Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
This is simply one very good book by a good guy.
Those who long for justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty will find Tom Wright's exploration of these realities within the Christian story a compelling read.
I connected with his often repeated refrain that we do not live in a world where God and everything are one (pantheism or panentheism) or in a world where God and everything else exist on the opposite sides of some great cosmic divide. Wright presents a reality of God and everything else overlapping and interlocking. Heaven (and God) are not me and you and the wind and trees nor is heaven (and God) polar opposites of earth and human existence. God and heaven are here in and around us. Torah and Temple, Jesus and the church are where heaven and earth, God and humans have overlapped and interlocked. We are called "to live at the intersection of heaven and earth." And Tom points out--it's not an easy place to live.
His descriptions of the 'church' and her mission are profound, yet simple to grasp. The implications of his re-definitions of church and mission from what most of us have received are staggering. New creation began in earnest at the (bodily) resurrection of Jesus and because followers of Jesus participate in that resurrection, we are new creatures commissioned to announce to the world that with Jesus--his life, death and resurrection--everything has changed! Jesus alone is the world's rightful Lord.
From this eminent and prolific New Testament scholar, historian and theologian, we get a down-to-earth vision of heaven (pun intended) and a breathtaking vision of Jesus of Nazareth, Israel's Messiah and the world's Lord. We are able to set the universal longings for justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty into a thoroughly Trinitarian-framed, Christ-centered, world-affirming theology. We are invited to imagine how our little acts of kindness and love done out of loyalty to Jesus are changing this planet for the better. The "little seeds" will in fact become very big trees someday. Jesus said so.
Simply go and buy and read Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.