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Glory’s Weight

There’s an old sermon illustration from Corey Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place in which young Corey asks her father a difficult question. The Nazis have invaded the Netherlands, the two are traveling, and her father, responding to her question, asks Corey to carry the suitcase. She tries and fails–the suitcase is too heavy for her. “Yes,” says her father, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

It’s almost too good of a story–not too good to be true, just too good for homiletical truth, tailor-made to be dropped in around minute four of a sermon, just when the preacher has started to lose the congregation whose thoughts are drifting away from the text at hand. And so the story seems anemic, having grown all the thinner through almost five decades of hackneyed use by desperate preachers, including yours truly.

In its favor, though, the story illustrates not simply divine knowledge and love, but something connected to both, and yet somehow harder to understand: weight.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for weight–strangely, wonderfully–is the same word for glory.

Glory, of course, is what Linus told Charlie Brown Christmas is all about, quoting the King James from Luke 2: “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” And then, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

I helped carry a body a week ago. I was a pallbearer at my wife’s Grandmother’s funeral, a dear woman of 91 who died of covid, having become sick at her nursing home in eastern Colorado. Grandma Elsie had twelve children, one of whom (Marlene) died in a car accident just months before Elsie’s granddaughter, Heather, my wife, was born. Heather Marlene is one of Grandma Elsie’s 24 grandchildren. She also had 34 great grandchildren, and 6 great-great grandchildren. As my father-in-law said in eulogizing her, she was guided by two primary virtues: faith and family. She was unflappable and joyful, bestowing the latter in the form of kisses upon all whom she loved, including this grandson-in-law.

Hers was a weighty life. As such, according to the Bible, it was a life of glory. Because of what she carried–her children, and all who came after them, and much joy, and no shortage of sorrow. And as I helped carry her body–up the stairs into the church, and later into the hearse, and finally over the dry ground of the cemetery toward her place, alongside Marlene her daughter and George her husband–I felt the weight of her life. I felt her life’s glory.

How strange, that something that shines–”the glory of the Lord shone round about them”– can also have weight. What if God’s shining is God’s bearing of our burdens? What if the Bible tells us to “bear one another’s burdens” because this is precisely what God has done for us? A pall is an ancient word for a coffin. What if God, too, has been a pallbearer, and has felt the weight of your life, and mine, and Grandma Elsie’s? What if divine love not just has born but is bearing–now–the weight of the world? What if this was the glory of which the angels sang to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? What if God’s taking on flesh is God’s shouldering of human pounds and kilos, a weight bearing of the world’s joys and sorrows?

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil, illuminated in March 2020

I couldn’t have carried that casket alone. The bearing of palls, like the bearing of all burdens, is necessarily communal. I was honored to bear that weight with men I love, including my father-in-law and my wife’s brothers. The weight we bore that day, though, was only partial. So much glory can only be known, and carried, by God. And so, we ascribe glory to him, glory to God in the highest. Born in a manger, he has born the weight of the world. Glory be.

•Note: The title of this post is a humble reference to C.S. Lewis’ magisterial essay, “The Weight of Glory.”

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Comments

  1. Yes. Amen. Thank you, Jeff. So grateful for God’s eternal weight bearing and the call for his people to carry on together.

  2. Nancy Duncan says

    Thank you! Carrying on over the air waves!

  3. Софья says

    Jesus Freak Hideout was more divided, with one reviewer giving the album a four out of five and the other rating it three-point-five out of five. Rapzilla rated the album four out of five, stating “Weight Glory is an impressive debut album. Even though there are a couple songs I didn’t particularly vibe with, the overall presentation is great. Many start their careers with lackluster debuts, but KB hit this out of the park.”

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