Wednesday, July 20, 2022

On The Moon

Dear Friends,

They become the “pictures” that are permanently etched in our mind. Some happy. Some sad. Some absolutely horrifying. Thanks to live television, I watched the Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan show and remember the moment perfectly. I watched in shock as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and looked on in disbelief as O.J. Simpson’s blood-soaked glove “didn’t fit.” There’s a “mental video” forever in my brain that I wish would go away. I saw it on live TV like perhaps you did. It’s the plane flying into the second World Trade Tower and then both towers collapsing. I still remember the emotional impact of that moment. You have your own vivid “mind pictures” – some you hope will never fade away and some where you wish that you had a delete button you could push to permanently erase.

Here’s another permanent memory that you may also have if you’re around my age. It was exactly 53 years ago (July 20, 1969) that the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed, and six hours later my dad and I were sitting on the family room couch watching a live television feed broadcast from the moon. Commander Neil Armstrong said: “One small step for (a) man, one giant step for mankind” and took the first step onto the moon. Buzz Aldrin then also stepped onto the moon and both men spent the next 2 ½ hours walking and exploring with our Nation transfixed in awe as we watched the camera feed and listened to the live broadcast.

That was arguably one of the most important events in the history of our world and I am grateful that it happened in my lifetime and I watched as it took place. In a recent survey given to over 2000 people younger than me, it was asked “Which major event in the sixties would you most liked to have witnessed” and the number one choice was to have watched Armstrong walk on the moon. 

When Neil Armstrong died in 2012, all those memories resurfaced of when my dad and I watched Armstrong take that first step, and I went to the internet as I reminisced about such an enormously important event in America’s history. As I scanned the various published articles about the voyage of Apollo 11, I read something that I had not known. After the lunar module had landed, but before Armstrong’s historic moment, something happened of even greater importance that was not broadcast. What we did hear was Buzz Aldrin saying: “This is the lunar module pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

What we didn’t know was this. During that time when the audio feed was cut off, Aldrin later described what happened next: “In the radio blackout, 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; for without 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.”

Aldrin had wanted to broadcast the communion but NASA had refused for fear of lawsuits by atheists. Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas and his communion kit was prepared by his pastor. Webster Presbyterian possesses the chalice used on the Moon and commemorates the event each year on the Sunday closest to July 20. This astronaut – this man of God – took the Presence of Jesus Christ to the moon. The first supper served on the moon was the Lord’s Supper. Some of the first words spoken after the lunar landing were scripture – the words of Jesus from John 15:5 (underlined above) and also these portions of Psalm 8:

“You have set Your glory in the heavens.. When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place.. Who are we that You are mindful of us.. human beings that You care for us.”

You and I will never go to the moon, but there are places we do go to that are perhaps even more needful of the presence of Jesus Christ. Is there someplace we should be taking Jesus that we’ve never taken Him before? To our work? Our school? Our neighbor’s home? Our home? Lord, forgive us when we’ve rushed off to go somewhere in our cluttered and chaotic lives and left You behind. For without You, we can do nothing.  AMEN?

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