Book Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary (Tish Warren)

Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren Review

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

Buy it from Amazon

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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Review: Hidden But Now Revealed

Hidden But Now Revealed

People love mysteries. Whether it be Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, or Scooby Doo, it’s not hard to figure out: everybody loves a good mystery. It’s part of what creates a good story. We experience the everyday normal, yet our characters lead unexpected lives of adventure. A crime occurs with no evidence left behind. Suspects are few and far between. To make matters worse, time is running out. Books like these create in us a sense of wonder, curious about what the very next page will bring. And it’s all experienced in the comfort of our own chair.

Greg Beale has a knack for taking some of the most obscure topics in the Bible, revealing their importance, and making them very interesting. In The Temple and the Church’s Mission Beale showed us how John looks back to the Garden of Eden in Revelation 21-22. Throughout the book he shows the reader how this temple theme is found all throughout God’s word.

Here, in Hidden But Now Revealed, he looks at how mystery is used in the New Testament by grounding it’s meaning in the book of Daniel. Greg Beale and Daniel Gladd (a doctoral student of Beale at Wheaton College) cover the twenty-eight uses of the term mystery in the NT, along with explaining the meaning of mystery in Daniel, it’s subsequent interpretations in early Judaism, concepts related to mystery in the NT yet do not use the word mystery, and the relation between the Christian mystery and the pagan mystery religions (which is very little).

Matthew, Paul, and John all speak about mystery in their letters (i.e., the Gospel of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation). But where is their meaning derived from? Not only this, but what does the meaning of mystery in Daniel and the NT tell us about how the NT contextually interprets the OT?

The Chocolate Milk

Daniel

How do we define mystery? Do we pull out Webster’s Dictionary to figure out the meaning? It doesn’t matter that we’re 2,000 years removed from the NT, does it? Yes, it does matter. Instead of relying on Webster, we look even further back in time. Beale and Gladd look to the book of Daniel and define mystery generally as “the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the ‘latter days’” (20, emphasis original). What makes mystery so complex is that sometimes the biblical authors use two definitions at the same time: “(1) God’s wisdom has been finally disclosed, but nevertheless (2) his wisdom remains generally incomprehensible to non-believers” (20).

The original context for mystery comes from Daniel 2 and 4. In both of these chapters we see that either king Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled” (2.1) over his dreams or they “made him fearful” (4.5). He tells Daniel “no mystery baffles you!” (4.9). In Daniel 4 the king might be fearful because he knows the dream is about him because his dream follows that of Daniel 2, where the destruction of Babylon is portrayed in the destruction of the golden head of the statue. The authors argue that mystery “is not a radically new revelation but a disclosure of something that was largely (but not entirely) hidden” (35).

New Testament Letters

The authors look at the NT letters (see paragraph 3) to see how the NT authors develop the idea of mystery. The chapter on Matthew was by far my favourite (as I am captivated by the Gospels right now) as they showed how the kingdom of heaven was known in the OT, yet it was also a mystery. Rather than being established at the end of time as was perceived in the OT and in early Judaism, it came in two stages (or an already-and-not-yet manner). It has “come” but is “not yet” completed.

This goes on for the rest of the NT’s use of mystery. There is a facet of the mystery that was known in the OT (whether it be about salvation, the Gentiles, the man of lawlessness, how the kingdom of evil will be defeated, etc), and there is new revelation now that Jesus, the high King of heaven, has come.

The Spoiled Milk

I enjoyed the book. It’s quite dense, and in reading this you’ll want your Bible by your side so you can read along with Gladd/Beale. Though the book can be quite general, it’s mainly due to the fact that the authors cover twenty eight uses of the term mystery in the NT. This is not an easy task. Though I feel some space could have been saved but for this one thing: double-summaries.

As Jim Hamilton has said in a review, “Beale is prolix” (a.k.a. Beale is “wordy”). At the end of each chapter is a conclusion where the authors summarize their findings. This is especially helpful in the chapters covering the NT letters. Yet, at the beginnings of those same chapters we run into the same findings again!

Example: The Ephesians chapter ‘ends’ with a conclusion summarizing the main points discussed, after which we are provided with an excursus. When we turn the page to Colossians we find four paragraphs repeating the summary conclusions from Ephesians. This is seen constantly throughout the section on the NT letters. It’s not a major flaw (it is helpful to see the thoughts summarized in perhaps a different way), still, much of it could have been done away with leaving us with either a slightly shorter book or one filled with some newer information.

Recommended?

Oh, yes, this is recommended. Though I should qualify that statement. If you’re interested in mystery in Daniel and/or in the NT, or how the NT interprets the OT then you would like this book. This book could be read all the way straight through (as I did), but what I did catch I’ll leave in the book until I come back to use it as a reference guide. The authors leave the excursuses at the end of each chapter, which really helps keep the flow of each chapter moving right along. Mysteries are quite complex, head-scratching, and, well, “mysterious” until you have the key. And I think Beale and Gladd can be looked to on having gone deeper into finding that key, not only of what consists of mystery, but how the NT interprets the OT.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 393 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 3, 2014)
  • Amazon: US // UK
  • PDF sample here

[Special thanks to Christine at Think IVP for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]