Book Review: “Searching For Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans

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Books are beautiful things. They move us, shape us and through them we grow.

Some books are better than others. Some make us laugh, some make us cry, other books find themselves flung against the walls of our bedroom in anger. Anger which we may or may not feel guilty about later.

Still other books are exactly what we need at exactly the right time. They hit that nerve which speaks to us in ways more significant than just as words on a page. They convey a deeper truth, they give a name to that aching within our soul, that scratch we haven’t quite been able to itch.

What Rachel Held Evans just published in Searching For Sunday is that kind of special.

 A little about the book:

“Many months would pass before I understood that people bond more deeply over shared broken than they do over shared beliefs.” p. 67

Part memoir, part theological exploration, Searching For Sunday effortlessly weaves the telling of Rachel’s story with a theological exploration of the seven sacraments; baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage.

As she explores the sacraments, Rachel walks the reader through her own experiences with the church, tells of how it shaped her, formed her, hurt her, how that hurt pushed her away, and how she found her way back to the community of believers once more.

Many attest to the fact that the spiritual journey is an intimate experience akin to marriage. Into the fold we bring our fears, baggage and hurts, and in doing so, we find ourselves deeply exposed for all to see.

For many of us, we will fight our whole lives to keep this sort of thing hidden from the eyes of others within the church. Rachel, however has courageously invited us into this journey. Sharing with us her story as tangible proof that those who doubt are not as alone as maybe they once believed.

What I loved

“But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There is bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a Kingdom of the worthy; it’s a Kingdom for the hungry.” p 147

I could write 5000 words on all I loved in Searching for Sunday, but for the sake of brevity I’ll limit it to only a few.

Even if the rest of the book were rubbish (which I can’t stress enough, is not the case), I would recommend readers buy it for the chapter on Communion alone. At multiple points during this section, I found myself choked up, with goose bumps, and audibly (and inaudibly) shouting my agreements.

Filled with stories of Methodist dance parties, heavenly bouncers, and stories like how the Eucharist was a divine instrument of racial-reconciliation in the 1940’s segregated South, Searching for Sunday provides the skin-and-bones beauty and sacredness of what the sacrament of Eucharist really means. It paints the beautiful picture of how the taking of the cup and the breaking of the bread unites people of all races, genders, political affiliations and orientations.

Rachel reminds us that the Eucharist is a divine act of remembering that not one of us belongs at the table, yet because of Christ, all are welcome at the table. The Eucharist reminds us that the food is just as much mine as it is yours, that the nourishment provided by the bread and the cup will heal you just as deeply it heals me. It reminds us that we need to let go of our disagreements, and in finding ourselves face-to-face with those we disagree with, speak the divine words of Jesus;

This is my body which was broken for you.

This is my blood which was poured out for you.

Easier said than done.

As I read and re-read this section, I once again rediscovered the beauty in the Eucharist. The deep and unending mystery of the eucharist. The great hope that comes from remembering Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

It was a journey in finding myself at the Table of Christ for the first time, again.

In conclusion

I cannot recommend Searching for Sunday strongly enough. It moved me, shook me, reached deep within me and changed me. While the American Evangelical church has lately become known for who they are against instead of who they are for, Rachel reminds us through her words, and through her stories, that the church isn’t defined by either of those categories.

Rather, we’re defined by the one whose table we dine at. For we eat at the table of the King.

You, me and the guy whose politics we can’t stomach.

So let’s pass the bread, let’s break open the wine, and lets remember that there is plenty for all to eat and be filled.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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For those who want to purchase the book, today is the day to do it! Rachel is giving away free download codes for “Seven Songs,” an album by singer/songwriter (and sister of Rachel) Amanda Opelt. “Seven Songs” was inspired by the seven sacraments featured in Searching for Sunday, and so they are closely tied to one another. So make your purchase and submitted you proof of purchase by April 18th, 2015 at 11:59pm EDT, and this amazing album is yours!

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About Rachel:

rachelRachel Held Evans is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Faith Unraveled (2010), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012), and Searching for Sunday (2015). Hailing from Dayton, Tennessee—home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925— she writes about faith, doubt and life in the Bible Belt.

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