Seventy-five years ago today, C.S. Lewis delivered a sermon at University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford entitled “The Weight of Glory.” Three quarters of a century later, his words still challenge readers today as they would have his hearers on June 8, 1941.
In only his second sermon, Lewis preached what Justin Taylor describes as “one of the great sermons of the 20th century.” Taylor’s piece gives a good deal of the historical background and legacy of “The Weight of Glory.”
In the same pulpit he preached his first sermon less than two years earlier, Lewis’ confronts numerous misunderstandings people have with the concept of “glory” and human desires.
There are numerous quotes from this sermon that are often highlighted: His comparison of us and our desires to children making mud pies in slums and there being no “ordinary mortal” are two of the most frequently mentioned.
But oddly enough, despite the name of the sermon and subsequent essay, rarely does anyone quote the part where Lewis specifically references the actual weight of glory. What is it and why does it matter?
In examining the part of glory that means becoming more well known, he deals with the topic of our judgement by Christ.
The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
The real weight of glory, as Lewis sees it, is the knowledge we, in Christ, actually please God and have His delight. This is the very epitome of Christ’s call to the weary and heavy laden to come to Him and take His burden. (Matthew 11:28-30)
What an immense-sounding weight it is—to possess the pleasure of God, to find our delight in Him and to have Him delight in us. He loves us as a father loves his child, despite knowing all there is to know about us. His delight is so much stronger than our failures. How could you possibly live up to such a burden?
But it is light because we do not bear it alone and, in reality, we do not bear it at all. Christ has borne it on our behalf and secured it for us through His actions, therefore our actions cannot unsecure it.
In Christ, we work and bear this burden with His delight at our backs, not out of our reach. We only dive deeper into it and recognize it surrounding us more.
Lewis recognized this better than most and took the opportunity of his sermon to help his contemporary listeners (and modern readers) understand it as well.
If you haven’t already (or even if you have), take a moment to read “The Weight of Glory” today on its 75th anniversary.