This week has been awash with facts about the Apollo 11 astronauts and their highly successful trip to the moon – as well as their safe return to the earth. Undoubtedly, however, many of you are tired of the newscasts and historical programs that recall the events that culminated in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon 50 years ago last night.
For the past several months, I have been reading books and listening to every source of information that I could find on this topic. Truthfully, Janet has had her fill of space and so, last night, I ventured out alone to watch a program on the flight at Apollo 11 at a local country club that was presented by a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to our youth. The expectation is that by studying space and astronomy we can ignite a desire for education in our kids and accelerate our standing in the world by returning to the moon and, quite possibly, Mars.
Initially, I wasn’t going to attend the program but I am sure glad that I did. I learned more than I knew before the lecture and I am in in even greater awe of the accomplishment than I was before the evening out – even though I have studied the flight for years.
For example, the original names of the command module and lunar module were “Sno-Cone” and “Haystack.” Months before the launch, it was realized that a successful lunar landing would be taken less seriously throughout history if Neil Armstrong announced that, “The Haystack has landed…” So… names were changed and the command module became “Columbia,” after the capsule that Jules Verne named in his book, “From the Earth to the Moon”, back in 1895. And, of course, how could you have a better name than “Eagle” for the lunar lander?
There were other interesting tidbits as well but I was listening to Buzz Aldrin (he legally changed his name to Buzz years ago) and he said that the first food consumed on the moon was communion. Isn’t it wonderful that Aldrin was so moved by the landing on the moon that his first food consisted of juice and a communion wafer? He said that he could not think of a better way to give thanks to God.
I was then surprised that Aldrin said that, in hindsight, he wonders if he should have taken communion. I was perplexed… He went on to say that while he was religious, Nasa had been involved in a lawsuit since the crew of Apollo 8 had read from the book of Genesis the previous Christmas Eve as they were orbiting the moon. Buzz said that he didn’t want to be the cause of any inconvenience or litigation as a result of his celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I can see both sides of the story but I also think that any devout Christian should not hesitate to affirm their belief in God.
Similarly, had Aldrin been Jewish, I could have understood his desire to give thanks in a way that may have been different than I would have done. In any event, juice and a wafer were the first things consumed on the lunar surface and all the litigation in the world isn’t going to change that.
Our verse for tonight is from the good doctor Luke, who recounted the events of the Last Supper and how Jesus shared His last meal with His disciples. During the course of the evening, He broke the bread and drank the wine, celebrating what we refer to as the Last Supper. We are told, by Luke, in Luke 22:19, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
So it seems to me that Aldrin was correct in celebrating on the lunar surface. Of course, he could have done it in silence and never revealed how important that was for him. But that’s not the route he chose to take. My encouragement this evening is that God loves it when we demonstrate our faith and shine our light on God. My prayer is that we all may be bold enough to follow our faith traditions and realize that we will never satisfy all the people all of the time. But we have freedom of religion in this country and that includes Christianity. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…