I love what Sine says here about the call to take our global futures seriously: “For followers of Jesus, all these challenges are really opportunities to create imaginative responses that reflect something of God’s loving purposes for a people and a world” (133).  This is what gets me excited about new streams of life in the church.  Christianity may suddenly seem harder, less cool, more radical, dangerous even. And that can be a real turn-off for those whose lives maybe are already hard and uncool, or for those who are just not so committed.  But Sine turns it all around with a brilliant call for creativity in the church.  It’s not about doing the grossest, most out-of-your-ability job and slap a “for you Jesus” label on it.  It’s about doing whatever God is calling you to do with the gifts and abilities and creativity and innovation that he’s given you to work with, and in conjunction with that of the people you do Christian life with, your community.  It’s a chance to stir up that new life, not just in your community, but in yourself!

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In this chapter, Sine drives home the crux of his current argument about the good life and better future. In his concluding lines, he writes, “It is only in Jesus’ paradoxical teachings of forgetting about ourselves and caring for others that we will ever discover the good life that God has for us” (126). This is the part the church gets confused about: how do we live out that paradox in our current culture with our theological principles? It’s easy to take a back seat and make it all a mind-soul kind of deal, but Sine (and Claiborne, and others) pushes for the addition of the bodily aspect. When Jesus says, “do to the least of these,” he actually means DO, physically. I’ll be the first to say I’m way more comfortable with the mind-soul part. Throwing the body in there makes the Christian life suddenly…a little more radical?

First page, and Sine is already going there: 1 Corinthians 15–bodily resurrection (110). Here he’s building off the previous chapter, taking things more biblical. Out of Isaiah 2:1-4, he notes, “We are witnessing God’s intention to bring God’s faithful people from all over the world safely home, not as disembodied souls but as a great bodily resurrected, multicultural community” (113). How can you not get behind a vision like that? Sine really hits home in this chapter: God is about people, not ideas or programs or buildings. Jesus came for people, and he’s coming back for people–body, mind, and soul. That’s what the new kingdom–that already/not yet, boundary-less, quasi-physical entity we used to think was the church–that’s what it’s all about: one body made up of a bunch of embodied-minds-and-souls working together to realize the better future right now.

I appreciate Sine’s call to recognize what God is already doing in the world and join in. That’s the lesson I got from Blackaby way back when. It’s also important to recognize the detriment of dualism lurking in our eschatology these days: that ethereal cloud-like heaven full of floating souls and harps and while gowns. How did we miss the part about Jesus returning and raising DEAD BODIES OUT OF THE GROUND! Talk about body theology! And if God cares that much about our bodies coming with us to heaven (oh, we’ll get new bodies, but they’re still BODIES), then we better take care of bodies like we take care of souls…and that means “we all need to join at the margins and seek to reimagine what God is on about–that connects to the hurting world in which we live” (101). Yeah.

Sine pulls from Claiborne’s anti-culture message, concluding that “we need to learn to use Scripture not just for our spiritual lives but to decode the bogus cultural messages that the good life will be found in accumulating more” (75). If we learn to recognize and deconstruct these messages culture inflicts on us, they lose power to control and influence us. Then we can allow Scripture and its messages to have that power over us, to influence our decisions about what is the good life and what kind of lifestyle makes for a better future. This is a call for the church to develop and provide tools to help people do this kind of decoding work, which we can all do easily if we are just challenged.

I agree with Sine when he writes, “Not only does this imperial global economy claim to define what is ultimate, I believe it is increasingly colonizing the imaginations of peoples all over our planet to buy into its notions of what constitutes the good life and better future” (69). I was watching the Olympics on TV last night, and a commercial came on for Lauren Williams. As she talked about her life after the previous Olympic games where she won a medal, she made this statement: “Big house, big truck, big dog. That’s what makes me, me.” I was floored! She actually defined herself not by her values, her family, or even her accomplishments. She defined herself by her STUFF!

Remember the torn curtain that released the sacred into the world? Sine speaks to this mingling of the sacred in a profane world when he describes the emerging church stream as “not only inclined to draw from the ancient but actively searching for ‘the sacred in the profane’ of popular culture as well” (34). Since reading Fandom, I’ve begun noticing so many of the topics in everyday life, especially with the Olympics going on. Even in church yesterday, we were talking about the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and its correlation to the message of the gospel story when the Canaanite woman kneels before Jesus. That’s what I like about the emerging church: finding the little messages God leaves us in the world around us, even in the most unlikely places.

“God has chosen,” Sine writes, “to change the world through the lowly, ordinary and insignificant. This should give us all hope” (22). It’s true that we’re in a season of decline in the church, but the Spirit of God is moving in new ways. Sine wants to introduce a concept that is not new: God uses the foolish to shame the wise. That means we are all able to participate in the new thing that God is doing, not because we are capable but because God chooses to use us, us ordinary radicals, with our mustard-seed faith. That’s exciting!

Claiborne writes in his concluding chapter, “we are not just called to be candles. We are called to be fire [the kind that purifies and cleanses]” (352). And where do we get the fire symbolism? From the tongues of fire that were the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, er, apostles. And how do we see the Holy Spirit moving in the rest of the book of Acts after this monumental moment? Everyone gets a tongue of fire over his or her head. No! The Holy Spirit is constantly shaking things up (and sometimes literally). It’s the same with radical Christians. Claiborne exemplifies one way to be radical. A great way, a challenging way. But the Holy Spirit does not look or act the same in all places or in all people throughout his appearances in Acts, and neither is the body all fire. Some is water, and some a banquet, and some words, and some music, and some whatever else you can think of. I’m out of metaphors. It’s late.

Maybe that’s what I mean by God is doing something new and it’s going to be big. It’s going to take over the world. It is, I can feel it. Here’s an “ouch” moment for you: “in a Christian culture shopping for the cheapest grace, the temptation is always to tone things down a little bit” (318). We want people to feel more comfortable. But wait! Where does God say, “Be comfortable Christians?” No! I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to grow, move forward, be challenged, challenge others, meet God. Comfortable people settle. They stop moving. They become like standing water, and that breeds mosquitoes that suck your blood and leave gross, itchy bumps. No, I don’t want to be comfortable.

“The world of efficiency and anonymity dehumanizes us” (301). Isn’t that what we learned in Fandom? We hunger for community, to share ideas and trade secrets and learn something new together; yet we are also a generation of automated servers that “cater to our needs” by categorizing and confining us until, as one of the authors stated, we are the only ones listening to our radio stations. A whole station for yourself. If that’s not isolating…

I like Claiborne’s emphasis on imagination. Creativity, innovation, new-ness. That’s what the church is becoming about, that’s part of this new thing God is doing. Claiborne writes, “Jesus’ theological stunts and prophetic imagination surprise and disarm” (282). I know Claiborne’s talking about violence and war, but I think imagination is so much more useful than just for that. Jesus brings healing in imaginative ways, too. And he has imaginative theological and apologetic discussions. The way Jesus engages the world is imaginative, and even the way he engages his tormentors. The way God chose to come to us, the way God chose to redeem us, and the way God chose to leave himself with us until he returns–it’s all imaginative, it’s all surprising and radical and new.