Today and tomorrow, we celebrate the birthdays of two men who worked tirelessly their whole lives to bringing the Kingdom of God here now. Tomorrow is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. whom we celebrate this weekend and on the holiday set in his honor on Monday.
Today is the birthday of theologian, musician, and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. He was born in Kaysersberg, in present-day France, in 1875 and died on September 4, 1965.
He was a musical prodigy and expert on Bach. Schweitzer decided at the age of 21 to spend his twenties devoted to music, art, science, and religion. He got a doctorate in religious philosophy, preached at a church in Strasbourg, worked at a theological college and authored several books.
On his 30th birthday, he resolved to become a medical missionary, and enrolled in medical school. His wife, Helene, earned a nursing degree, and the couple relocated to West Africa, where they set up a hospital in Lambaréné, in present-day Gabon — funding the construction with money Schweitzer had saved from giving organ concerts. They conceived this work not as charity but as a small gesture of reparations for the evils of European colonialism.
The hospital in Lambaréné was rustic, most work being done by the light of kerosene lamps. Schweitzer’s compassion extended to all God’s creatures and he was a committed vegetarian. Animals were allowed to roam freely on the hospital grounds, and famously, a hippo once wandered into the vegetable garden.
In 1952, nearly 40 years after he and Helene had set out for Lambaréné, Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, both for his humanitarian work and his philosophy/theology of what he called “Reverence for Life.” The Schweitzers used the prize money to expand the hospital, adding a treatment center and housing for people with leprosy. Schweitzer’s Nobel lecture, entitled “The Problem of Peace,” is today considered one of the finest speeches of the twentieth century.
These men, MLK and Schweitzer, inspire us to treat all of God’s children and creatures with respect, mercy and love.
Please join us in worship on Sunday while we celebrate MLK, God’s vision for justice and peace in the world; and visit with Daisy Wiberg (formerly of Sun Valley Kitchen & Community Center and Love, Light and Melody) and Linda Pounds (former liaison with Paris Elementary School.)
Grace be with you,
A few Albert Schweitzer quotes:
The demands of Jesus are difficult because they require us to do something extraordinary. At the same time He asks us to regard these [acts of goodness] as something usual, ordinary.
Everyone must work to live, but the purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others. Only then have we ourselves become true human beings.
Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.
The thinking (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.
The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.