A Royal "Waste" of Time: the Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. .
Marva Dawn (Ph.D., Christian Ethics and the Scriptures, University of Notre Dame) is a Lutheran theologian, well-known speaker, and widely published author. She works with Christians Equipped for Ministry and is adjunct professor of spiritual theology at Regent College.
In Royal Waste Dawn "intends to counteract the current push for worship to be means by which people are attracted to God... [for] worship is idolatry unless it is a total waste of time in earthly terms, a total immersion in the eternity of God's infinite splendor for the sole purpose of honoring God" (p. 11).
Yet, it is for the world as well: "Much of this book is written to counteract the claim that we should make our worship services as much like the culture as possible to attract people to Christianity. My thesis is that the world needs us instead to waste our time royally in worship and, consequently, to be Church, a people different from the world and thereby prodigally offering the gifts of the extravagant splendor of God. Genuine worship of God will send us out for the sake of the neighbor" (p. 323).
Not only does worship appear to our culture to be a waste of time; it is even a waste in God's eyes, because doing it well does not gain us anything. Colossians 3:12-17 is the cornerstone of this book. From 3:12, we are "chosen ones of God, holy and beloved." "God is the one to choose, to call, to sanctify, to grace us" (p. 13). From Col 3:17, we are to "do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." And so, "we waste our time so that others in the Christian community can be more profoundly immersed in the Word, can become more deeply formed, can more thoroughly join us in praise.... [We] instruct, educate, nurture, cultivate, rebuke, exhort, discipline, warn, delight, enlighten, edify, develop" (pp. 15-16).
And that is exactly what Dawn does--instruct, educate, nurture, etc.--to make her points. She uses nine sermons interwoven with twenty-one chapters, each of which could stand alone as commentary on a particular worship issue (which makes this review hard to write!). She begins and ends with the postmodern world, our culture and its challenges. In between are essays on God as center and on "being church" as building community, forming character, and making choices.
She not only draws heavily on Scripture; she illuminates it, and uses hymnody and prayer as well. She uses Hebrew and Greek, early church history and Martin Luther, contemporary church and secular authors, humor and satire, lists, stories, and poetry. Her style is very accessible. She is in fact engaging in conversation with first-time readers and "people in the pews" of all ages, as well as with the denominational leaders, columnists, conference attendees, pastors, and musicians who read her first book on worship and gave critique and/or asked for more of the same.
She addresses all the worship questions that confront congregations, pastors, and musicians. For instance, she fights against the limiting terms "contemporary" and "traditional" in worship ("Worship is Not a Matter of Taste," 186-93), concluding that "decisions about worship need to be grounded in the Revelation, in the wisdom of the Church through time and space, in tradition and community, and in the new winds of the Spirit" (p. 192). She also discusses the confusion between evangelism and worship, giving at least preliminary answers to the top twelve reasons we aren't willing to talk about our faith outside of our congregations ("Don't Let the People Cop Out of Witnessing," 120-34). Another example is that she works through the hymnals-vs.-screens question ("In Praise of the Harder Way: Musings on Continuity, Ephemerality, Change, and Faithfulness," 285-95), including practical lists and ways to open the discussion in the congregation.
I agree with her reading of Scripture, culture, the church, and of what worship can be in and for the world. This very helpful resource takes the "worship wars" out of the realm of emotion and personal/congregational tradition and sets them squarely in the Word and the world. I have already used her insights in sermons, meetings, confirmation, and Sunday school.
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|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2003|
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