From the District Superintendent

Hold Onto Me

Posted 15 October, 2020 by Rev. J. Douglas Forrester

Hold Onto Me"What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"Matthew 8:27b

When I was about nine or ten years old, I was on a Little League baseball team in Richmond. We played most of our games in the West End at Maybeury Elementary School's field, just off Patterson Avenue. Our coach was an enormous man named Coach Hecht, as wide as he was tall. He loved kids and he loved baseball. And we loved him; he had a big voice and a big personality and he took his role as a coach and a mentor quite seriously.One summer afternoon we were playing a game, and I was playing left field, with the school behind me and a wooded area behind and to the right of me. In front of me, behind the first base line and the bleachers, was a small, dark green-painted cinderblock building with a flat roof where hot dogs and candy were sold.  I was there in the outfield when a severe storm began to move into the area. The sky darkened and the wind began to blow, leading us all to think there must be a thunderstorm on its way. Yet suddenly, the wind became very strong and very, very loud. The dirt in the infield began to blow and then rose into a swirling, dense orange curtain of sandy soil in front of me. I remember I could not hear anything except for the roar of the wind through the trees. I tried to run towards the dugout, but could not see where to go. I could not see or hear any other person, including my parents. I just froze and I stood there and tried to figure out where to go and what to do. 

I was terrified. 

I remember an arm piercing the tall curtain of blowing infield dirt as someone grabbed me around the waist and ran with me across the infield and then across the parking lot into the snack bar where the other parents, coaches and players were huddled. We waited for a while for the storm to pass and when it did, we emerged from the building and surveyed the field. There were trees whose tops had broken off and others that had been knocked down behind the outfield where I just was. We discovered soon thereafter that a tornado had briefly touched down behind the outfield. No one really wanted to play baseball anymore that day. It was raining and everyone decided to go home.

The next week, at our regularly scheduled practice, Coach Hecht gathered us together inside the small chain-link fenced area where the bench was alongside third base. He sat us on the bench and squatted his enormous frame so he could look us in the eyes. We all wanted so badly for him to tell us that it was somehow impossible for something like that to happen to us ever again. And yet we were all old enough to know better, to know that he would have been lying to us. 

As he crouched there and looked directly into our eyes, he said to us, "No matter where we are playing or practicing, if a storm ever blows up like that again, I want to make sure that you all grab ahold of the biggest thing on the field."

We were all quiet. We played on more than one field. What was the biggest thing? The bench? The backstop? The equipment bags?

Coach Hecht interrupted our thoughts and said to us, "No matter where we play, the biggest thing on the field will always be me. You hold on to me. Understand?"

Friends, this is what our God is saying to us, even now: "Hold onto me." There will continue to be storms in this life. However, our God is ever-present, even in the storms. Our God is present with us even in the midst of pain and loss and death, even when we cannot see where to go or discern what to do.

And this is why we also need to hold onto one another. 

In your church sanctuary, the section where the congregation sits, the section where the pews are, is called the nave. The word nave is derived from the Latin navis, from where we also derive the words navy, naval, and navigate. It simply means "ship."

The early church used the word nave for this section of their worship space because they saw the church as a place of protection from the dangers and harm of the world around them. In the mist of whatever turmoil surrounded them, the church was the place, the people, and the mission for which Christ gave his life and against which, he promised, even the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

Thank you for all you are doing in these pandemic-filled days to keep help enable your church to be a place of safety, a place of protection from the howling storms of this life. Christ is with us, in our midst even now. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)

Grace and peace,