I wonder if Ann Voskamp and Nadia Bolz-Weber have ever met.
Because they meet in my world. I wonder if their two books fight it out each night on my nightstand.
Reading Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts at the same time as Bolz-Weber’s Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People is tricky. One is a homeschooling, pig farming mom with six kids in Canada. The other is a Lutheran pastor who ministers to drug addicts and prostitutes in Denver. One writes with flowery, poetic words, and the other is as raw as a sailor.
But I think they would be friends in real life.
Because they both preach the same message: Believe that God is good and that you are loved. They’ve seen it, experienced it, and now share it with others.
I finished both books last week. One Thousand Gifts was a re-read for a group study I’m participating in. But Accidental Saints was new to me (although Bolz-Weber is not—she also authored Pastrix).
Accidental Saints is a mix of contemporary stories and Bible stories to help us see that we’re all more alike than we are different, a mix of good and bad, but a beautiful family in God nonetheless.
God uses all of his adopted children. We are all broken. All lame. Like the name of the church Nadia pastors, we all belong to the House for All Sinners and Saints.
“In the kingdom of God, we need not cultivate a persona to hide the lame, poor, blind, or crippled parts of us. The unflattering photos. The parts that have nothing to offer, that must rely on others for help.
In other words, the uncool parts of us are exactly what Jesus invites to sit and eat around his table.”
So Bolz-Weber doesn’t clean things up to show us only her good side. While I might prefer more editing on her word choices, they don’t deter me from her truths. She may not look or sound like our preachers, but she’s able to reach and love people that we can’t reach, with our untatted arms and our proper dialects.
“Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.”
For those who say, Why, I never! about Bolz-Weber, I say others say that about us, too, for different reasons. We just tune it out. Whoever feels holy enough to cast the first stone, go ahead. But I don’t.
“Wanting to get at this idea that God meets us first under the oak tree, when our feet are dirty, not just after we have managed to clean them up, House for All Sinners and Saints has the practice of both foot washing and bleach kit assembly on Maundy Thursday. We sing ‘Take, O, Take Me As I Am’ as we assemble bleach, tourniquets, and condoms into kits for outreach workers, through an underground needle exchange program, to hand to IV drug users on the streets of Denver. This is not a quaint ‘service project.’ It is a radical statement that we believe in grace.”
I love hearing about the good that God is doing through Bolz-Weber and the people she pastors. They take their faith seriously.
And they take it outside their walls to where pain is and where healing is needed and where many “church people” are afraid to go.
“We were continuing a practice started on our first Good Friday together where, after the liturgy, we gather together at a site where an act of brutal violence had taken place in our city and there we pray and lay down tulips, tulips that had been handed to those entering our Good Friday liturgy a couple of hours earlier. …We bring the holy things of the church onto the holy streets of the city because on some level, the violence and despair of Good Friday is still a human reality.”
As she states over and over in her book, she doesn’t do love perfectly. Who does? But to seek to do it with intention and with grace is admirable.
“It’s my practice to welcome new people to the church by making sure they know that House for all Sinners and Saints will, at some point, let them down. That I will say or do something stupid and disappoint them. And then I encourage them to decide before that happens if they will stick around after it happens. If they leave, I tell them, they will miss the way that God’s grace comes in and fills in the cracks left behind by our brokenness. And that’s too beautiful to miss.”
Like Ann in her poetic writings, Nadia shows us in her blunt writings that if God can work through her weaknesses, let him work through ours, too. In all things, let’s thank him for what he’s doing.
“Then we become something that can bear light, the brightness of which is not diminished, even when divided and borrowed.”
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Have you ever met an “accidental saint,” someone you least expected to see Christ in? Haven’t we all been that person? Please share in the comments.
My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of Accidental Saints
- Who are you avoiding?
- When our love isn’t enough