In part one of this series, I provided the definition of social and environmental justice. When we understand that God is love and that we are created in Gods image, we do justice by loving others.
Justice As Everyday Liturgy
In early 2018, James and I read a book called Liturgy Of The Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy is a word used to describe the sacred rituals and disciplines we keep to live out our faith. Liturgy is the way in which we love God and love other people. Warren so perfectly captures how the small, seemingly unimportant events in our lives (e.g., making the bed, sitting in traffic, eating leftovers) are both symbolic and literal acts of worship and faith.
The simple message of Liturgy Of The Ordinary is poignant because we have a tendency in society to emphasize completion. We are often waiting for the next big thing to happen (e.g., graduation, promotions, vacations, marriage, children, retirement) even though the majority of our time is spent somewhere in the middle. Life often feels like a series of monotonous tasks that we need to do in order to accomplish what we want to do. But are the in-between moments simply a means to an end? Meaningless filler? I would posit that each and every moment presents an opportunity for everyday liturgy.
“The psalmist declares, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made.’ This one. We wake not to a vague or general mercy from a far-off God. God, in delight and wisdom, has made, named, and blessed this average day. What I in my weakness see as another monotonous day in a string of days, God has given as a singular gift. When Jesus died for his people, he knew me by name in the particularity of this day. Christ didn’t redeem my life theoretically or abstractly – the life I dreamed of living or the life I think I ideally should be living. He knew I’d be in today as it is, in my home where it stands, in my relationships with their specific beauty and brokenness, in my particular sins and struggles … The new life into which we are baptized is lived out in days, hours, and minutes. God is forming us into a new people. And the place of that formation is in the small moments of today.”¹
How often as Christians do we fall into this trap of undervaluing everyday acts? Our christian faith is not measured only by the grand, rewarding, tangible moments with God, but also by the repetitive, mundane acts of each day. Cleaning up the kitchen even when its not “your turn.” Deciding not to honk at the driver who cut you off on the 401. Arriving to work on time even when your boss always shows up late.
It is from this perspective of everyday liturgy that justice can be incorporated into our lives. Julie Clawson, in her book Everyday Justice, reminds us that justice begins by taking one small step at a time. She affirms that small steps towards justice are important, necessary, and should not be discounted. As we increase our awareness of injustices around the world “our lives are no longer just a series of unrelated tasks and errands with the occasional leisure activity thrown in when there’s time. Our lives are part of a bigger picture. Our local, everyday choices reverberate around the world.”²
What a relief to know that justice is not reserved for powerful, influential, important, world-changers. Rather, we are given the opportunity to do justice in our day-to-day tasks and decisions. I would argue that we cannot seek social and environmental justice without first recognizing that the small, mundane acts matter. These small acts are a great opportunity to affect change. By loving God. By loving other people. By stewarding the planet.
In the final post, I’ll be sharing practical ways to incorporate justice into your everyday life.