It was Seventy-five years ago this week (June 8, 1941) that Oxford Professor C.S. Lewis ascended the pulpit at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford and delivered a sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory”. Now, I must admit, up until this week I had never read it from start to finish but only ever read excerpts and quotes in other literature. It is breathtakingly beautiful and shines a light, if such a thing were possible, on the heavenly world that is to come. In 1949 Lewis published a book by the same title, and in it was a prescient warning of the dangers of the world he was heading into, and in which we now live.
Lewis wrote: “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
In his own homeland of Britain, The Guardian reported that the Office for National Statistics published statistics in 2013 which found Britain to be the loneliness capital of Europe. The article notes research from the University of Chicago which “found loneliness to be twice as bad for older people’s health as obesity and almost as great a cause of death as poverty.” As worrying as this is, the 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed showed higher incidence of loneliness than did the over 55’s. America shows similar trends with the suicide rate growing over the last decade, and things would be little different in Australia.
NY Times columnist, Ross Douthat calls what is happening in the West a “retreat from community” and ponders that if it continues, it “is simply destined to leave more people disconnected, anxious and alone.”
Lewis saw this retreat from community on the horizon, one in which he diagnoses the root cause as a retreat from God. He ponders, “How then, it may be asked, can we reach or avoid Him? The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place, it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.”
The irony is this: if we make time for God in our lives, we are more likely to make time for others. Faith has a private and personal dimension, but lived in the Spirit and love of Jesus, it always leads us out in love to others. Jesus came to this world so that no would be lonely, He is a true friend to all.