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The Divine Spirit of Hope

Wildflowers are harbingers of spring. Every year, no matter how hard the winter, flowers resurrect.

Turning their longing heads to meet the morning sun, they dance in the slightest breeze and genuflect at sunset. Their roots lead back to Eve’s mother, distant root cousins witnessed Easter morning from a Jerusalem garden.

The number of petals on wildflowers are part of the Fibonacci sequence, formed by adding two previous integers beginning at 1. The resulting sequence is repeated throughout nature. 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34… These numbers are used to form the golden ratio seen in da Vinci’s human figure and Dali’s image of the Last Supper.

The Fibonacci sequence is found in divine spirals like seashells, pine cones, sunflowers, waves, mRNA and imprinted on stars.

All this wonder is from simply counting wildflower petals and sunflower seed patterns.


Mary Magdalene began her search for Jesus with a grieving soul before the light of dawn. Wild thirteen-petaled lotus alongside the five petals of native geranium lined the path as she headed out.

Carrying spices along with fear, I wonder if she looked down and saw flowers as a sign that in the midst of death love was rising.

I wonder if she remembered Jesus’ words on their first mission,

In the fragile ferns maybe she recognized the pattern of stars.

When she reached the tomb with discarded shrouds, she stayed long enough with divine wonder, so that Jesus, who lingered there to meet her, whispered that love rises.


This week Larkspur Conservation laid flowers along the opening of a grave for the latest victim of violence in the Nashville community. The sweet wild iris looked to me like a bridge to help our community cross over the dangerous waters of grief, anger, and fear. Traversing life and death calls everything into question. The harsh world that envelops our longing for peace is overwhelming.

When our vision, like Magdalene’s, is clouded and our feet are weary from the scorched earth, that is precisely when we need to take a deep breath among flowers, which are the first to bloom after a fire. They conjure wild ideas like love lives beyond death and destruction.

In response to the loss, grief, and frustration from the mass shooting in Nashville, St. Augustine’s Chapel on Vanderbilt University's campus, where I pastor, I turned to Dr. James Lawson, one of the great teachers of nonviolence during the civil rights movement. As this 94-year-old living saint spoke on Zoom last Sunday, he leaned in and smoothed his soft white hair and said,

Dr. Lawson has been a champion for the cause of love for more than 70 years. He was expelled and then honored on the Vanderbilt campus, and he bears witness that we are walking a circuitous path in the spiral of hope.


This past week six women graduated from a job readiness program at Thistle Farms. Each woman was presented with flowers and invited to share something she learned.

In the scheme of life, sharing a lesson from a three-month course may seem small, but it is critical in the divine spiral of hope.

When it was Lola’s turn to present, she couldn’t speak the words from the page she had written, she just leaned on the podium and wept.

Everyone presented erupted in applause, recognizing her tears were for all the grief and all the joy, and her commitment to moving forward.

Those tears, which hold the divine spiral in their composition, spoke volumes.

Every step on the divine spiral of hope, no matter how small, grounds us in deep love that leads us to gratitude so powerful that it washes us with tears.

Wildflowers, Fibonacci, Lola, Dr. Lawson, and Larkspur bear witness to Magdalene, the first preacher. She started a spiral that forever changed the world by preaching to all grieving and lost hearts to bear witness to the sacred and imperishable truth of love rising. She called us to follow the path, even when it is dark and lonely. Magdalene knew grief, yet her longing for love carried her to the tomb.


I have known grief my whole life. We all have known grief, fear, injustice, and the numbness that comes from polarizing politics, destabilizing violence, and uncertain economics.

There is trouble in the fields. I have seen more tears this holy week than in all my years of ministry. Yet those fields also bring us new life.


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