THE Hoosier Gym…
Cooper, one of our grandsons, is a typical twelve year old kid who, like almost all boys in Indiana, loves to play basketball. In fact, I think it is a prerequisite to live in this state. There are hoops on almost every lot and the schools, as well as the Dad’s Clubs, are big into the sport. Sure, we also have football and soccer, but basketball, hands down, is the sport of choice. And when you turn out icons such as Larry Bird, how can you not fall for Indiana’s premier pastime?
As a youngster, even I liked playing basketball. I remind you, however, that I was never a great, or even good, athlete and most of my basketball career was spent in the church gym at Trinity United Methodist, shooting hoops after school. And I wasn’t from Indiana so I can’t even begin to convey how important the sport is to those who grew up in the Hoosier state. Take my word for it – they are true fanatics.
Now, I guess that I should share with you that one of my very favorite movies is the classic “Hoosiers”, starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, among others. It was filled pretty much on location here in Indiana back in 1986. It chronicles the season of a small fictional school, Hickory, that defies the odds and goes on to win the Indiana State Basketball Championship. It is based on a true story – a little school in Milan, IN that won the state championship back in 1954.
A small gym in Knightstown, Indiana, about an hour from our home was chosen to be the home court of the Hickory team – due in large measure to a local woman. She believed that the only way for the gym to survive was to convince the movie folks that this gym was the right one for the film; and through her tenacity she got her wish. I’ve read extensively on the making of the film and I even know a number of folks who were extras in the movie or involved in other ways with this classic. Last year, there was even a 30th anniversary celebration when most of the cast returned to reunite at this tiny school gym that was decommissioned years ago. Yet it still stands, a monument to the impossible becoming possible.
Well today, the world of “Hoosiers” and our grandson’s love of the game collided in an unusual way. You see, one of his games was scheduled to be played in the “Hoosiers” Gym, still standing in the small town of Knightstown, IN. And we went to watch him. It was a little surreal – kind of like being an extra in a film made more than 30 years ago. The gray stands are still there and movie memorabilia graces the walls. And there was little Cooper, running up and down this famous floor, playing his heart out. I’m sure he will remember this day for years to come.
I have watched the movie more times than I can count but never in my wildest imagination did I ever even contemplate that one of our grandsons would be running up and down that same floor. One of the major themes of the movie is one of “hope.” There are lines of dialogue about winning the championship for all the small schools that never had a chance to get to the final. Dennis Hopper’s character is an alcoholic – and we can’t help but hope that he will get better. There are other sub themes as well – but fundamentally, many of the points of the film revolve around the idea of the underdog prevailing – a hope that the seemingly impossible can suddenly become possible.
And that brings us to the verse for this evening. The good doctor, Luke, tells us in Luke 18:27, “Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” This is great advice for us. Nothing is impossible for God – but the plans of men can fail without Him. An alcoholic getting better, a team from a tiny school eventually winning the state championship and so many other examples of surprises that God delivers to us in His perfect timing are story lines within this wonderful movie.
My encouragement tonight is that God always wants us to look upon Him with wonder and thankfulness for what we can accomplish with His help. My prayer is that you will realize that your help comes from God and listening for His small voice is one of the most important things you can do when things seem impossible. If you ever have a chance to visit Knightstown, it’s worth a few minutes to stand in the gym and just contemplate what may be possible – like a grandson running the floor with the ghosts of glory days long gone. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace –