My friend Jen invited me to visit Pasadena and hear Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber speak at her Episcopal church. I had not heard of Nadia and I had too much travel already on my books.
Then I heard her interviewed on National Public Radio and I was intrigued enough to buy her book, Accidental Saints. I started reading it an essay a day so I could take it in and think it over before reading the next essay. I finished the book by reading several essays a day.
Her writing (and presumably preaching style) is raw and real. She is vulnerable in a way that most Christian writers are not willing to be. It is a saccharin and overly nice genre.
I related to several of the essays. Especially her commentary on the Rapture hoax, "A Thief in the Night." I grew up in the height of the excitement over the Rapture. I remember in Junior High reading the pop theology books and fiction that played on Cold War fears. If I am generous I can attribute the authors' motives to a desire for my salvation, misguided as they were. Their nonsense, all based on an interpretation on one verse, had so many unintended negative impacts on me and others.
This theme resurfaced in the essay "Dirty Feet," where Nadia Bolz-Weber tackles worthiness and grace. We do not earn God's love. Jesus washed the disciple's feet (i.e. loved them) even in their imperfection. Thinking of it another way--the disciples did not prewash their feet to be worthy of Jesus love. I have a tendency to stay stuck in a shame story of "I am unworthy" that I can trace back to the teaching I internalized in my teens.
One of the hardest essays to read, "The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents of Sandy Hook Elementary," delivers a much needed punch to the distorted Advent season that most Christians celebrate. Bring Herod back to Christmas. Or replace Harrods with Herod.
I do not know what to think of a celebrity pastor. It ought to be an oxymoron. At the same time, I would be sorry not to be able to read her essays just because I do not live close enough to Denver to attend her church.