Monday, 11 June 2007

CS Lewis on Worship

The more observant among you will have noted the disappearance of the 'Books lined up to read' section in the left-hand margin (and possibly the unchanging nature of the 'Currently Reading' list, despite the fact that I read at least a book a week). This is not because I have no books lined up to read (in fact, I have several piles, some of which are growing so large that I have now hidden them so as not to become disheartened at the task of reading them all). No, this is simply because I'm not organised enough to know which ones I'm going to read next (I say 'ones' because there are usually at least 3 on the go), and if I list them all, then the list would be really... sorry, I'm bored of this paragraph. Let's move on.

Anyway, this weekend I picked up 'The Four Loves' by CS Lewis, which I started about 3 years ago and never got round to finishing. I've been astonished again at the power and clarity of the observations and sentiments he expresses, page after page.

I haven't quite finished it yet, so I may mention it again, but I thought I'd share a little bit of it with you here. It's a paragraph at which I gasped out loud when I finished reading it. In the first chapter, Lewis introduces the concepts of Need-love and Gift-love - the first being the love we feel for someone who can meet a need in us, and the second being that which we feel when we do something for someone we care about; the ultimate example of Gift-love being, of course, God's divine Love for us in giving Himself for us. Naturally, neither of these loves can exist in isolation; virtually always we find them weaving together in the love we feel for the people around us.

In Chapter 2, however, Lewis examines what we feel when we appreciate something which we call 'good' (the smell of a flower, the sound of birds, a great work of art) - the feeling that that thing in itself should continue to exist, even if I were the last person on earth and were about to die, leaving no one to appreciate it. It is something for which we have no need (although we may take pleasure in it), and in whose formation and being we have had no part. Lewis says this:
There is a third element in love, no less important than these [Gift-love and Need-love], which is foreshadowed by our appreciative pleasures. This judgement that the object is very good, this attention (almost homage) offered to it as a kind of debt, this wish that it should be and should continue being what it is even if we were never to enjoy it, can go out not only to things but to persons. When it is offered to a woman we call it admiration; when to a man, hero-worship; when to God, worship simply.

Is this what we think of when we think of worship? So often our modern 'worship' songs have so much about 'what God has done for me' and 'how much I want to do for God' that we simply miss this third strand, so quiet and still and yet so loud and vital... when we worship, we should be expressing as best we can, albeit falteringly and crudely, that God Himself is very good, that He does not exist for us nor we for Him, but that He is and must be forever God.

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