I haven’t published a blog in almost a year. Any number of reasons can be given as to why I haven’t written more. First, I’ve been too terribly busy. My school and work schedule leave little time to think through blogs let alone keep up with current events enough to write. Second, even when I’ve wanted to write, I haven’t had a clue where to start. Most of what I’ve written up until now has been reactionary. I’ve often pointed out problems or given my opinion. Those types of blogs are a dime a dozen, and I don’t think I’ve changed anyone’s mind. This post is different. It purely invites you into my thoughts. I’ve taken up the habit of summarizing and reflecting upon books as I read them. I find that I remember more and get ideas on paper. This post is just that, my summary of and reflection on a book. Because it is a reflection, it might read long at times, and certain ideas might come across as undeveloped. It is possibly a bit too long for the faint of heart, but I hope that those who brave it pick up a raw sense of authenticity. I’m not trying to convince you of anything, but hopefully my musing will spark something within you.
What is worship? Such an elusive question, really. In A Moveable Feast: Worship for the Other Six Days (Pittsburgh: Imaginationplus, 2014), Terry Timm gives at least a partial framework for worship. But, rather than tackling the whole concept of worship, he gives a framework for worship throughout the week, offering a new look at how worship should shape one’s life.
Chapter 1: Taste and see the goodness of God.
This first chapter sets the framework for the book. Here Timm invites all to taste and see the goodness of God. He provides many different examples of ways in which humans do this. This tasting and seeing is the basis for worship. Christian worship is a constant sharing in God’s goodness. It is a constant celebration of the blessings that God has poured out into the world. Timm ends this chapter with an invitation to God’s table–which is the subject of the second chapter.
Chapter 2: An invitation to feast.
This chapter introduces the concept behind the title of the book. “A moveable feast.” First, the moveable feast is about catering companies. Then, it is about Ernest Hemingway’s impression of Paris. Finally, it is about the movable feast within the Christian calendar, a day when Christians join in the eternal feast of God.
Timm begins with a discussion of two calendars. The first calendar rules the lives of all Americans. It is broken into twelve months, and it tells us when to go where and at what time. However, Christians are also ruled by a second calendar, the liturgical calendar of the church year. Beginning with Advent and ending on Christ the King Sunday, the church calendar marks different feasts throughout the Christian year. Some of these feasts are fixed (Christmas) and others are moveable. The greatest feast of the Christian calendar is, indeed, movable. Easter.
From here, Timm moves outward, showing that feasts are not unique to Christianity. Jews had feasts they celebrated throughout the year. Also, feasts where about more than just food, but communion. In this sense, the community of feasts has been going on for eternity in the eternal dance of the Trinity, Timm argues. This eternal dance, celebration, feast is that into which Christians are invited. In fact, all are invited, through the blood of Christ, into the eternal feast of the Triune God.
At this point Timm pulls in eschatology (a discussion of the final destiny of the universe). From my present scanning, I’m not sure if he makes all these connections, but I think I can make them for him. His main argument is this, the eternal feast that is to come, is here already–and we can currently share in it. To make things as plain as possible, the eternal feast that Timm speaks of is an image of the coming restoration of creation (think Revelation 21 and 22). When God’s people will dwell with him in a new, perfect creation with new, restored, bodies without blemishes. This taps into the now but not-yet language of the Gospels. The present and future Kingdom of God. Jesus has established his kingdom, but we still wait for it to come in its fullness.
Here, another point is important, one that Tom Wright makes in Surprised by Hope. The Gospel is the good news proclaiming that humans are able to live in this resurrected hope now (transition, the Gospel is the good news that humans can share in God’s moveable feast, now)! God’s people are citizens of his kingdom, and we are ambassadors of that kingdom in the current world. In affect, the Church exists to spread the good news and blessings of God’s eternal feast before it fully comes.
This is the idea that Timm wishes to communicate, I think. (In his defense, Timm touches on these points in the last chapter of his book. However, I’m not sure one can actually follow his point of a moveable feast without making at least some of these connects from an outside understanding of eschatology.) We have the opportunity to share in God’s moveable feast, his Kingdom, at at any moment. And really, in all moments, if we want to get technical.
All this to say, the moveable feast of God is continual participation in the goodness, glory, and grace, of the Truine God. As we will see, Timm argues that this is what we are invited into with our worship. Luckily he doesn’t stop here. All this is currently super abstract. What does it mean to celebrate in the feast of God, anyway? As we’ll see, Timm shows how the feast of God, or God’s nature, or God’s Kingdom, touches the world in which we live.
Chapter 3: What is worship?
I titled this blog after this chapter. Not so much because I think that Timm answer this question, as much as this book is helping me think through this broader question of what is worship. That being said, I don’t think Timm gives an overall answer to this question here. Instead, he gives a side of worship or an angle of worship.
Timm articulates that “worship is offering our lives back to God for the sake of the world.” He suggests that this is the heart of worship, and he even has four ways in which we do this. I don’t disagree with Timm, but his definition is too narrow. As argued by my mentor, Larry Ellis (in this book Radical Worship), there are three ways in which we worship. The first is through communal worship, the second is through personal devotion, and the final is through how we live.
Timm argues in this book for the third avenue. To give him credit, and If I’m representing him fairly, he seems to equate all worship to this final avenue. If my assessment is correct, he misses the mark here. His shot comes up a bit short, so to speak. Most certainly, worship might propel us outward, but that isn’t the heart of it. At any rate, Timm does establish a good reason for us to worship God through how we live our lives. Thus, we will move forward because the rest of the book shows how we are to worship God with our lives. And, in affect, it shows how God’s feast, his kingdom, comes to the world.
Chapter 4: Worship and mission.
