To listen to Nancy’s answer from the recording with Moody Radio click here!

I think that this can be answered by a sermon given several years ago by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran preacher from Denver, Colorado. She was asked to speak to 10,000 at the Red Rocks amphitheater on Easter morning. Her message wasn’t at all what I expected. It was blunt, raw and brutally honest. When it was over, I was forever changed, perhaps you will be also.

Nadia had a thing about the way churches and most Christians dress up on Easter as if to impress each other and the visitors. To her, the real story behind Easter is about “flesh and dirt and bodies and confusion, and it’s about the way God never seems to adhere to our expectations of what a proper God would do (as in not get himself killed in a totally avoidable way). Jesus didn’t look very impressive at Easter, not in the churchy sense, and certainly not if Mary Magdalene mistook him for a gardener.” Nadia suggested that perhaps Mary Magdalene thought the resurrected Christ was a gardener because Jesus still had the dirt from his own tomb under his nails. “Of course, the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails; they make him look more like a wingless angel than a gardener. My experience, however, is that the God of Easter is a God with dirt under his nails. Resurrection never feels like being made clean and nice and pious like in Easter pictures.”

The way she speaks about the realness of our Savior is raw but beautiful. Hearing this makes me see Jesus more as a real person – with dirty fingernails – rather than a distant holy God who stayed away from messes. If it’s not about being clean, then was God’s intent?

“God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new. New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage not to mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming— never even hoped for— but ends up being what we needed all along.”

I love her emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit to be with us to help make us new creations fight the battle of change. It is refreshing to hear how we can change our patterns of living and thinking over time with lots of learning along the way. 

“It happens to all of us, God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.”

Isaiah 43: 1-3 “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the Lord your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. Do not be afraid—I will save you.”

Might we all celebrate Easter with a better understanding of what Jesus did for us. His death was bloody, painful and horrific. He did it all for us so that we could be new creations like Him in the way we love, live, forgive and push through the hard times because God promised that he would be with us every step of the way. Failing is part of being human and rescuing us is what God does best – dirty fingernails and all.