Spirit Upsets NASA – Theology Lessons

Last year February one of my blogs was on the Mars Rover – aptly named Spirit – and the opportunities it allowed me to play with some elusive theological ideas. You will recall that the Mars Rover was launched in 2004 and when it reached its destination the news caption was Spirit has landed! Perhaps, they should have added: Beware – life will never be the same again!

It must be co-incidence, for Spirit is again in the news (if you had time to notice among BBC’s list of numerous news items). This time the mighty and brainy experts of NASA have conceded defeat to free or release Spirit from its Martian sand-trap. As one key expert puts it:

“Spirit has encountered a golfer’s worst nightmare – the sand trap that no matter how many strokes you take, you can’t get out of it.”

Well, the world’s number one golfer would be unable to help, as he is presently has bucketloads of problems to address!

Spirit is hopelessly stuck or perhaps just having its own free mind or way and not even all the efforts of the “mission team” (talk of ecclesial language!) to tilt Spirit so that it can become more energised by the sunlight, is of any avail. And guess what? The mission team wants Spirit to go into hibernation from April until sometime in August. However, all is not lost, one of the experts on Spirit contends that while being stationary (can you church people imagine a stationary Spirit?) it can still be tracked very accurately to ensure that we can measure the wobbling of Mars. Imagine the relief of churches being able to track and predict the movement of Spirit, not to mention the many who do already operate as if they have Spirit all figured out.

The experts, while having to concede that Spirit remains a mystery, do suggest that there are still a few tricks up Spirit’s sleeve which they may be able to manipulate and predict. And, we are told that while Spirit is stuck there is no need to “mourn Spirit”. It maybe that the technocrats are stuck and they need to shed tears for themselves, rather than Spirit.

The saga, however, opens up some fascinating connections from an ecclesial/theological perspective if we are daring enough to be transgressive. Here are a few for consideration: Beware when Spirit lands in our midst – it is risky and dangerous business [Come, O Holy Spirit, but quietly please may be the bottom line!]; Spirit’s ability to boost and energised, while unlimited, can take a different and unpredictable turn -full of surprises; It is fruitless trying to domesticate and figure out Spirit – let the mighty and brainy NASA concur with shouts of Amen – it is more like Spirit helping humans to figure out themselves; Spirit does not act on human instructions and not even tilting and manipulating will make Spirit acquiesce; Spirit has a mind of her own with many “mysterious and mischievous tricks” up her sleeve; Spirit may brood, but she never hibernates! So do watch wisely, act but humbly and pray fervently!

© copyright jagessar January 27, 2010

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