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Right Before You Walk On The Moon


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July 20th, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing of the Apollo 11 mission, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

It’s interesting that a few minutes after landing on the surface, before they actually stepped out, Buzz Aldrin, who had been a Presbyterian minister before he was an astronaut, actually took communion there in the lander.

Retelling his experience, he says,

“I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

“I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

“Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind… But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience that by giving thanks to God.”

I think we would be hard pressed to find any human who has not at some point been struck with awe and wonder at the sight of the moon. It has inspired art, literature, music, and poetry religions throughout history and across the world.

And this man who was able to experience the moon in ways that very few have, this man who was at the literal zenith of technological advancement and human achievement, found his awe and wonder culminated in partaking in a simple and ancient ritual: REMEMBERING the sacrifice of Jesus through communion.

This man who was able to experience the moon in ways that none of us have, this man who was at the literal zenith of technological advancement and human achievement, was moved to worship.

At the height of scientific progress, he is not overcome by his own accomplishment, but rather reminded of his absolute dependence. He is moved to consider and meditate upon what is perhaps the ultimate underlying, most fundamental reality of the universe – the self-giving love of the God who created it all.

Psalm 136:4-9
Give thanks to the Lord of lords…
To him who alone does great wonders…
Who by his understanding made the heavens…
Who spread out the earth upon the waters…
Who made the great lights…
The sun to govern the day…
The moon and stars to govern the night…
His love endures forever.

May we dive deep into the beauty and mystery and grandeur of the cosmos, letting it lead us to the cross. May we take pause at the both moon hanging in the sky, and at everything down here on the dust of this earth below, and be moved to wonder at the grace of God.

May we lift our eyes to the heavens and remember the one who set them in place.
May our response be one of joy and gratitude, of awe and of praise.

 

  • Mike Valdes
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