Today at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak. Nadia attended Pepperdine, though she doesn’t remember any of it. She describes herself as being “a drug-addled 18 year old.” In his introduction, her father stated she was never a student here; although he did have to still write checks to the institution.
Bolz-Weber has detailed her life in her first book Pastrix. She talks about leaving her Church of Christ upbringing and eventually finding her faith blossom and grow in the Lutheran Church. In fact, she currently pastors a church, House For All Sinners and Saints, in Denver, CO. She is a recovering alcoholic. She is fairly covered in tattoos. She says “shit” and “asshole” in her preaching and writing. A lot!
And she knows God’s grace better than most people I know.
She is vulnerable. She is humble. She is relentless in her love of all of God’s people. Even the ones she doesn’t like very much. Her honesty is both disarming and intimidating. Disarming because when anyone is willing to share their crap you get to know them as a human being. Intimidating because when anyone is willing to share their crap you have to ask why you won’t share your own.
Nadia asked a difficult question today: Why do Christians hide from the truth so much when Jesus said it is the thing that will set us free?
We need to learn more about God’s grace. We need to remind ourselves continually that the Law does not save; God’s grace does.
Sara Barton spoke as one of the keynote preachers today. She is the chaplain at Pepperdine after having taught at Rochester College in Michigan and before that serving as a missionary in Uganda. Her life, it seems, has been spent centered around church and ministry. She is a bold speaker willing to meddle in things that too many preachers shy away from.
What a blessing it was to hear a middle-class, white woman proclaim that black lives matter.
It was challenging to hear her tell all of us to quit arguing about who is our neighbor and just start loving them. It was challenging to hear her say that, for the Christian, we can no longer drown out the noise of God’s children who are crying out in deep anguish and pain.
It was amazing to watch her seamlessly move from talking like a university professor to talking like a prophetic voice of God.
Sara is a gifted speaker. She is a wonderful, Godly servant who speaks the truth boldly.
The most amazing thing about hearing from these two women today is that just a short time ago, they would not have been able to speak here.
And by “a short time,” I mean 2 or 3 years; 5 at most.
In my denomination, women have not been allowed to speak for most of our history. There are some reasons for that. I won’t necessarily say good reasons, but reasons nonetheless. However, in the past few years, women are being given more and more opportunities to use their gifts to the glory of God.
So today, when a tatted-up, recovering alchoholic who has left the Churches of Christ was allowed to speak, I related. I related to her because I am a recovering alcoholic. (And I even have one tattoo!) I spent some time outside of the Churches of Christ. I have struggled with many demons and I have been honored to be invited into other people’s lives when they have dealt with their demons. I have learned to see the saint in those most people call sinner.
Also today, when a lifelong member of the Churches of Christ spoke, I could relate. I went to a Christian college, received a ministry degree, and went into full-time ministry. I have tried to speak boldly about issues of social justice and call Christians to love people over opinions. I have learned that I can no longer drown out the noise or turn my head away from the children of God who are crying out in pain.
But there was something even greater about today: my daughter will not think it is such a big deal that two women are given an opportunity to preach. For me (and most my age or older), this was huge. Daughters of God being given the opportunity to preach did not seem like a possibility a few years ago. But today it happened. And it was a big deal. And I am thankful.
I am especially thankful that this will be a more normal experience for my children. I am grateful that my daughter will have women preachers to look up to. I am grateful that she will not struggle to find or share her voice.
Because the door has been opened. Women like Nadia and Sara have accepted God’s call.
The prophet Joel said the sons AND daugthers of God would prophesy. I wish my denomination would have come around to that sooner. But I am glad for what is happening now.
I am grateful to hear God’s voice proclaimed by His daughters.
I can’t wait to hear even more…