I was a very young lad when our family visited Albert Schweitzer, just a couple of months before he died in 1965. Renowned for his mastery of Bach on the organ and his radically open Christian theology, Schweitzer had answered a call to put the gospel into action by dedicating his life to service as a physician in a remote hospital in Lambaréné Gabon West Africa. It was there that I was introduced to this Nobel Peace Prize awardee. But all that I can remember of the visit are the frogs that jumped out of the bucket when I went for a shower!
In my study for the theme of this Sunday’s service of worship – gratitude – it was good to read again something by Albert Schweitzer and honour better hs memory. In a passage reprinted in the Order of Service (below), Schweitzer refers to the ten lepers healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). He notes how many Christians dismiss the nine lepers who did not return to Jesus to give thanks. Schweitzer, however, encourages us not to give in to bitterness and judgement of the world. He suggests that all ten healed lepers were grateful, but only one articulated their gratitude. ‘A great deal of water is flowing underground’, he writes, but Christians should be the ones who express their gratitude to God in word and deed. ‘We ourselves must try to be the water which finds its way up; we must become a spring’, of gratitude. Such lives of expressed gratitude would give God glory and joy, and also be a witness and encouragement to others.
This Sunday we will hear a poem by e.e. cummings ‘i thank you God’, and consider ways we might take up the chorus and be springs of thanksgiving to God for faith, for life …
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings (1894-1962)