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Devotion: Open Unto Me – Rev. Howard Thurman

As I walk with Jesus and grow in my faith one year to the next, I find that I often gravitate towards majority voices for wisdom and guidance and often those voices look like me. I think this is natural for us in some ways and so as Pastors we are challenging ourselves and our congregation to learn and hear Scriptural wisdom from minority voices too. And so, for the next few weeks, we will share a little bit about the life of a Theologian of color and then we invite you to watch a brief video with words beautifully arranged from their own voice.

I am honored to share about the life and faith of Howard Thurman (1899 -1981) who was an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was born right near my hometown in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1899. At only age 14, he displayed great resiliency and bravery by leaving his family and moving from his hometown for a boarding school in Jacksonville (because there were no High Schools for black boys then). After completing High School, Thurman attended both Morehouse College and Colgate Rochester Divinity School and had grown to be the valedictorian of his college classes.

After marrying his wife Sue and traveling as the lead delegate for the Negro delegation to Southeast Asia in 1935, he met Mohandas Ghandi and explored the power of non-violent direct action as a mechanism for social change. By the time the Civil Rights Movement took shape in the United States, Thurman was a nationally recognized human rights advocate, though he did not take to marching and mobilizing on the streets.  In 1944, Thurman cofounded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco which was an interracial congregation intentionally designed to break through the barriers that separated people on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin. Thurman’s work in San Francisco attracted the eye of then-Boston University President Harold C. Case, who recruited Thurman to Massachusetts because of his unifying philosophy. Thurman accepted, moving to Boston in 1953 to serve as Dean of Marsh Chapel becoming the first African American Dean at a predominately white institution in the United States.

He visualized a world where racial, ethnic, or religious barriers do not serve as a roadblocks to creating meaningful relationships. And he wrote the words to this prayer, “Open Unto Me” among many others that spoke to me now, especially as I am reflecting on the Advent Season. On Christmas morning, I love watching my kids open their Christmas gifts. While it might save time (and space in the landfill) to not wrap the gifts or put them into bags, I do love watching our children physically open the gifts. With each tear, they learn a little bit more about the gift underneath, they get a little bit closer to understanding the mystery and the waiting game is over because now they can finally see what is hidden inside.

I think that God has many gifts to “Open Unto Us” if we invite God to show them to us. If we can sit down patiently and passionately and begin to tear away the old to unveil the new or to open up the mystery underneath. Maybe this prayer is an invitation to do just that. Click on the link below to watch to this powerful prayer written by Howard Thurman come to life, simply put in your email address (don’t worry, you won’t join their mailing list) and I hope this prayer blesses you as it has blessed me.

Today’s Video: Open Unto Me

By Rev. Howard Thurman, Ordained Baptist Minister

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