When I was in high school I found a copy of Tom Sine‘s book ‘Mustard Seed Vs. McWorld‘ in the public library. This was the first book I had ever read where a Christian was talking about how our faith in Jesus could intersect with world problems, society and culture. In the book Tom also presents hopeful, alternative ways we could intentionally be embodying our faith. It was a formational moment for me. Today, I am delighted to continue in conversation with Tom and Christine Sine over the Web, email, and via phone. In many ways they have helped us renew our imaginations and began to think more holistically about our relationship with Jesus and our pursuit of His kingdom. Along with a convergence of many things, this renewed imagination has helped give birth to and continues to help shape the Sustainable Traditions project.
One of my favorite books by Tom and Christine is a book called ‘Living on Purpose: Finding GOD’s Best For Your Life‘ where they lead the reader through an intentional examination of American culture, our own busy lives and how we can re-prioritize our daily life around the kingdom purposes of GOD. I highly recommend this book for small group study and for the development of a personal ‘mission statement’. Near the beginning of the book, in a chapter called ‘Looking for GOD’s Best in All the Wrong Places’, they talk about the roots of what they call “Boom City” and how it subtly draws us away from GOD’s dream for us and our world:
“The storytellers of the Enlightenment told us a new story. They told us that if we cooperate with the laws governing the natural world, all of society will automatically progress and life will get better and better. Construction of this gleaming metropolis began during the Enlightenment, and Francis Bacon was one of it’s earliest architects. In his book ‘The New Atlantis‘, he sketched a vision of a technological paradise of affluence and unbelievable consumer choice. He assured us that this vision could be achieved through unleashing the power of science and technology to subdue the natural world and create a society of incredible comfort, security, and wealth.
Essentially, the storytellers of the Enlightenment took the vertical vision of the pursuit of the kingdom of GOD that reigned during the Middle Ages and tipped it on its side. Their focus became the horizontal vision of social progress, economic affluence and technological mastery. Today we call this dream the Western dream or the North American dream.” (p.25)
In the next chapter titled ‘Looking for GOD’s Best in an Ancient Story’, they begin to remind us of our calling, as followers of Jesus, by pointing us to the ancient Hebrew concept of shalom:
“At the center of GOD’s purpose for a people and a world is the word shalom. Richard Foster reminds us in ‘The Freedom of Simplicity’ that “This wonderful vision of shalom begins and ends our Bible. In the creation story GOD brought order and harmony out of chaos. In the Revelation of John we look forward to the glorious wholeness of a new heaven and a new earth.” James Metzler adds, “From the disruption of shalom in the Garden of Eden to its total renewal in the new Jerusalem, the object of all GOD’s work is the recovery of shalom in his creation.”
The original meaning is far more than the usual English translation “peace”. “Wholeness” or “completeness” are better terms, but even these words are inadequate. In essence, shalom embraces GOD’s desire to restore all things to wholeness and harmony of relationship in which they were originally created. It is no wonder the children of Israel greeted each other with the word shalom. It was really an expression of GOD’s mission statement for them. A Jewish friend explained that originally this greeting meant, “May you live in anticipation of the day when GOD makes all things whole again.” We are calling that destination the City of Shalom.” (p. 45 to 46).
May we press into this coming shalom!