Sermons

Summary: A sermon outlining how in the best and worst, God is with us.

The Reformed Church of Locust Valley Christmas I December 30, 2001 Is. 63:7-9, Heb. 2:10-18, Mt. 2:13-23

“Immanuel”

“In all their affliction he was afflicted,

and the angel of his presence saved them;

in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;

he lifted them and carried them

all the days of old.”

- Isaiah 63:9

Why do golf balls have dimples?

My daughter Elizabeth and I were walking on the elementary school grounds while we waited for the turkey to finish cooking Christmas day, early in the afternoon. It was a bright day, sun gleaming, the air just crisp enough to let you know it was December. As we crossed the grass, Elizabeth stopped and reached down and said, “Look, daddy, a golf ball.” Nothing in the world looks like a golf ball. You spot it right away. And one of the unique things about golf balls are the dimples.

I don’t pretend to know physics. I passed college physics, pretty well, but I don’t know a whole lot. But as I understand it, and I quote from the NY Times (magazine, 12/9/01) “A golf ball presents a complex fluid dynamics challenge. A blunt sphere pulls air along with it as it flies, creating a wake, and the energy needed to pull this air – the drag – slows it down. The challenge is to reduce the drag, allowing the ball to fly farther. That’s why golf balls have dimples: they reduce the drag by disturbing the air and keeping it in contact with ball longer.”

Okay, whatever you say.

Anyway, we are told the ultimate in golf ball technology was finally achieved in 2001. As the old year departs, this leap in golf ball technology will be the event of the century.

Up till now, dimples covered about 65 to 75 % of the ball. But now, former Boeing executive Steve Ogg has designed a golf ball that is aerodynamically perfect. Ogg covered the ball with a series of ridges, aligned as interlocking hexagons and pentagons like chicken wire, which is touted as a “tubular lattice network.”

Ogg achieved what the Times calls the “holy grail of ball design;” 100 percent surface coverage. Technically, the ball, called the “Callaway HX,” has no flat spots and is the best aerodynamic ball in existence.

Only golfers, right?

What does this have to do with our faith? Lots. Because your life too, doesn’t have lots of flat spots.

By flat spots, I mean easy times.

Your life is like a golf ball – dimpled…and the irony is, the dimples make it fly better, and the flaws reduce the drag.

Put another way, the suffering you have faced and will face does not ruin your life. Enhancement of your life may actually come from all those trials and tribulations.

You lose your job. That’s a dimple. Your boss has it in for you. That’s a dimple. You get up the courage to ask her out and she says “no.” That’s a dimple. Your son gets in trouble. That’s a dimple. The doctor finds the lump malignant, that’s one of life’s tribulations. You get the idea. Your life resembles the surface of a golf ball much more than the surface of a beach ball – the beach ball is smooth and gleams shiny on sunny days. The golf ball, already dimpled gets cuts and grass stains and mud on it. Just like you and me.

But on the golf ball, the more dimpled the surface the better – it reduces the drag. How can that be? Again, the physics confuses me a little, but in life we grow stronger the more challenges we face.

Ironically, our fears and worries are of what might be. But when it comes, sometimes we grow stronger in adversity.

The same is true of steel. Just made, steel has some strength, but to make it really strong, it is folded over and over again, then tempered, then it is really strong. Strong because of the strain it’s gone through in forming it.

Look at the history of the church. In its early centuries, it often suffered fierce persecution. To confess Jesus as the Son of God could mean a death sentence. What happened to the church in those years? It grew closer to God and stronger. Just the opposite of what you might expect.

Contrast that to the church in the Middle Ages when it reached the zenith of its influence and power. Those were dark times for the church, spiritually. The church became horribly corrupt and worse – distant from the people, who were denied access to the scriptures in their own language and access to the sacraments. It was a time of the church at its worst, even though things were smoothest for them then.

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