The Bishop of Durham came to Music City last night and provided a great synopsis of his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. I haven't read the book, but Wright has been working through this topic for some time, and it's present in his work Jesus and the Victory of God. [correction: The Resurrection of the Son of God] You can also find some summaries of his views on the unofficial NT Wright page, and he discussed it in the Serious Answers to Hard Questions video series.
Wright challenges the popular concept of heaven as the final resting place where we will sit on clouds and play harps. His entry point for the discussion last night was from a coffee cup he got at Starbucks:
The Way I See It #230
"Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell."
-- Joel Stein
Columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
I won't continue to attempt to speak for Wright. He does a fine job on his own, and I'm sure this book will start discussions about the resurrection in which the church should definitely be engaged.
The atmosphere was not fully like a rock concert, but I admit that I was excited to find that he was walking into the church right ahead of us. There were no concert shirts, but plenty of books which Wright kindly stayed after to sign. Wright was not presenting a new album, in that this was material that he has covered, and was familiar to many who were in attendance, but it was delivered and received well. The audience skewed younger than The Police concert I attended last year.
West End is a large beautiful church and Wright towered over us from the pulpit. He was fighting a cold, but I was sitting close enough that it didn't have any affect on hearing him. He is an engaging speaker, and to further strain my concert analogy, it was a great set. Wright's benediction reminded me again of my need to be joyful. The Cubs won, I had a good India Pale Ale and conversation with a friend, and I was blessed by the Bishop of Durham. Not a bad evening.
UPDATE (Hat tip to Gavin Richardson Tennessean Article re: Bishop's visit.