A LETTER FROM ALBERT SCHWEITZER, 1913
I preach every Sunday morning at my mission in Lambarene, French Equatorial Africa. To a Christian in a civilized community the sermon might seem a bit strange.
Many of my congregation know absolutely nothing about Christianity. They are transient workers from far inlands. Soon they will return home to buy a woman and get married. If they carry some of the Gospel of Christ home with them, I have planted a seed.
Slowly my patients and their companions appear, sitting between barracks and mountain slope under the shady roof. I play on a portable harmonium. The congregation cannot sing, since it consists almost exclusively of tribesmen speaking six dialects.
Two interpreters repeat my sentences. I do not require that my listeners sit quietly. They build fires and cook their meals, wash and comb their children, mend their fishing nets. A reprimand at this time would break the solemnity of the occasion. The Word of God is being passed on to people hearing it mostly for the first time.
I must be simple in my sermons. My audience knows nothing of Adam and Eve, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Messiah or the Apostles. I allow the Word to speak to them timelessly. When I use the word “messiah” I try to explain it as the King of Hearts, whom God has sent. Above all I try to avoid the temptation common to those who preach to tribal hearers – to “preach the Law.” It is difficult not to cite the Ten Commandments and thus prepare people for the Gospel to whom lying, stealing and immorality are second nature.
I strive to awaken a longing for peace with God. I speak of the difference between the restless and the peaceful heart.
LETTER FROM ALBERT SCHWEITZER [Presented by: Charles W. Weller] 1