The Gospel According to Nadia

The Gospel According to Nadia May 3, 2011

The good people of Denver put their spiritual lives at risk by asking Nadia Bolz-Weber to preach before the myriad (look it up)-large throng at Red Rocks on Easter Sunday.  I thought that maybe Nadia would borrow an idea from Watermark Church in Dallas and build a massive version of the Bridge Illustration so that she could walk across the Cross:

(I shit you not.  You can watch the video here.  You may wonder, as I did, if the illustration breaks down a bit when three stagehands show up to lower the Cross over the chasm.)

I personally would have loved to see Nadia walk over the chasm.  But, alas, she decided instead to preach the gospel.  Here’s her nutshell description of what Jesus was all about:

Once upon a time, the God of the Universe was basically fed up with being on the receiving end of all our human projections, tired of being nothing more to us than what we thought God should be: angry, show-offy, defensive, insecure, in short, the vengeance-seeking tyrant we would be if we were God. So, at that time, over 2,000 years ago, God’s Loving Desire to really be Known overflowed the heavens and was made manifest in the rapidly dividing cells within the womb of an insignificant peasant girl named Mary. And when the time came for her to give birth to God, there was no room in our expectations – no room in any impressive or spiffy or safe place. So this God was born in straw and dirt. He grew up, this Jesus of Nazareth, left his home, and found some, let’s be honest, rather unimpressive characters to follow him. Fishermen, Tax collectors, prostitutes, homeless women with no teeth, people from Commerce City, Ann Coulter and Charlie Sheen. If you think I’m kidding…read it for yourselves. These people were questionable. So, with his little band of misfits Jesus went about the countryside turning water to wine, eating with all the wrong people, angering the religious establishment and insisting that in him the kingdom of God had come near, that through him the world according to God was coming right to us. He touched the unclean and used spit and dirt to heal the blind and said crazy destabilizing things like the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and sell all you have and give it to the poor.

But she didn’t stop there.  She continued with this kick-ass line:

And the thing that really cooked people’s noodles wasn’t the question “is Jesus like God” it was “what if God is like Jesus”.  What if God is not who we thought?  What if the most reliable way to know God is not through religion, not through a sin and punishment program, but through a person. What if the most reliable way to know God is to look at how God chose to reveal God’s self in Jesus?

You can read the rest on Nadia’s blog, where she also has links to the video.

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  • Matthew Stone

    Hi Tony,

    I just wanted to say thanks for your blogging. I find encouragement and challenge in your blogs and your linking to other blogs/websites/truths!

    I really appreciate the time you take to help us (your readers) wade through the “religious” jargon of American Christianity and move closer to the true Jesus Christ.

    Just a little encouragement for you, an encourager!



  • Several folks from House for All Sinners & Saints (where Nadia is the pastor) stayed up late the night before, dancing during their Easter Vigil…and then got up a few hours later to attend the service at Red Rocks. My sister told me she was amazed at how quiet everyone was when Nadia preached. She surmised that this was the first time many of the worshippers had heard the Gospel. Thanks for re-posting this great sermon!

  • Bryan Jaster

    Never met or “heard” Nadia – but I’m continually wondering who I see that has a “little dirt under the nails” that God might love just enough to make “new”. Make she preach on!

  • Kj

    Matt said, ” just a little encouragement for you, an encourager”

    I suppose encouragement is in the eye of the beholder. I doubt the good folks at watermark church find this post to be of much encouragement.

    Why does the kingdom have to reflect culture…with one side bashing the other? Tony, this post was fantastic on it’s own; why the need to take pot shots at a community with whom you differ? Especially when what you oppose ( I am speculating, here) is as much methodological asmit is theological.

    I am (mostly) a Tony fan, but don’t feel encouraged.

  • Kenton

    What Kj said. I know, and in some cases am related to, quite a few people who go to Watermark. Theology differences aside, there are a lot of people there who love Jesus and want to follow him. And while that cross illustration might make me want to bury my fore head in my hand, it wasn’t all that long ago I would have been right on board it.

    Having that out the way, I absolutely LOVED NBW’s Easter sermon. The gardener with dirt under his fingernails hit close to home as it reminded me of my late grandmother who had the green thumb of the family. She loved to work her garden and grow all sorts of plants and vegetables, and she also modeled Jesus for me. And that’s even though she would have been on board with the life-sized cross illustration. 😉

  • Ethan M

    Thank you for pointing us to Nadia’s beautiful declaration of God’s glorious love for us. Although as others have said, I think that the contrast with the linked video is overstated.

    Nadia writes, “Because that changes everything. If what we see in Jesus is God’s own self, revealed, then what we are dealing with here is a God who is ridiculously indiscriminate about choosing friends. A God who would rather die than be in the sin accounting business anymore. A God who would not lift a finger to condemn those who crucified him, but went to the depths of Hell rather than be apart even from his betrayers. A God unafraid to get his hands dirty for the ones he loves. This, this is the God who rises to new life with dirt still under his nails.”

    Isn’t that what is is being portrayed through the bridge illustration. God has died so that we could be reunited with God, not because we are so special but because God loves us so much.

    I think that rather being in conflict these two sermons are beautiful examples of contextually appropriate proclamations of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • that is a fantastic quote, thanks for sharing that.

  • Yes, Jesus is a decisive revelation of God! Process theologians, open theists, womanists, etc. have been trying to say this for a while. Unforchunately, most of Western thought has argued that God is NOT like Jesus.

    Here is a great quote from Alfred North Whitehead:

    “When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers. The code of Justinian and the theology of Justinian are two volumes expressing one movement of the human spirit. The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly. In the official formulation of the religion it has assumed the trivial form of the mere attribution to the Jews that they cherished a misconception about their Messiah. But the deeper idolatry, of the fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman imperial rulers, was retained. The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar.”