(InterVarsity Press, 2016)
What do making the bed, losing your keys, and eating leftovers for lunch have in common? They are what Tish Harrison Warren calls a Liturgy of the Ordinary, or daily rhythms that, in this book, Warren connects with the “special” practices we associate with living the Christian life, reminding us that God created us not just for an hour on Sunday but for “rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes.”
This is the first book from Warren, an Anglican minister in Austin, Texas. With a perfect blend of personal anecdotes about her family of four, words from Christian sages past and present, and practical application of deep theological concepts, Warren explores what living the Christian life in its mundane moments means and why what seems ordinary is truly extraordinary, asking us to recall the words of the late Dallas Willard, that “transformation is actually carried out…in our real life.”
The brilliance of this book is that in each chapter, Warren not only makes associations of her daily practices with Christian liturgy and worship, but without fail, reveals a deeper issue for contemplation. For example, in her chapter that begins with a spat she has with her husband, she connects the issue to the liturgical practice of Passing the Peace. Going deeper, she elucidates on what God’s overarching shalom means and how we practice it every day in restoring relationships with others.
This book is a Practicing the Presence for a 21st century audience. Just like Brother Lawrence sought each moment to find and glorify God in his work, Warren redeems the ordinary moments in our lives and points to how we can see God’s action in them. As she says in her final paragraphs, “Even the most ordinary of days has shaped us – imperceptibly but truly.”
Liturgy of the Ordinary will challenge you as page-by-page Warren exposes that none of us are living fully integrated spiritual lives. No part of the Christian life is “secular” and she reminds readers of that with each new analogy. Just as assurance comes after confession, Warren provides a message of redemption and grace in each chapter. She reminds readers that “the reality underlying every practice in our life is the triune God and his story, mercy, abundance, generosity, initiative, and pleasure.”
Small groups will also find the discussion guide included in the appendix helpful. Warren gives both discussion questions and “Suggested Practices” that are easy to incorporate and meditate on during “ordinary” days.
I recommend this book for those who feel their work is disconnected from their worship, who feel like they are missing God in the minutes and hours and only seeing him on Sundays, or who just need to be reminded that a with-God life is not only experienced in extraordinary moments, but in the everyday as well.
Rory Jones is a student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He enjoys cooking with his wife, Elise, and playing board games.