When I was very young, my parents would send my sister and me to my aunt’s house in Columbus, Ohio. That is where 4 of my father’s siblings lived: My Aunts Clairette and Amanda, and my Uncles Marion and Obadiah (who we called Obie). My Aunt Clairette was a pastor at a time when women serving as clergy was rare. I don’t ever remember her preaching during a Sunday morning service. Her duties at the church included presiding over the afternoon services, leading the Wednesday night prayer meetings and visiting with those who were unable to come to church because they were ill or unable to travel. She was an amazing woman in many ways. In addition to her position as a pastor, she held two other jobs. She was a baker for a local department store. She baked pies and cakes on the weekend, which she sold for extra money. She would clean homes from time to time. She did all of this with a very bad ankle, which had been crushed when a car rolled over it.
My aunt studied the Bible daily. She memorized most of it by the time I was born. Whenever we talked, she would share verses from the Old and New Testaments that affirmed our faith and helped us both recognize God’s love in and for our lives. I believe she was the first person I knew who made God’s word the Living Word.
I have not committed each chapter and verse of the Bible to memory. Still, I have my favorite verses which I say from time to time on my travels throughout the District. The King James version of the 23rd and 32nd Psalms are my favorites. Ruth’s promise to Naomi also speaks to my heart about my commitment to answer the Lord’s call. My son can tell you how often I made him recite all the words of God’s first commandment in Exodus 20:2-3. Often, we delete God’s deliverance which is the premise for this commandment. Many New Testament verses have become part of my personal lexicon. These include: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”’ (Matthew 18:20). “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). “And now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I have committed longer passages to memory as well, because each one I have selected speaks to my heart. Which passages bring God’s word to life for you? How many verses could you commit to memory in a week or a month? Each one can be a source of prayer, or a way of beginning contemplative time with God. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6: 24-26) And Amen.