Coop's Column - Glorify the Lord with Me
Modernity has a kind of airy weightlessness, a lack of seriousness and significance. So, when it comes to the matter of “setting their minds on things eternal”—that is, of paying any heed to the world beyond sight and sound—most contemporary people are pretty breezy and airy.
The story goes that one afternoon Sir Winston Churchill met his portly colleague, Haldane, in a hallway of the House of Lords, poked his finger into Haldane’s fat belly, and with a wink asked him: “Is it a boy in there, Haldane, or is it a girl?” Lord Haldane, no less quick-witted than Churchill, came with swift retort: “I’m not sure. If it’s a boy, I’ll name him George, after the king. If it’s a girl, she’ll be Elizabeth, after the queen. But if it’s only air, the name will be Winston, after the old windbag himself!”
The Hebrew biblical word for “glory” (kabod) literally means “weight, heaviness, thickness, significance, distinction.” That is, the opposite of lightness, transiency, triviality—mere windiness. Accordingly, they who obey Scripture’s call to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” (cf. Ps. 34:1ff) set their sights on acknowledging God for his “heaviness.” They create space in their minds and hearts to recognize the thick reality of who he is and what he does.
Many modern people—post-moderns, too—do quite the opposite, however. Modernity has a kind of airy weightlessness, a lack of seriousness and significance. So, when it comes to the matter of “setting their minds on things eternal”—that is, of paying any heed to the world beyond sight and sound—most contemporary people are pretty breezy and airy.
They are light— “unheavy.” God, if he comes to their minds at all, is something of an on-the-sidelines deity—elderly, feeble, and (pitiably) wimpy. He’s a “Sunday school God,” as J.B. Philips puts it in his little classic Your God is Too Small, far “too small to command [contemporary] adult loyalty.” Take your pick of any of Philips’ depictions of the tiny gods to whom modern people on occasion politely tip their hats: “Pale Galilean,” “Second-Hand God,” “Heavenly Bosom,” “Meek and Mild One,” “Grand Old Man,” “Parental Hangover,” “God-in-a-Box.” Whatever he is, he’s certainly not the heavy God revealed in the Bible, the lionic Aslan whose presence towers over all and demands to be taken with gigantic seriousness.
Recently The Onion, a weekly newspaper which offers satirical, sometimes side-splittingly funny (and naughty) comment on almost anything and everything, led off with this front-page headline: “God Hinting at Retirement.” The accompanying article reported that the Eternal One, after millennia and eons of creating and ruling, had become somewhat tired of it all and was looking to vacate his post as divine sovereign and master of all things. “‘This place pretty much runs itself by now,’ the Lord said. ‘And besides, how many people notice I’m still around? To be frank, I’m not even sure I’m much more than a beloved figurehead at this point.’”
My first response to reading the piece was sheer anger. Oh, the naughtiness—the brazen irreverence—of spoofing the bigness of God. But the more I thought about the article, the more I discovered large chunks of my own self within it. Far too often, and in ways too many and shameful to mention, I too slight God by what I allow to indwell my mind and heart, and by how I choose to direct my life. Too often I discover myself among that crowd who fail to acknowledge God’s “weightiness”—who fail to “make him big.”
And that’s yet another reason why I stay in the habit of going to Sunday worship. Congregating with others there—”in the sanctuary” (cf. Ps. 73:17) helps me to remember the greatness and reality of God—for me. For there, on Sunday morning, I hear my fellow worshippers urgently and with deep-down joy calling me to “Glorify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his holy name together.” They’re bidding me to make God weighty, so to speak.
And when I join my fellow worshippers in doing that, I find my own heart becoming freshly tuned, my life’s course getting set straight again.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.