I’m up to preach tomorrow morning, though I’ve been hiding from that circumstance for the last few days. Providence has assigned me Amos 5:21-24 and Luke 4:14-21, texts that the lectionary uses to arm-twist me into preaching about “social justice.” I appreciate the good intentions; some preachers would never acknowledge the existence of poverty or social inequality if the lectionary didn’t oblige them to. Still, those of us who try to integrate the church’s social teaching into a seamless cloth of theological ethics, resist the days that take out a two-by-four to whup you upside the head till you agree to homilize about justice. “Justice” doesn’t stand on its own; it derives its hold on our hearts from its situation within a tightly-woven network of convictions and practices, and a leaden mandate to preach about justice feels like the liberal equivalent of a hair shirt.
So I’m working on a sermon to turn the force of the readings a little bit, to inflect the determined obligation to preach on justice toward a less stultifying, finger-wagging sense of justice, toward the liberating joy of the freedom to thrive among other free souls, to live in a world of mutual respect and cooperation. But if I write more, it’ll poach the prose I’m reserving for the sermon. I’ll post it tomorrow, God willing.