Readings for Albert Schweitzer September 4, 1965
“He seeks out the wisdom of all the ancients, and is concerned with prophecies; he preserves the sayings of the famous and penetrates the subtleties of parables; he seeks out the hidden meanings of proverbs and is at home with the obscurities of parables.” (Sirach 39:1 – 3)
“Albert Schweitzer was an accomplished musician, an insightful theologian, a pioneering medical doctor, and noted humanitarian. Schweitzer was born on January 14, 1875, in Kayserburg in the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region, the son of a Lutheran pastor. He began studying music at an early age, and took to the organ. At the age of 18, he began studying with the noted French organist Charles-Marie Widor, with whom he studied the music and theology of Johann Sebastian Bach.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 4)
Schweitzer was truly a renaissance man in that he was a life-long learner and was not afraid to begin a new field of study at any time during his long life. I like that about him. But chiefly I like his attitude regarding the results of learning. It had to lead to a modification of behavior for him, a change in the way he went about his life as a result of what he learned.
Some of my sources also reveal that he was not afraid to take issue with some commentary about the words of Jesus and how Jesus understood the timely coming of heaven.
“Schweitzer’s philosophical and theological study crystallized around the importance of ethics. Knowledge, in his view, was incomplete if it did not lead to direct action. As a result, Schweitzer decided to earn a medical degree in order to relieve human suffering. After receiving the M.D. degree in 1913, he travelled to Gabon and served as a medical doctor there as an embodiment of his commitment to follow Christ.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 4)
I am proud to say also that unless my studies lead to a productive behavioral change I have wasted my time. For me, this is the “direct action” that Schweitzer was talking about. What’s the use of learning the Golden Rule, for example, if we are going to be mean to people anyway? We must learn, and then change or improve our approach to life.
“Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his “ethic of reverence for life.” He explained this ethic as “the universal, encompassing ethic of love. It is the perceived ethic of Jesus expressed in necessarily thoughtful form.” The chief calling of Christians was to work in the spirit of Jesus in order to make present the Kingdom of God. Schweitzer lived this understanding through his tireless efforts on behalf of his patients, in his public criticism of European colonialism in Africa, and in his appeals for the abolishment of nuclear tests and weapons.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 4) I too believe we Christians can “make present” the Kingdom of God, here and now but it takes work. It is the work derived from the wisdom of all the ancients.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people. John+