The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis

On June 8, 1941, Lewis took to the pulpit at Oxford’s University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. He delivered a prolific and powerful sermon called The Weight of Glory.  The sermon was masterfully crafted from both sides of Lewis’ mind: the imaginative and the reasoned. The room was electric as Lewis delivered his sermon to a packed house in a time when the pressure off WWII was bearing down upon the staff and students on campus.

The Weight of Glory wasn’t simply a lecture of biblical content, rather, it was a poet’s creative account of biblical truth as it interacts with the longings and desires of humanity. He designed it like an architect to inspire the hearts of the listeners to feel heaven calling out to them and to bring it into their daily life. Every detail of the sermon was intentional and every word was precisely chosen. Lewis wanted his congregation to come to the realization that all earthly objects, albeit good, are false in their attempt to ultimately satisfy the human longing or desire. Instead, they are merely symbols serving as a medium or vehicle to point us toward something greater – something that ultimately satisfies the cravings of the soul. Lewis didn’t want them to understand their longing; he wanted them to feel it.

You can get a copy of the sermon in PDF here.

You can listen to a dramatic performance of the sermon here.

His words were palpable and had a sensory effect on those in the room. Alister McGrath writes, “his 1941 sermon “The Weight of Glory,” which speaks of this desire as “the scent of a flower we have not found” or “the echo of a tune we have not heard.” [1] Considering the words and images invoked by Lewis’ descriptions of desire and glory, it’s easy to see that he wanted the audience to get caught up in his “spell.” He wants to cultivate their hunger for heavenly things so they would get swept up in wanting to satisfy their craving while listening to his words. Just as their mouth was watering for the reality of heaven’s otherworldly appeal, Lewis throws a twist into the plot! When the romance of his visionary prowess is at its height, Lewis snaps the congregation back into reality by turning them toward “Monday.” His transition is abrupt, “Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.” [2]

It is as if he was attempting to use his words to create an object lesson out of the sermon. He was seducing the congregation by invoking their imaginations to see a glimpse of heaven and to taste a morsel of the heavenly feast, only to sweep their feet out from underneath them with the reality that nothing on earth can satisfy. The aroma of such imaginative wandering was meant to stay with the listeners as they went back into the earthly realm. How should the weight of glory affect our lives here on earth?

Lewis leads us into a perspective shift. As a people who are far too easily satisfied by earthly offerings, may we heed the words of Lewis and raise our standards to heavenly heights. May we place our hope in that which is everlasting, immortal, and eternal.

[1] McGrath. C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Tyndale House Publishers, 2013). Page 290.

[2] McGrath [224].