Howard Thurman — April 10

Bible connection

Read Isaiah 5:1-7

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.

All about Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

Born in Florida in 1899, Howard Thurman was raised primarily by his grandmother—a former slave. He showed signs of a vibrant spiritual life early, and would read the Bible to her. Thurman tells the story in his most famous work: Jesus and the Disinherited, how his mother would not permit him to read anything by the Apostle Paul (besides 1 Corinthians 13) because of the abusive theology that the white preachers would perpetrate on her and other enslaved people—biblical mandates to be “good slaves.”

Thurman grew as a pastor and academic, and became a man many people call a mystic. He had a significant bond with Quaker leader and pacifist Rufas Jones of Haverford College (the key leader of the organization that became the American Friends Service Committee). That connection moved him to lead a delegation to meet with Mohandas Gandhi.

As a theologian, Thurman was a pioneer in articulating Jesus’ mission of liberation for oppressed people. He taught that “if you ever developed a cultivated will with spiritual discipline the flame of freedom would never perish.”  He served as one of the pastors of the first intentionally interracial church in the U.S. — The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco.  Through his friendship with Martin King, Thurman became a spiritual adviser and mentor to his son, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Howard Thurman is usually credited with developing the nonviolence theories and tactics that were central to the Civil Rights Movement. He wrote over twenty books besides speeches and articles before he died on this day in 1981.

Listening to Howard Thurman

  • Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace. —from Meditations of the Heart
  • Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
  • Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.
  • During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.


The Howard Thurman Digital Archive [Emory University]

Recent books about Howard Thurman [Christian Century]

“Life Goes On” from Meditations of the Heart. 

A sermon (and also a book):

Here is a biography from PBS:

What do we do with this?

Listen. Thurman was a good listener to God and others, and to his own genius. You have all those resources today, as well. Listen to them and see if you are encouraged and directed.

One thought on “Howard Thurman — April 10

  1. Another good one thanks Rod … “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *