Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary

How is one to be devoted to Christ in a world full of chores, showers, cooking, and cleaning? Doesn’t he know how long it takes us to get up in the morning (or worse, our kids)? How are we to be faithful witnesses of the gospel when so much of our days are taken up by work, menial, constant chores, and another household item breaking (either on its own, or, again, because children)?

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and currently serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women, and Christianity Today.

Summary

In her book, Warren takes us from the moment we wake up down to the moment we go to sleep. Everybody starts their day the same way—tired, hair a mess, the look of having just woken up, and the hope that they don’t have to begin the day just yet. Yet for the Christian, “Jesus knows me and declares me his own. On this day he is redeeming the world, advancing his kingdom, calling us to repent and grow, teaching his church to worship, drawing near to us, and making a people all his own” (23).

We make our beds—creating order and beauty out of chaos. We monotonously brush our teeth and take care of our bodies—just as God the Son did in his own physical body (well, I don’t know what he did with his teeth). We are living sacrifices and we act out our worship; it is embodied. We lose out keys and realize we rely too much on small things. How can we say we’ll suffer for the Gospel if we can even keep our cool when we lose our keys? Warren says that we need to “cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ’s death and resurrection…in a… Tuesday morning” (56). Why?

She responds,

Otherwise, I’ll spend my life imagining and hoping (and preaching and teaching about how) to share in the sufferings of Christ in persecution, momentous suffering, and death, while I spend my actual days in grumbling, discontentment, and low-grade despair (56).

Even with the flood of food pictures we get on Instagram and Pinterest, all of us eat leftovers. Sometimes that’s great, most times it’s fine, but it’s never remarkable. Eating leftovers for your birthday is convenient, but it’s not special. In fact, most meals we eat are not Pinterest-worthy, nor are they even worthy to tell our neighbors (because who loves hearing “Hey, I made new meat loaf last night”?).

Similarly, Bible reading is not usually a very scintillating experience. But just as our non-enthusiastic leftovers provide nourishment to us, and most of those meals—even the fresh ones—are long forgotten, they all have provided some kind of nourishment to us. We are still alive. So it is with the Bible. We read it. We don’t understand it. But it nourishes us. We continue reading. Day after day. Warren says, “Word and sacrament sustain my life, and yet they often do not seem life changing. Quietly, even forgettably, they feed me” (67).

I’ve only covered the first five chapters. We fight with our spouses (or loved ones), and God calls us to be peacemakers (Matt 5.9; cf. Rom 5.1). We check a flood of email and daily work at our jobs (some we like, others we loathe), and we worship God with our efforts. We sit in traffic, and we hate it because it reminds us that we are not masters of our time. As much as we despise it, waiting is a gift and patience a virtue. We call trusted friends, and lay ourselves bare to them. We drink tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and rest and savor the world God has created and the creations his creations have created as well.

Warren ends the book with sleeping. Rest is necessary. In fact, it is one of the most spiritual things we can do, for not sleeping will kill us (and our relationships with others). It is a taste of future death, but in it we lay aside our worries and trust that God is at work. He doesn’t need us, but he loves to have us partner with him. He holds us fast, and “gives his beloved sleep” (153; cf. Ps 127.2).

Other Matters

If you can’t tell from the title and the fact that Warren is an Anglican, there is a lot of talk about liturgy in this book. And reading this book through a Baptist lens, that has both it’s pro’s and con’s. Before coming to Norway I had never been in a church that had an ordered liturgy, so there were some aspects of what Warren said that I couldn’t relate to (such as her never really having a “sense” of time until she discovered the liturgical calendar). For myself, I never gave much thought at all about advent until I came to Norway (a prominently Lutheran country). This isn’t a criticism against Warren, but only a note for other readers (i.e., Baptists). Keep reading. For myself, reading through Warren’s book provided me a bit of insight into seeing how other Christian live out their ecclesiology, even if I found some parts odd (and interesting).

I would like to have seen more written about these heady concepts, specifically justification, pneumatology, Christology, and eschatology, topics Warren “can get drunk on” (23). Why does one’s eschatology matter? Pre-, post-, a-, panmillennial—do they make a difference, or are they mere fodder for pointless arguments? How should our view of the Spirit, who he is, and his work in our lives shape our outlook on today? More of this would have been appreciated, but I am happy with what I was given.

Recommended?

Books that bring the heady concepts of the Bible into the warp and woof of our daily lives ought to be read. More often than we’d like to admit, too many of us probably walk around having the biblical concepts in our heads, but when it comes to living out our days, we think we simply need to live as good people. Warren guides her readers through one day—one day out of so many—and shows them a way to think about their day under God’s purposes and loving designs. Whether you are a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, or, dare I say it, a Baptist, there is much here that is beneficial.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Tish H. Warren
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (November 1, 2016)
  • Blogs: Her.meneutics, The Well

Buy from Amazon or InterVarsity Press!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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