THANK, PRAISE, SERVE, AND OBEY: Recover the Joys of Piety
THANK, PRAISE, SERVE, AND OBEY: Recover the Joys of Piety. By William Chancellor Weedon. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 180 pages. $14.99.
Pastor William Weedon is currently the Director of Worship for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and has recently written a book that draws its title from Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed: Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey: Recover the Joys of Piety.
The book begins with this sentence, “This book is about piety, and specifically posits that piety is a good thing” (vii). From here the book unfolds eight godly habits that are characteristic of the Christian life.
As a parish pastor, I tend to focus on piety—and the exercises thereof—during the season of Lent. I have my own exercises of Lenten piety that I carry out each year, and I gently encourage my parishioners to consider committing to an exercise of piety during Lent as well. The typical Lenten habits are easily identified. Giving something (you like) up for Lent: such as coffee, chocolate, Coca-Cola, or red meat on Fridays is a common practice. By my own observation, “taking something up” for Lent is also gaining in popularity. I remember a professor at the seminary telling me about how he took up the challenge to read through the entire Bible during the season of Lent. In a similar vein, I once took up the challenge to memorize the entire book of Titus during Lent. With these thoughts in my mind, I was expecting Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey to extol creative spiritual disciplines such as these. However, that’s not what this book does, and that’s ok, because what this book does is far better.
Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey is a book that talks about regular Christian habits. The habits aren’t “creative” or “novel.” They are habits that should be found among all Christians at all times and in all places. Thus, the first “Godly Habit” is “Faithful Listening to the Word of God.” Regularly attending worship is act of piety…that is, it’s a godly habit. Weedon does a marvelous job of stressing the importance of regular worship attendance, and not from a “have to” perspective but a “get to” perspective. In plain language that draws on common resources of the church (catechisms, hymnals, prayerbooks, church fathers) Weedon gives a compelling account for the primacy of “faithfully listening to the Word of God.”
From this point the seven other godly habits follow. They are: The Daily Prayers, Frequent and Faithful Reception of the Eucharist, Confession of Sins and Absolution, Sacrificial Giving, Confessing Christ, Watching for the Good Works God has Prepared for Us to Do, and Remembering Death and the Day of Judgment. In each chapter Weedon not only states the obvious, but he offers wonderful insights into each area as well. For example, in the chapter on the Frequent and Faithful Reception of the Eucharist, he shares “Eve divorced eating from the word of God, and the result was death and sin. Jesus in the Eucharist reunites eating and drinking with the word of God, and the result is that whoever believes has exactly what God’s words say: forgiveness!” (p. 58). I had never noticed that great contrast between Eve’s sin and Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper before. This insight was quickly underlined in my book and edifying to my faith. This is just one of dozens of examples where I was greeted with profound insights regarding common Christian practices that I had not noticed before.
The subtitle of this book is “Recover the Joys of Piety.” One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it reflects its subtitle by overflowing from a posture of joy. Each “Godly Habit” is approached with an attitude of “Can you believe how incredibly blessed and awesome it is that we’re even allowed to take up this pious activity?” Sometimes, Christians drum the laws of piety instead of extoling its joys. The difference between the former and the latter is that the former leads to pietism, and the later leads to pious Christians. It reminds me of Craig Middlebooks from the TV show Parks and Recreation. In Parks and Rec, Craig shouts all the time, even about good, right, and salutary things. It works well as a comedic routine, but it’s no way to faithfully communicate the contours of the Christian life.
Weedon’s book is flush with quotations from other sources. Hymns are cited in their entirety, as are prayers from Starck’s Prayerbook. Quotations from both Luther’s Large and Small catechisms abound as well. Given all these resources, I was surprised that Weedon didn’t quote the Rule of St. Benedict in his final chapter on Remembering Death and the Day of Judgment. The Rule of St. Benedict 4.47 reads, “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.” Maybe he’ll include it in a second edition.
If you want to listen to Pr. Weedon speak about this book, you can listen to him speak with Rev. Heath Curtis about “The Christian Life” in an interview with Rev. Todd Wilken on Issues Etc.
Thanks in part to the discussion questions provided at the end of every chapter, Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey is a book that lends itself easily for study in large or small groups. Pastors would benefit from reading this book because it articulates why Christians should take up these activities that many Christians intuitively know they should participate in but may not be committed to doing.
Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey is a wonderful book and I recommend it to all without reservation.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.