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By Rev. Joan Kessler

John 17:20 – 26

Fractal Patterns in Nature:

This morning I am overlaying my message with some beautiful images for you all to consider. What you are seeing are pictures of fractals from nature. What is a fractal you may ask… well, the Fractal Foundation describes them as infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales and sizes. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. They are so incredibly common; they are found everywhere. Essentially, fractals are images of dynamic systems – they are pictures of chaos.

Nature loves to arrange itself in patterns in order to act efficiently. Nothing in creation happens without a reason, nothing to be wasted…all these beautiful patterns you are seeing have an important function and reason for their existence. Common examples of fractal patterns are found in snowflakes, the growth pattern of tree branching, lightning, and ferns. They shape our mountain ranges, coastlines. The next time you have a crown of broccoli in your refrigerator, take a closer look at the way each stem grows out from the stalk in the same precise way.

The spiral is also considered to be a fractal pattern. We find spirals in the DNA double helix model, the building block of our being, common to every living thing…spirals are found in sunflowers, the path of draining water, hurricanes, the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem, the horn of animals, mollusc, and snail shells. Look at the underside of your thumb…there you will find the spiral that is uniquely you yet the same as everyone else. 17th century Swiss mathematician, Jacob Bernoulli, chose the image of a logarithmic spiral to be carved on his gravestone along with the motto, “Changed, yet the same, I rise again”. The beauty of what is known as a logarithmic spiral, is one in which the outward growth pattern is not constant but increases as the distance from the spiral’s centre becomes larger. It is like the pattern we see in a snail’s shell; not uniform, but it is consistent in design to another snail’s shell. In a paper Bernoulli wrote in 1692 about spirals, he had this to say:

“Because our miraculous curve always in its changes remains consistently the same and identical in type, it can be regarded as the symbol of fortitude and constancy in adversity: or even of the resurrection of the flesh after various changes at length after death itself.”

For Bernoulli, the spiral represented resurrection…life never-ending, journeying outward from a centre.

These images of fractals that are scrolling, they bring me a sense of holy mystery and wonder at the created order of all living things. These past weeks since we celebrated Easter have been about noticing for me. Where is resurrection happening around me? What that was once dead has come back to life? And I think we live lives that too easily overlook the way resurrection: strength and resiliency and consistency are woven into the very fabrics of our holy and God-created selves…we are fearfully and wonderfully made. These patterns are dynamic and move from the inside out; and then they start again and again.

When I settled on prayer Jesus offers his friends from John’s gospel, I found something I had not noticed before…that Jesus sort of turns himself inside out. He yearns for Oneness and complete unity. His prayer articulates this pattern as one with no separation. It is long, and a bit hard to follow. He doesn’t engage in a teaching moment, but rather one that is achingly private and visceral. He is rending his heart.

Jesus’ farewell prayer is for oneness. Moved by Love, he wants nothing more than to gather everyone into a giant healing embrace. No one is left out. Jesus speaks of this deep accord, a mystical union in which Jesus and God dwell together as one. That they will be in us and we in them, Jesus prays. I know that John’s gospel has a Christology that is so high it is almost unattainable. Someone once said that thinking about what this prayer means is like trying to capture the wind. It means nothing to the wind and everything to the body. Its meaning lies in what it does and not in what it is; in where it shows up and not in what it looks like.

This has been a painful, gut-wrenching week learning of the tragedy that befell Uvalde, TX. And this comes on the heels of the Buffalo killing of 10 black shoppers at a store. And also in the midst of the Nova Scotia mass casualty inquiry. Where is the world headed, we ask? What do we do with these stories and the raw grief of parents waiting to hear of whether their children are safe? It goes to the core of one’s being, this pain. We are living in such a riven time. How do we begin to speak of unity when people are tearing each other apart?

What does it mean to us when we say we pray to love the world? Because this is the world that we have that needs to be loved back together.

We offer our prayers, our yearnings every time we gather on a Sunday. We pray to foster unity with God/Spirit/Holy Peace/Creating Source and Name beyond Name with one another in our particular concern in any given moment. Our hearts and minds, our prayers are with all who know too much violence and tragedy, for families in their grief, for communities ever changed by things that won’t change: a nation’s approach to guns and their acquisition. We pray for questions that we don’t have any answers. We pray for that which makes no sense. Prayer is not a work of magic. It is a work of connection and making needs known. Prayer reminds us that we are never alone. Life needs to be lived with all its complications and we as Winfield United will continue to incorporate the hope of resurrection into our lives in the here and the now. May our prayers move us to action this day; the loving of the world, the kosmos. We are not alone…we are never alone. Peace be with you all and Amen.

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