Chris LiPuma- Youth Director
Three months ago marked a very important day for the LiPuma family. It was my Dad’s annual Canadian American handball tournament. For those who don’t know Handball is basically racquetball but instead of a racket you are using your hands. And if you ever get the chance to look at my Dad’s hands you will see why no one with a sain mind plays this sport.
But this tournament is always a big draw where we get players from all over New York and Ontario to come together to play handball but more importantly have a few laughs, hang out for the weekend and basically just have a good time.
You see this year was different for me though, most tournaments I would just be there to help my Dad, watch some of the matches and enjoy the endless supply of beer. Not a bad weekend.
But this year I was given a partner and was able to play. I recently had picked the sport back up and like all of the people who play say, I caught the bug. I became a Court rat looking to play anyone, anywhere anytime.
My partner Aiden who was a beginner and I were slotted to play these two ladies from Ontario. Now if you’ve ever seen a handball or racquetball court you would notice that it is not very big. Now get a fast blue ball flying around and people chasing it and it quickly becomes a hazard.
Everyone was able to warm up and it came time for the first serve. As the match went on it quickly became apparent that Aiden and I were going to defeat these ladies quite easily so I decided I would do my best to just keep the game moving and get a few nice volleys in.
You see handball is competitive but everyone is mostly there for a good time, no need to annihilate a team.
It was in that moment of me trying to be the nice guy that I stepped to get the ball and what I can only describe as the sound of someone firing a shotgun in the court rang through my body. I felt a kick on the back of my leg and a thud and my first thought was oh no, I must have collided with one of the girls and that sound was her hitting the ground.
I felt so bad, the sound of my mom saying Chris youre always too competitive was playing through my head and I was trying to figure out what I was going to say to Janine, the girl I thought I tripped. Except something was off. Janine her partner, and Aiden were all standing over me. I hadn’t tripped anyone, I was the one laying on the ground.
At that moment I realized what had happened. I hadn’t tripped or hit anyone, and that sound was not Janine hitting the ground. I had torn my Achilles and the tendon tearing was that shotgun. In a panic I quickly hobbled to one feet, swung open the door and hobbled down the hallway.
Luckily Janine was a nurse and knew right away what had happened. She threw ice on my leg and I was carried up to my mom’s car and headed for the ER. So much for my first tournament, over in about 3 minutes.
My mom and I sat in the ER and waited, and waited and waited until I was able to see someone. The visit was quick because it was very apparent what was wrong, my Achilles was gone and my foot was just hanging there.
Once they were able to splint up my leg and hand me a pair of crutches my mom asked if I wanted to go home or go back to the tournament.
I decided I had to go back, I couldn’t let my tournament debut end with me being carried away to the emergency room.
Now I don’t know if any of you have ever used crutches or been injured but the way I was welcomed back into the tournament, I felt a bit of a celebrity.
The tournament had concluded and dinner was being served at the bar and I was welcomed to a standing ovation and cheers….I loved it
People who I didn’t even know were handing me beers, asking is there anything I can get you, I must have had several plates of dinner because everyone wanted to do something for me.
As the night went on I honestly felt pretty good…as good as walking on crutches with a torn tendon could be…maybe it was the beverages.
I stayed at my parents house that night and being 30 years old our old room is not yours anymore so I stayed in my sisters twin bed since she lived out of town.
I fell asleep that night feeling great and was read to tackle this thing head on….until that next morning.
Maybe it was the many, many beverages but I woke up and quickly realized this was now my reality. I struggled to get to my crutches, put some clothes on and scoot down the stairs to the family room.
And I sat. I sat with my foot elevated. I sat until I had surgery ten days later. And I sat for the next 7 weeks.
Day after day. Life came to a screeching halt. I looked forward to two things, my coffee in the morning and going to sleep at night
I went from going 100 miles an hour, working out everyday, playing handball, lifting weights, coming to work…to nothing.
Everything I knew life to be was changed. All the things that I thought really mattered to me became just trivial. All of my aspirations and what I looked forward to was not there.
I spent so many hours on youtube and google I pretty much had a PHD in orthopedics. I listened to testimonial after testimonial about Achilles injuries and timelines. All I wanted was to get my life back as fast as possible.
