Reading her most recent book, Accidental Saints, was a powerful experience for many of my friends. This is built for all people of faith, not just pastors. This is true of her reflections on worship life and sermons as well, though as I pastor I'm sure they speak to me in different ways than they speak to others. No better, no worse, just different perspectives on the wisdom Nadia shares.
With her star continuing to shine in the Lutheran world, there's a temptation for congregants and pastors alike to want pastoral leadership to look more like Nadia. No one wants this less than Nadia, I imagine. You can find many of her sermons for her congregation, House for All Sinners and Saints, here. We're not called to be Nadia, or C.F.W. Walther, or Richard Lischer, or Elizabeth Eaton, or Will Herzfeld. This Lutheran legends of varied backgrounds were best when they faithfully embodied the Gospel through their God-given identities as the particular reflections of God. What we can learn from Nadia, and from all these other saints in the tradition, is how to become more fully alive as people created in God's image.
How shouldn't we preach like Nadia?
We shouldn't try to be Nadia. We shouldn't cuss just because some people think it's cool that she uses expletives. She's in a particular place and a particular culture that appreciates that language, and many of us are in very different places. The same goes for dressing like her, or getting tattoos like her. God didn't call us to be Nadia, but called us to be pastors. Nadia is good at that in large part because she's authentically herself in joy and tears and success and scars.
How should we preach like Nadia?
We should struggle with the weighty responsibility that we have to share the Gospel. Last week the Revised Common Lectionary brought me one of my favorite images in all the Bible: the forever opened gates of the heavenly city in Revelation 21 & 22. What I've found, though, is that I love this so much that I'm just not quite sure what to say about it. Over and again, Nadia reveals how a holy tension exists in the giving of a sermon, where any confidence that we might have doesn't come from us, or our perceived coolness, but instead the life, gifts, and wisdom give to us by God. That's not an excuse for poor or incomplete sermon preparation, but an encouragement to dive in even deeper. To edit and reedit. To research outside typical sources. To seek the leading of God's Spirit. This takes time, and energy, and sometimes tears. We should prepare and preach like this.
Perhaps more to the point, we should bring all of ourselves into the sermon process, not as an act of ego, but instead as a commitment to the incarnational reality of preaching. God encounters our people through the sermons we preach, so we ought to simultaneously be fully ourselves and pointing to God's work through us. In this way, through both our successes and our scars, congregations can see God actively at work through not just what is preached, but through the preacher as well.
So, yes, learn from other excellent preachers, but do so in a way that makes your sermons more authentically yours and in ways that more vibrantly point to Christ. That's how we best follow the lead of good preachers and best serve the needs of the congregations that call us to preach.