The first way that Timm suggests we are to live out worship is through mission. He argues that giving our lives to God consecrates us for doing his work. This consecration welcomes us into the heartbeat of God, which is for the world. This opens up a discussion on the mission dei–fancy Latin for the mission of God. Timm simply argues that the mission of God is to redeem the world. Our mission, in worship, is to participate in redeeming the world to God. Simple enough. This chapter ends by challenging readers to take the lid off their lives so that God can lead them into his work. How does one do that? To the next chapter.
Chapter 5: Worship as work.
The second way in which we live out worship is through our work. Timm begins this chapter by wondering what the purpose of worship is. Is it educational, entertaining, or experiential? He suggests that it is none of these, but is, instead, work. I agree, for the most part. However, I think worship is more than just work.
Timm, then, brings in something that has become near and dear to my own heart, liturgy. He argues that liturgy–the work of the people–shapes our entire life. I have to give him credit here. His thinking on liturgy in life has deeply shaped my understanding of how we live out the Christian life. However, I don’t agree that worship is work. Work is an avenue through which we worship God, but it isn’t worship in and of itself. If Timm isn’t make this claim, then what he intended to communicate is not quite coming through.
Overall, our work is an aspect of worship, but it isn’t the only purpose of worship. Or, worship isn’t only work. What exactly is worship? I’m not sure that I can say, but I know it isn’t just work.
Chapter 6: Worship in a fractured world.
I need to come clean about this chapter summary. It may have missed a couple points in this chapter because I didn’t give it a lot of attention. The general impression is that we need to face the realities of our broken world. However, our worship has space for this. It’s called lament. Further, our worship should give us hope, and we can still focus on the good and beautiful things of our broken world.
Nothing much to say other than I agree. American Christianity could do with a bit more lament from time to time.
Chapter 7: Worship and justice.
This chapter is one of the best. What Timm does in this chapter is show that worship is closely connected to justice. He begins by talking about Micah’s critique of the Israelite peoples’ worship. They lacked justice so God rejected their worship, regardless of how well they followed the law. Timm then links justice, mercy, and humility all together. He argues that God requires these three pieces in worship.
Though I agree with Timm, a better way to put it is that proper worship propels us toward these three character traits. In fact, I’d say that God’s mercy towards us becomes real in our worship, causing us to become merciful to others, and humbling us. Out of our humility and mercy we seek out justice. Timm sort of implies this, but he doesn’t make the connection clear.
In fact, one of my professors has keenly point out the call to proper worship throughout the Old Testament, particularly in the prophets. He argues that the worthiness of the worshiper is just as important as the worship–maybe more so! God can do with a couple misplaced sacrifices, but he will not put up with proper sacrifices from unworthy worshipers. One key to all of this: God had clearly laid out his expectations to those who were unworthy. Their sin wasn’t ignorance, but defiance.
We could learn a thing or two from this. Are we worthy to worship God, or does he reject our worship as quickly as Israel and Judah?
Chapter 8: Worship in the new creation.
Timm’s final chapter is a recap of my commentary on chapter 2. He speaks of the promised new creation, the culmination of God’s grand narrative, and he links the worship of the new creation to worship now. The important piece is connected to what I’ve already said about eschatology, but it is worth restarted because Timm talks about it a bit here. He also draws from Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope.
The heart of the Christian message is not that we will one day die and go to heaven. Instead, we will one day be resurrected–like Christ before us–into new bodies, and we will dwell with God in a new, restored creation. This new creation will be free from pain, suffering, death, destruction, sickness, and all other effects of sin. Iy will be more vibrant, beautiful, and real than that in which we now live. In this new creation, we will worship God, dwell with him, and experience his peace. The good news of the Gospel is that we can share in this resurrection and new creation now! We can catch glimpses of the new creation, and those who believe are indeed citizens there already. We can experience this new world, and the worship found in it, now.
Timm’s point is simply that our worship should reflection the life of new creation. Justice and hope for the poor, widow, orphan, and alien. The lowly will be exalted and the rich will be made low. This is the promise of new creation, and this is that which we can share in with our worship today.
Timm’s book is helpful. It isn’t quite what I expected. It has some good elements, but I feel that it lacks the cohesion need to really pack a punch. He has some helpful points, but he seems to confuse action with process. Worship is more than just how we live or how we view our work. Worship should impact how we live and how we work, but how we live and work aren’t at the heart of worship.
I can’t exactly say what is at the heart of worship. I think it has a lot to do with what Timm talks about, but maybe in a different order, with different emphasizes and different nuances. My favorite part of the book is Timm’s point on liturgy, that it is the work of the people. Perhaps he could have started here, and showed how liturgy can thrust us into a world where our faith impacts our work, where we lament the world but celebrate it its broken beauty, where we seek justice, and where we spread the hope of the comming resurrection. Maybe he could have started with the feast–the Lord’s Super–and showed how it strengthens us to live out worship throughout the week.
Then worship becomes about more than living our faith. Indeed worship is about living our faith, and living our faith is a form of worship, but their must be more. If I had to take a shot, I’d say that worship is coming together with God’s people into the presence of God. In this gathering, we enter God’s presence, we are encourage by his word, our spirit is fed by his table, and we are sent into his world. Then Timm’s book comes in. The outpouring of worship is how we come to the feast daily, and share in God’s work.
Pieces of this book are key to worship. Yes, we need to give all of ourselves to God. Possibly the best way to put it is that worship is our recognition of our dependence on God, and our submission to that dependence. When we finally realize that only God knows what brings life, and to have life we must first place ourselves into the life he offers. This is worship because it is true dependence. It is true humility.
Maybe I’m on to something maybe I’m not. Certainly this is only the beginning of my journey.