Every video seemed to be saying the same thing, This is a long injury and you need to be patient. I asked Derrick Kelkenberg who is going to school for PT thinking he could have an inside scoop and his best advice to me was, well you can google it. Really Derrick?
Every google search and youtube video was the same be patient, listen to your doctor, but then there was another theme that was coming in clear. Amidst everyone’s pain and injury once they were fully healed, people kept saying In a weird way Im thankful for this injury. Thankful? What are these people selling?
I wasn’t thankful at all. In fact, I was angry! Do they know what my life consists of. Every day the same thing, struggle to move, to get around to have a life? Do you know what being 30 and having to have your Dad tuck you in at night feels like? How could these people say they are thankful?
I was struggling, struggling to move but to see any bright side. I even remember asking how could God do me like this?
Well This morning in our Gospel Jesus sheds some fore shadowing and light onto our struggles.
Jesus is speaking to his disciples and tells them I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.” He tells them “When the spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth, he will glorify me, he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Many theologians and scholars believe that Jesus is speaking of what the world will look like after his resurrection. What the world would look like after the spirit guides us into the truth.
So why keep that from his disciples?
Why not explain how all of this will play out?
Why let the disciples struggle with it?
Could it be that in their struggle is where the Disciples see this truth Jesus is speaking of?
These followers of Jesus, these men and women who have essentially dropped everything in their lives to follow him. Who have walked the shores of Galilee, who have seen these miracles performed by Jesus, who have seen Jesus transforming lives, town after town.
But look what happens the moment Jesus is taken from them. The moment Jesus is crucified on the cross the Disciples are thrown into panic and fear. Everything they have known and have experienced with their teacher seems to be gone.
But it’s in the midst of their grief, their pain, their suffering where Jesus comes to them. He comes to them while they are hidden away and says peace be with you, why are you troubled? Why is there doubt in your minds. There in their suffering they witness the power of the truth Jesus speaks of
It’s from there that the disciples take this message of love and forgiveness and resurrection and bring it to the world.
The truth Jesus speaks of this morning is “All that the father has is mine, for this reason he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
What Jesus declares to his disciple this morning is “I will be with you.”
And this truth is proclaimed to us this morning.
Those moments in life where we are in the struggle. Those moments in life where we are crippled by a sense of feeling lost or not knowing where to turn. Jesus is with you.
Those moments where are hears are heavy from grief, losing loved ones, struggling with illness. Jesus is with you.
Those moments where we cry out for God. Jesus is with you.
In the midst of all of our suffering that life can throw at us Jesus is with us.
The challenge for us is in the midst of our suffering be able to step back and recognize Jesus’ presence.
I look at our church. Many say that without a Pastor we have been struggling. I too was one of these voices. But In this struggle I also see the presence of Jesus. I see Jesus through April, not only has she kept the church going for Zion but she took on the WOW ministry, something completely out of her comfort zone, and a few weekends ago took 23 ladies to LCLC for a retreat.
I see Jesus in Elaine our Christian Ed director. Who for the past 2 years has not had a single moment to herself but in the midst of all of that she always keeps her office door open for anyone who needs Pastoral care, including me.
I see Jesus in our Deacons and our Counsel, making decisions for our Church going forward, many thrown into positions of leadership that was placed on them, and doing it with patience and grace.
And I see Jesus in all of you. A congregation of people who for the past year has come together to provide a place of worship and community for anyone who walks through those doors, its no wonder why when we share the peace it takes 20 minutes.
Jesus in the midst of Zion’s struggle is here.
For the past 3 months Jesus has been with me. In the midst of this injury, in the midst of the depression that I fell into Jesus is there. Through friends and family offering support, phone calls from kids, Jesus is there. Thankful for the injury? I don’t know, in a strange way, I would have to say yes.
May you go forward into life, experiencing everything it has to offer. May your hearts be filled with Joy and happiness and overwhelming Love. And in those moments that shake us to the core, those moments that rock the very foundation we live upon, the struggle.
May you come to see that truth. That Jesus is with you every step of the way.