamson, dealing with the lectionary texts with the problem Christian anti-Judaism in mind.  That series, which has not gotten sufficient attention, underlines the importance of having a variety of perspectives to draw upon as we prepare ourselves to speak from Scripture to the gathered people of God.  

If you are a preacher who is concerned about the state of the world in which we live, and you feel called to address the social issues of our day, and you wish to root that message in the Scriptures, then you will find this volume to be of great assistance.   And, don't wait to add it to your collection, Year B is moving along quickly!   


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