I just finished John Shelby Spong's newest (and he says last) book: Eternal Life: A New Vision. I found it to be a fascinating, if not difficult book. The first 3/4th of the book in which he lays out his issues with how "religion" has death with eternal issues was fascinating (and I believe right on!) It is in the last quarter of the book when he begins to talk in all kinds of circular language and lay out his thoughts of what happens when you die, that one really has to pay attention to his train of thought.
Overall, what Spong suggests is that "religion" has become a security blanket for most people to keep us from having to deal with the reality of our death. We have created this pie in the sky notion of heaven (with gold streets no less) to make it beyond wonderful -- if not beyond creditable. The idea of sitting on some cloud and strumming a harp all day sound like hell not heaven to me. And I think that the crazy attitudes that we have toward death and funerals are not healthy!
Until we can embrace the reality of death, it always hangs like a black cloud over our lives. Quoting Spong: "I, like St Francis before me can welcome death as my brother. I like in the appreciation that it is in the presence of death that actually makes my life precious, since it calls me to like each day fully, and it is by living fully that I center the timelessness of life." Or as St. Francis put it "It is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven and ultimately it is in dying that we live."
I love life! But I think that I love it because I know that every day is precious, every moment is fleeting, and every opportunity is a once in a life time opportunity.
Thank you Bishop Spong for sharing your story.
To hear my take on death and dying (and thus ultimately living) listen to my sermon series that I just completed.