By Brian Nixon
If my memory serves me correctly, I first heard the name “Albert Schweitzer” from my mother. Sometime in the mid-1970’s she was explaining to me the significance of his life, probably in conjunction with something our pastor, Dr. David Poling, said during a sermon.
David Polling wrote a book on Schweitzer entitled, “Schweitzer: A Biography”, so was well acquainted with the man and his teachings. I must have been struck with the story my mom told me, for my admiration of Schweitzer has remained all these years. I even remember as a teenager having pictures of Schweitzer on my wall, with his saying taped on the closet door. And now, as an adult, I collect and read his books.
January 14 is Schweitzer’s birthday. It was 138 years ago-in 1875-he was born in Kayserberg, Germany (now a region in France). His father was a Lutheran pastor in the village of Gunsbach, on the border of France and Germany. Schweitzer went on to become one of the most respected men in the 20th century, an accomplished musician, philosopher, pastor, theologian, medical missionary, and peace advocate.
Because much has been written about the man-with ample websites, books, and essays dedicated to his life and teachings-I’m not going to restate what is available with a click of the mouse.
Rather, I thought it would be commendable to quote from two of his sermons entitled, “Christ in Our Life”, preached on April 24th, 1904, and “Gratitude-The Secret of Life”, preached on November 20th, 1904.
In a day and age that is characterized by violence, ingratitude, suffering, materialism, and a host of other somber traits, it’s refreshing to hear a voice that reminds us of life and faith.
Christ Our Life: Matthew 28:20
“And now one last point. Jesus says: I am with you to comfort you and lift you up above the world and all the experiences it brings. Whoever enjoys spiritual communion with him, whoever asks him questions and receives an answer, knows that nothing on earth-no misfortune, no trouble, no suffering-could ever be greater than the comfort he returns. That is how he strengthened his disciples of old in their persecution and loneliness. In the time of battle and in the hour of death, they could hear him say: “I am with you.” Is not this assurance, ‘He is with me,’ written on every page of the letters of St. Paul? You remember the saying: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Christ.’ Infinite comfort floods over everyone who lives in communion with him. Blessed is he who has found it. God’s goodness toward us is a gift so great that we cannot accept it lightly.”
Gratitude-The Secret of Life: Revelation 4:11
“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He was penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything… We offer up thanksgiving this day for the fruits of the earth. We thank God for the sunshine, but also for the hard rain that satisfies the thirst of earth, for the driving wind that carries the pollen form one plant to another, for the cold that preserved the seed in the earth, for the storms of spring that washed the land of snow and ice. Thus you give thanks to God not only for the happy and sunny events that ripen your life’s fruit. Much that is sad and hard is also mixed in with life’s blessings. And for that you must thank God, because it, too, has contributed to your spiritual growth. If life is such a burden that you feel crushed beneath it, then search out how you can thank God nonetheless. For sometimes we are blind to God’s plan for us and receive our sight only when we try to thank him.”
To this, I say, amen and amen. May God remind us of His gifts-the greatest being Christ-and may our hearts be full of gratitude for what God has given during every season and on every day, but especially on Albert’s 138th birthday.
Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, minister, and family man. You may contact him at www.briannixon.com