Brief Review of Marva Dawn’s “A Royal Waste of Time”


Marva Dawn says that worship is a “royal waste of time.” Of course, she is not referring to worship being purposeless, she is speaking of worship as a way of losing our lives (Mat. 10:39). Worship is royal because it invites us to the throne room of God. But worship is a waste of time because in the eyes of the world it is a trivial pursuit. Worship as a royal waste of time enables us to keep heavenly time and forget earthly concerns. A royal waste of time is what we need to do more not less. We need to spend our sense of self-righteousness and gain more from the heavenly clock which calls us promptly to see our unworthiness in the splendor of God’s holiness.

Throughout these many sermons, the writer speaks profoundly to the sense of loss in evangelical worship. Not only has the church over-hyped technology (85) but she has also lost her sense of wonder (118). Dawn addresses the central need of the church which is to restore the centrality of worship and a vision for the God of worship. She works through various components of church life and urges the church to restore what’s been lost with the church’s worldly infatuation. With deep personal care and pastoral tenderness, Marva Dawn addresses a series of letters to concerned parishioners and overwhelmed pastors. The reviewer strongly encourages distributing such letters to pastors.

Filled with a healthy dose of theological insight, Dawn presents a God that is beyond our reach and within our grasp; immanent and transcendent. The church’s loss of identity comes when she believes her time is better spent inventing new ways of worship.

This reviewer did not agree with all her exegesis (especially of Col. 3) but found Dawn to be a unique and necessary voice for our age. Further, there is no greater beauty than the beauty of God’s holiness. Each church needs to be aware that worldly perceptions of the church are not nearly as important and a royal waste of time in the things of God is our urgent cry. Another great addition to this masterful piece is that she speaks from a Lutheran perspective which means part of this royal waste is to see the church calendar as a fundamental way to keep time. Dawn urges the church to sing a new song, to catechize our imagination with wonder for the Triune God.   

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