A Review: Accidental Saints

Surprisingly, when I moved to pastor a congregation in rural Nebraska, there were two other female pastors within a mile radius of me. Both ELCA pastors, one of the country parish just outside of town, and the other a block north of me. The one out at the country church was also a young pastor in her first call. We clicked right away, and it didn’t take long for her to introduce me to the ELCA phenomenon, Nadia Bolz-Weber. I started off listening to an interview she did with Krista Tippet, and I was hooked. I read Pastrix, went to see her speak, and preordered Accidental Saints.

Accidental Saints isn’t a book for the faint of heart. If you’re unfamiliar with Bolz-Weber, she grew up in a conservative Christian family, struggled with addiction in early adulthood, is covered in tattoos that are usually revealed in her clergy tank tops, and she swears like a sailor. She also preaches a grace that she describes is less like being wrapped up in a warm blanket and more like being hit by a blunt instrument. This grace is the foundation of Accidental Saints.

The book cycles the church year as Bolz-Weber shares stories of encountering real life outcasts. She writes about people who would typically be deemed and written off as “other”. People who are usually pushed outside of the bounds of church and Christianity. But Jesus never sought out the best and the brightest and most righteous to go out to share about him. “He always sent stumblers and sinners.”

Bolz-Weber shares how she was stretched and confronted with the reality of God’s grace and the mold that every human being comes from. Even the most inhuman, even our enemies have been made in the image of God, and God came for every one of us. We are called to love our enemies.

This is a story about discovering God in the ordinary. Finding healing in the ordinary. It is about not having to get it all together before walking into church or following after God. God loves us now. Where we are. Not after we’re clean. She reminds us that

We expose ourselves to the brightness of God’s light and it warms us for a while, but eventually we melt. Our resistances and plans and schemes and scars and pride all meal down in times when we are forgiven by friends, and when Jesus tags unflattering photos of us, and when we embrace the thing we are trying to hide from (in others and ourselves), and when we meet someone else’s need…

This is a story that I needed. It’s a story that I’m learning daily. I’m learning to find God in the dirty, in the irreverent, in the mess of the every day, in the broken, in the ordinary moment, and in all the wrong people.