I don’t always pick up books right when they come out, but Nadia’s new work caught my attention a while ago, so I got it soon after it was released. Accidental Saints is a great read. It’s brutally honest. Right of the bat I connected with the author’s sincerity and vulnerability. It’s got lots of cussing- which for some reason makes it feel more real to me. It’s funny as hell. You can tell that the author, Nadia Bolz-Webber, spent some time as comedian. And it’s stinging with grace. Essentially, it’s a memoir and a series of reflections written by a female Lutheran who’s found herself a Pastor of a church in Denver called House for All Saints and Sinners.
As a pastor myself, I come across a lot of books written by other pastors. Usually, they are more of the same regurgitated, feel-good, church-y, sermons-turned-to-books kind of things. Accidental Saints is an antidote to these offerings as it sincerely explores the every day experience of messed up people and a messed up pastor finding God in the midst of their messiness. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing and encouraging it was to read the stories of Nadia’s failures, proclivities, and insecurities, and how the good news of Jesus meets her in all of it.
It’s possible that being pastor, and probably sharing some of the same convictions as the author, that I resonated with the book more than others might, but I can’t help but think that it is a great picture of what Christianity is all about. I loved the candidness in which Nadia shared her frustrations, doubts, and hopes with regards to her faith and relationship with the church. I appreciated her connection to liturgy and the church calendar even though I don’t come from a tradition that emphasizes them. When I finished the book, I felt more aware of God’s grace and believed in church more than when I started it. I think that means it was good. Did I mention she cusses a lot?
Accidental Saints is a fun read that I would recommend to anyone who’s interested in Christianity, church stuff, spirituality, gender issues in the church, or Jesus.
Below is a link to the book on Amazon, but before that I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite quotes:
“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.”
“My spirituality is most active, not in meditation, but in the moments when: I realize God may have gotten something beautiful done through me despite the fact that I am an asshole, and when I am confronted by the mercy of the gospel so much that I cannot hate my enemies, and when I am unable to judge the sin of someone else (which, let’s be honest, I love to do) because my own crap is too much in the way, and when I have to bear witness to another human being’s suffering despite my desire to be left alone, and when I am forgiven by someone even though I don’t deserve it and my forgiver does this because he, too, is trapped by the gospel, and when traumatic things happen in the world and I have nowhere to place them or make sense of them but what I do have is a group of people who gather with me every week, people who will mourn and pray with me over the devastation of something like a school shooting, and when I end up changed by loving someone I’d never choose out of a catalog but whom God sends my way to teach me about God’s love.”
“Those most qualified to speak the gospel are those who truly know how unqualified they are to speak the gospel.”
“what happens at the cross is a “blessed exchange.” God gathers up all our sin, all our broken-ass junk, into God’s own self and transforms all that death into life. Jesus takes our crap and exchanges it for his blessedness.”