Sunday, 1 February 2009

The biology of grace

branching out

Branching patterns are commonplace in nature. The abstract image you see here could be a scan of veins and capillaries in your hand, the root system of a potted plant, or it could be a satellite image of an estuarine delta or an Arctic ice flow breaking apart. It actually shows the structure of two trees set against the sky in the depths of an English winter, with the addition of vividly unnatural colour as a background. Such patterns seems to give the maximum surface area contact for the shortest given path. In this case the trees fill the available space in such a way as to maximise the collection of light and diffusion of gases.

What does this strategy of maximal surface area contact have to say to churches about the biology of grace? How do we interact with the communities and networks in which we are set? What 'branching structures' of intention, action and engagement would be apparent if this was our primary purpose? How connected and in touch with the world around us are we? To what extent is grace diffusing in and through these mutual interactions? How does this process feed and nurture our healthy functioning? Is our commitment to maximise our contact with the light (of the world) or not? The picture provokes such questions as these.

If the pattern of our being church does not resemble the photograph, maybe nature is telling us something vitally important. Why should the biology of grace be any different to the winter trees?

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