Thursday, July 18, 2019

Honoring Christ on the Moon


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3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?     
Psalm 8:3-4

This year our nation commemorates the historic 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission which delivered the first humans to the moon. When the Eagle lunar module landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to do something difficult: Wait. They were scheduled to open the door of their lunar lander and step onto the unknown surface of a completely different world. But for now, their mission ordered them to take a pause before the big event.

And so Aldrin spent his time doing something unexpected, something no man had ever attempted before. Giddy with anticipation, Aldrin took part in the first Christian sacrament ever performed on the moon—The Lord’s Supper. The astronaut was also an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, and before he headed into space in 1969, he got special permission to take bread and wine with him to space and give himself communion. Aldrin wanted to honor His Savior in this epic moment saying, “There are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.”

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement: “This is the LM 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.”  Aldrin then ended radio communication, and there on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read John 15:5, which he had handwritten on a scrap of paper—“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.”

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Buzz Aldrin 

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion. (Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

The communion bag and chalice that Aldrin took to the moon. 

Here is his Aldrin’s account of what happened:

“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.  Apart from me you can do nothing.’  I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute they had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.  I agreed reluctantly. I ate the tiny wafer 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. And of course, it’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who spoke the Earth and the moon into existence.”

After taking the elements, Aldrin says he “sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the church everywhere.” [1]
   


[1] Eric Metaxas, “Communion on the Moon: July 20th 1969” 19 July 2009 <http://www.ericmetaxas.com/blog/communion-on-the-moon-july-20th-1969/>