It would be tempting for someone to dismiss a tattoo-clad Lutheran pastor who freely uses colorful language and does CrossFit as a fad, without much substance to back up her beliefs. I say “someone” but I mean “me.” I’ve been wanting to read a book by Nadia Bolz-Weber for some time, mostly because I’m in a phase where I want to read edgy Christian stuff. I was surprised, then, by the depth of Bolz-Weber’s convictions and how much her stories and understanding of Scripture challenged me. I’m so glad I gave her a chance. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.)
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People is a collection of stories, of how Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, has imperfectly loved the people in her care. It is more how-not-to-love people than a shining example of how to behave in such a way as to be called a saint.
It has been my experience that what makes us the saints of God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners. The title ‘saint’ is always conferred, never earned. (p. 7)
It is hopeful writing (and full of language which might offend some people. I personally don’t find it gratuitous, but you’ve been warned.) and challenging. Some of her thoughts on Advent are particularly thought-provoking and timely as we enter this season. Throughout the book, I found myself pondering her interpretation of a text I’d read numerous times before.
She’s also blatantly honest about her own shortcomings. Her stories are as much lessons for herself as they are for anyone reading.
If you think yourself a sinner too messed up for a purpose in God’s kingdom, I challenge you to read this book. And if you’re working hard to earn your sainthood, pick this one up as well. The line between sinner and saint is blurry, sometimes, and Bolz-Weber’s stories are proof that God often shows up in the unlikeliest places and people.