I know summer is near when I reach out to Island clergy with a “Have Faith” question and only a few people have time to send an answer along. I contemplated saving it for the middle of February, but I don’t think it will hurt to write about it twice. The question I posed was “What is your favorite scripture passage or spiritual-like quote, and why is it your favorite?”
I asked that question because there are so many wonderful lines to live by, if only I’d stop and reread them again and again. And they’re timeless pieces of encouragement, advice, nuggets of truth, and promises fulfilled.
Because of the usual challenges most of us face — kids, loss, financial strain, health issues, the list is never-ending — my favorite quote from Scripture, which is repeated in various ways throughout the Bible, goes something like “With God, all things are possible.” At least that’s the way I repeat it in my head. When something is looming large ahead of me, I try to remember that God is with me as I navigate all the hurdles, and if I fall down while I’m jumping over them, he’s still there. And it helps me — a lot.
The Rev. Matthew Splittgerber, pastor of Vineyard Assembly of God, didn’t hesitate to send what helps him get by: “For over 20 years now, my favorite scripture passage — in fact, the one I’ve chosen as my life scripture — is Psalm 1:1-3, NIV. ‘Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.’
“This passage has always resonated with me because it continually reminds me of my personal responsibility to honor my relationship with God by daily choosing to live in harmony with God’s expectations in his Word, the Bible. Some may consider this a recipe for fundamentalist legalism — but for me it isn’t, as this passage frames my personal choice to live in harmony with God’s word away from religious duty and into a celebration of relational joy — ‘but whose delight is in the law of the Lord.’ I see that this joyful delight in the words, the teachings, the morals, and the mysteries is the motivator for my reading, my study, my prayerful contemplation of the things of God — ‘and who meditates on his law day and night.’
“While some may consider this ‘day and night’ structure a formula for religious fanaticism, I see it as essential to my Christianity. This doesn’t speak to me about following a rigid discipline of religious practice, but of integrating my spiritual life into my everyday life. As I journey through life with God, having believed in Jesus Christ as the son of God and my Savior, and living and being transformed by his word and spirit, I discover true life, true purpose, and true peace. ‘That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.’”
I love hearing from the Island’s Friends (or Quaker) community; they always add insight to whatever I’m writing about. Bruce Nevin, a member of the Island’s Quaker meeting, sent along this response: “A sojourning member of our meeting, Sue Regen, says, ‘My favorite quote is: “Be still and know that I am God.” To me it is the heart of my relationship with spirit.”
Bruce said that same quote comes to mind for him as well. He also sent a Friends poem that he happened to be sending out that day that complements what Sue wrote perfectly.
In calm and cool and silence, once again
I find my old accustomed place among
My brethren, where, perchance, no human tongue
Shall utter words; where never hymn is sung,
Nor deep-toned organ blown, nor censer swung,
Nor dim light falling through the pictured pane!
There, syllabled by silence, let me hear
The still small voice which reached the prophet’s ear;
Read in my heart a still diviner law
Than Israel’s leader on his tablets saw!
There let me strive with each besetting sin,
Recall my wandering fancies, and restrain
The sore disquiet of a restless brain;
And, as the path of duty is made plain,
May grace be given that I may walk therein,
Not like the hireling, for his selfish gain,
With backward glances and reluctant tread,
Making a merit of his coward dread,
But, cheerful, in the light around me thrown,
Walking as one to pleasant service led;
Doing God’s will as if it were my own,
Yet trusting not in mine, but in His strength alone!
–John Greenleaf Whittier, 1852
The Rev. Roberta Williams from the United Methodist Church sent a powerful reminder to me:
“One of my favorite biblical passages is when Jesus threw over the moneychangers’ tables outside the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Righteous anger is called for everywhere injustice exists, where women do not have financial and legal equality with men, where LGBTQ are hunted, beaten, and sometimes murdered, where black Americans are systematically mistreated by the justice system. Too many times the Christian Church has been silent where they should have taken the lead to right a wrong.”
I think these answers to my question send their own message of hope, and serve as a reminder that there’s still work to be done.
I’m pretty excited about this event: Meditation and Creativity with Yoga Monk, musician, and author Dada Nabhaniilananda. The one-day event promises to show you how meditation can connect you to a deeper level of “love, creativity, and wisdom” — all things I need more of.
Organizers say the workshop will help you develop a simple framework to help you understand and manage your two main creative modes, so that you are not “putting one foot on the accelerator and one on the brake at the same time.” It will also show you how to use music and dance to prepare your mind for meditation. (I’m notorious for the monkeys dancing in my head every time I try to settle my mind.) The seminar begins at 2 pm at Studio 101 at 101 Memphremagog Ave. in Vineyard Haven. If you’re interested, visit onenessworldtravel.com and find out more.
Reverend Splittgerber’s church, Vineyard Assembly of God, at 1048 State Rd., Vineyard Haven, hosts a special event on Sunday, July 7, at 10:30 am.
The community is invited to join the congregation and hear inspiring music and equally inspiring stories about changed lives. The Teen Challenge Rhode Island Women’s Choir is coming to town and bringing “A Gift of Hope for Martha’s Vineyard.” The women, residents of Teen Challenge, will share personal accounts of God’s grace and how it has changed their lives.
With substance abuse on the rise and impacting all ages and walks of life, their visit couldn’t be more timely. Organizers are hoping they can reach out to members of the community and bring them the message that if they’re struggling, don’t give up hope, because change is possible.
On Tuesday, July 2, the sixth annual reading of the Frederick Douglass speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” begins at 12 pm at the Meetinghouse of the Federated Church in Edgartown, 45 South Summer St. This is a free community event, co-sponsored by the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library and the Federated Church, and everyone is welcome to attend.
The speech was originally given on July 5, 1852, to the Rochester Anti-Slavery and
Sewing Society. Five years later, on Nov. 29, 1857, Douglass gave his speech “The Unity of Man” to an audience at the First Congregational Church (now known as Federated Church), and at the Edgartown Town Hall.
Herb Ward from the Federated Church says, “’The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro’ is a moving presentation as to the viewpoint of black society, responding very differently than the white society, in celebrating the Fourth of July. Independence protected the rights of white citizens, but not black citizens. Very powerfully written, the presenters include Island residents from many different backgrounds. Last year, following the reading, the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard presented a special plaque listing the Federated Church as site No. 29 on the Historic Trail. The plaque is attached to the Meetinghouse on the side facing South Summer Street.”
The Heralds of the Gospel will bring the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Good Shepherd Parish to honor the occasion of her appearance to the three shepherd children in 1917 in Portugal. The statue will be at St. Augustine’s Church at the Saturday, June 29, Mass at 4 pm, and again at the Portuguese Mass at 7 pm. It will also be at the Sunday, 8 am, Mass at St. Augustine’s in Vineyard Haven.