Jesus, a Jellyfish and a Suicide in Kansas City
In the NY Times Magazine one Sunday morning I turned to the cover story. I discovered that the subject of the article was one by which we seem to have been captured for all of human history: immortality. Apparently, a few organisms exist in our world that have capacities affording them the ability to evade death. In this instance, the author investigated a tiny jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrii, whose cells periodically transform such that the organism’s cells “become young” again, rather than aging unto death. Naturally, an optimistic Japanese marine biologist, whose work is explored in the article, hopes that one day this discovery will be applicable to the human condition. One day, he hopes, humans might acquire such immortal capacities. Still, he admits that humans are far from ready to accept such great responsibility.
This is what occupied my mind just before I helped serve communion last Sunday morning. I was asked, in light of the community’s tradition, not to explicitly reference “blood” as the congregation came to dip the bread. I complied with the request, but did experience further explosion of thought during references to the Lenten season. Jesus was crucified, and it was a violent, suffering death; shadowed, in Mark, by Jesus’ cry of God-forsakenness. There are around 12 pints of blood in the average male human body. Life can be violent. For some reason I recalled last year’s death of Jovan Belcher, NFL player for the Kansas City Chiefs. Might have Belcher’s last thoughts, before shooting himself in the head in front of his coach and general manager, epitomized the worst human capacities for despair and loneliness? His last act followed the murder of his girlfriend; in itself an example of the worst of human potential.
Jesus’ blood and death on the Cross are dark stumbling blocks before the joy of Resurrection. Violence, loneliness, despair; all are part of the human condition. At times, the only way to deal with the Crucifixion is to seek God’s love, somehow, wherever it is to be found. A minute jellyfish, by all accounts fragile, weak, easily killed by external forces, has evolved to defeat old age. Humanity, in all of its greatness, sometimes finds itself trembling before the abyss of immense suffering. It is into a world both magnificent and terrible that the season of Lent arrives. God’s love is known in Jesus’ birth and resurrection. But it is also a love that was present with Jesus on the Cross, and is present with us yet on our own.
>> View the NY Times Article, “Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?“