Fractal Compassion

From the biggest picture to the smallest interaction

Matthew 9:35-36

Math Class!

Okay, so you take a triangle, like so. 20150816sermon_Page_01A simple equilateral triangle.

Now you connect the midpoints of the sides to divide it into three triangles that are ½ as big. (There really are four, plus the original one, but it looks like three.)

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Now you take each of the three, and you divide them. You have nine triangles, each the 1/4 the size of our original.

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Do it again! Now you have 27 triangles, each 1/8 the size of the original. You can
keep on doing this, and the patterns are not the same, but they are similar, on a smaller and smaller scale.

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This is one of the simplest illustrations of the concept of fractal geometry, which you may have heard of, and which has all sorts of useful applications in the real world. Some very simple rules (like “connect the midpoints of a triangle”) can result in some very complex and beautiful patterns.

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(Don’t worry, this is not a TED talk, there’s a sermon in here somewhere.)

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Rembrandt at sea

MatthewWhen Rembrandt painted, he (more than occasionally) placed himself in the picture as a literal witness to the events.*  When I was studying for Matthew class, I noticed that Rembrandt placed himself in “Christ in the Storm” (Rembrandt is in the pink beret, holding a rope, looking out at us):

1.  Rembrandt, “Christ in the Storm” (1632) (stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1990) (1):

Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee detail detail 2

The nose is a dead giveaway!

2.  Rembrandt, Self portrait (1629) (private collection) (2)


3.  Rembrandt, Self portrait (1630) (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) (3)


4.  Rembrandt, Self portrait (1630) (4)


*For me, it was Francis Schaeffer who first pointed this out in How Should We Then Live? (1976): “Rembrandt had flaws in his life . . . but he was a true Christian; he believed in the death of Christ for him personally.  In 1633 he painted the Raising of the Cross . . . .  A man in a blue painter’s beret raises Christ upon the cross.  That man is Rembrandt himself — a self-portrait.  He thus stated for all the world to see that his sins had sent Christ to the cross.”