540: What does Heaven look like? Millions ask … new answers emerge

God within me, God without,
How shall I ever be in doubt?
There is no place where I may go
And not see there God’s face, not know
I am God’s vision and God’s ears
So through the harvest of my years
I am the Sower and the Sown
God’s self unfolding and God’s own.

From a 10th-Century gravestone, Linkoping, Sweden

    The question is timeless and universal, although terms for “Heaven” vary around the world. It’s one of the core questions of human existence: Is there anything beyond this life? Does what I’m doing in my life matter—ultimately?
    Several years ago, I worked with a group of high school students across the state of Michigan who produced an award-winning documentary that included this question. The film clip at the end of today’s story comes from that documentary.
    TODAY our Bible Here and Now program for youth groups also raises this question. AND, our new Spiritual Season column includes United Nations Day—a perfect occasion to think about our visions for a better world!
    THEN—tomorrow we’ll tell you about an amazing new film about these issues—opening on October 25 at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
    AND—as a special treat on Wednesday—we’re publishing a Conversation With Bishop John Shelby Spong, the best-selling author of provocative books about faith who now is 78 and has just published what he’s calling his “last book.” It’s called “Eternal Life: A New Vision.” The book will disturb some readers—and reassure many more. It’s an important book from a very influential religious voice. We’ll explore this final testament with Spong himself on Wednesday.

TODAY, here’s a sample of Bishop Spong’s thoughts on what most people call “Heaven.”
    His book quotes from the gravestone inscription above. Then, here are a few words from Bishop Spong’s new “Eternal Life: A New Vision”:

    “I have now reached the point in my journey where I, like St. Francis before me, can welcome death as a brother. I live in the appreciation that it is the presence of death that actually makes my life precious, since it calls me to live each day fully, and it is by living fully that I enter the timelessness of life. …
    “To state it as plainly as I know how to do, I believe deeply that this life that I love so passionately is not all there is. This life is not the end of life. I cannot articulate the content of this concept more than I have done, but I want my readers to know that my convictions however poorly or weakly described herein, are real and they are convincing to me. The only way I know how to prepare for death is to live in such a way that I enable each day to participate in eternity. I enter the realm of eternity only by embracing the infinite. I walk into life’s meaning by being open to what lies ahead and beyond. I do believe that love is eternal and I am held by the bonds of love by my family, my friends and countless acquaintances. They are to me windows into eternal life. I embrace them and I embrace life through them.

    “So I conclude with a question with which this book began. If someone were to pose to me the question that was posed by the mythical biblical character of Job so long ago—’If a man (or a woman) dies, will he (or she) live again?’—my answer would be yes, yes, yes!
    “That is as far as words can take me, but that is enough for me. So I … call you to live fully, to love wastefully, to be all that you can be and to dedicate yourselves to building a world in which everyone has a better opportunity to do the same. That to me is to be part of God and to do the work of God. That to me is to be a disciple of Jesus. Finally, that to me is the way to prepare for life after death.


HERE IS A CLIP from the award-winning film “What Does God Look Like?” by Divine Light Media …

    (If you do not see a video screen below in your version of this story, here’s a link to YouTube where you can see the same film clip.)


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