Annie Dillard has (famously) said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” This is a cautionary saying for those of us who live our days as the sandwich-makers, the sock sorters, and the finders of misplaced library books. Therefore, Liturgy of the Ordinary has landed upon my reading list like a benediction, for in Tish Harrison Warren’s words, I hear the husky contralto sound track of Peggy Lee’s musical question “Is That All There Is?” Thanks be to God, Tish arrives at a resounding “No!” The daily, mundane tasks that comprise civilization and self-maintenance on this planet are clearly not “all there is.” On the contrary, they are shot through with the sacred — even all the repetitive and seemingly Sisyphean tasks that, while admittedly are sacrificial, seem hardly to be sacramental.
Liturgy of the Ordinary pushes back against the dualism that differentiates between answering emails and writing sermons, between talking theology over coffee and talking science fair project over milk and cookies because, for believers, ministry and everyday life are “intrinsically part of one another,” (p. 89).
Trish celebrates the reality that the spiritual disciplines that sustain the following life are quiet, reflective, and homely. The trappings of devotion, even the elements of the Eucharist, can be found in any North American kitchen, and the inhale and exhale of communion with God around a verse of Scripture can, literally, be done with one’s eyes closed.
Since liturgy is, by definition, “the work of the people,” the faithful have been commissioned to do whatever is needful in the name of Christ. Tish’s liberating thesis works itself out in the unfolding of the ordinary day of a wife, mum, ministry professional, and friend, a woman who chafes against the routine, who longs for a good night’s sleep, and who delights in the simple beauty of a vanilla steamer alongside a great novel.
The Glory of the Embodied Life
When we wake, no matter how we wake (instantly bolt upright or groping toward consciousness), we begin our day beloved by God, and the staggering truth is that nothing we do in the course of each day will either magnify or diminish that standing. Beginning each new day echoes that “first gleam of dawn” which characterizes “the path of the righteous” (Proverbs 4:18) at the outset of the Christian life.
Careening toward the age when it takes twice as long in front of a mirror to look half as good, it is a joyful thing to be reminded that “what we do with our bodies and what we do with our souls are always entwined,” (p. 39). In taking on flesh, Christ decimated the false notion that the body is an evil burden and not worthy of respectful treatment and conscientious care.
“Because of the embodied work of Jesus, my body is destined for redemption and for eternal worship – for eternal skipping and jumping and twirling and hand raising and kneeling and dancing and singing and chewing and tasting,” (p. 48).
Tish Harrison Warren writes of the believer’s “everyday work of shalom”; of the “third way” in which we are neither Mary nor Martha, but are delighted to find our worship and our work as one; of the ministry of friendship, the sacrament of coffee, as well as the gift of rest.
I hope that you will click on over to Englewood Review of Books to finish reading my thoughts on this remarkable book in which Tish draws a clear line of connection between the activities of her daily routine and the pursuit of holiness.
This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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