The Civil Rights Memorial
(Creative Commons Image by WBUR on Flickr)
The Revised Common Lectionary is the backbone of preaching in many congregations. Yet, like every finite entity, the Revised Common Lectionary does not represent the fullness of God’s purposes. To supplement the lectionary, a new commentary, Preaching God’s Transforming Justice, introduces 22 new Holy Days for Justice.1 This article explores these days and their potential for preaching.
What are the Holy Days for Justice?
The Holy Days for Justice were inspired by the Feast Days found on some church calendars. Each Feast Day focuses on a different saint. While the feast day helps the congregation remember that saint, the larger concern is to encourage the congregation to identify the faith, values, and practices of the saint and to consider how the church today might refract the saint’s faith, values, and practices in life and witness today.
Each Holy Day for Justice focuses on a person, an event, or something of cultural significance. Each day has its own themes that the preacher can introduce to the congregation. Like the Feast Days, each Holy Day of Justice is intended is intended to open a window to larger concerns for justice.
What are the 22 Holy Days for Justice?
The Days for Justice represent a spectrum of communities for whom justice is a major consideration. Here are the Holy Days for Justice with occasional explanatory notes.2
World Aids Day (December 1)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 15)
Asian American Heritage Day (February 19)
International Women’s Day (March 8)
Salt March Day: Marching with the Poor (March 12) (inspired by Gandhi’s march to protest the salt tax in colonial India)
Oscar Romero of the Americas Day (March 24)
Cesar Chavez Day (March 31)
Earth Day (April 22)
Holocaust Remembrance Day: Yom haShoah (from early April to early May)
Peace in the Home: Shalom Bayit (second Sunday in May)
Juneteenth (June 19)
Gifts of Sexuality and Gender (June 29)
Fourth of July: Seeking Liberty and Justice for All
Sojourner Truth Day (August 18)
Simchat Torah: Joy of the Torah (mid-September to early October)
International Day of Prayer and Witness for Peace (September 21)
Peoples Native to the Americas Day (fourth Friday in September)
World Communion Sunday (first Sunday in October)
Night of Power (an important day for Islam) (from 2011 to 2020, the date moves from September to August, July, June, May, and April)
World Food Day (October 16)
Children’s Sabbaths (third weekend in October)
Turning to a Holy Day for Justice
Preaching God’s Transforming Justice provides a full set of biblical texts for each day: a reading from a gospel, a letter, a psalm, and from the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. The readings were selected because they correlate with the themes of the day.
The Holy Days for Justice are listed above in the order in which they would occur in the liturgical year. On a Sunday on or near the date of the Holy Day, a preacher could set aside the lectionary readings and focus, instead, on the texts and themes of the Holy Day for Justice.
Adding to the List of Holy Days for Justice
These 22 Holy Days for Justice are only the first of many possible days. A congregation and preacher can create additional days by adding persons, events, ideas, and other things that can bring concern for justice into the consciousness of the congregation. For example, a congregation might have had a member in the past with a passion for the homeless. Many denominations have had figures who opposed slavery, who stood for workers’ rights, or who opposed capital punishment or torture.
A Little Critical Reflection
A positive side of preaching from these Holy Days is, obviously, enlarging the congregation’s perception of God’s will for justice. However, honoring the Holy Days for Justice is not a magic theological pill for getting justice in the soul of the congregation. Ironically, preachers can be wooden and legalistic in the way in which they approach justice. By regarding these Days as gifts of God, the preacher can help congregation both recognize the life of justice as a response to God’s grace, and avoid turning justice into a work.
1 Ronald J. Allen, Dale P. Andrews, and Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, editors. Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press: Year A, 2013; Year B, 2012; Year C, 2011). Almost 100 different preachers, scholars, and activists contribute to the commentary. The writers explore how each passage in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Holy Days for Justice speaks to “God’s life-giving intentions for the social world.” In addition to introducing the Holy Days for Justice, the commentary interprets every passage in the lectionary from the perspective of social justice.
2 The editors of Preaching God’s Transforming Justice chose the 22 days for justice.