Most of you know how jazzed I get about spaceflight. When I was a young boy, I studied the astronauts in the Mercury program and listened in when President Kennedy set a goal of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely – by the end of the decade. That would be the 1960’s for those of you who are too young to have been around then – more than 50 years ago. And after the Mercury 7 astronauts completed their space flights, all except Deke Slayton who had a heart murmur, the Gemini program took hold.
That series of space flights had to do with two spacecraft docking together in anticipation of some of the skills that would be necessary to fly to the moon in fulfillment of President Kennedy’s mandate. Finally, The Apollo program started when all the requirements of the Gemini initiative had been successfully completed. Apollo embraced the idea of launching a spacecraft into earth orbit, retrieving and docking with a lunar module that had specially designed for flight on the moon, flying to earth’s moon and finally attempting a landing on the moon by two of the three astronauts onboard – while the third member of the crew orbited the moon above. Of course, the mission included the safe return of all the astronauts to earth.
Frank Borman and his crew had circled the moon in December, 1968 but hadn’t attempted a landing. But in the middle of July, 1969, 43 years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins entered their spacecraft and were launched into space to begin the most exciting excursion in the history of mankind – a lunar landing. Not since Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis crossing the Atlantic Ocean had the nation been so amped up about an accomplishment of this magnitude – one that truly tested the limits of man’s ability to accomplish something far beyond anything that had ever been attempted.
And if you were around back then, I’m sure that you can still remember the excitement that was in the air as the Apollo 11 mission left the launch pad. The moon – man’s first foray to another heavenly body – destined to set foot on a hard surface other than earth. And who can forget Armstrong’s first words as he descended the ladder and set foot on the moon – but that’s for another post sometime in the future. It goes without saying that Kennedy’s dream was fulfilled when the Eagle, Apollo 11’s lunar lander, set down on the moon and subsequently returned home.
The moon has always been something that man has been interested in. For thousands of years the moon has circled the sun silently. Songs, ballads and all sorts of poems have been written about the allure of this heavenly body, created by God. Tonight’s verse recognizes the amazing heavenly bodies that God has created and that man first visited more than 40 years ago. From Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are told, in 1 Cor. 15:41, “The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.” And just as each heavenly body has its own splendor, God created each one of us to have our unique splendor as well.
No two of us are alike – just like the stars – and my encouragement this evening is that you will recognize and celebrate the differences we all have as followers of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, my prayer is that you will continue to enjoy the splendor that God has created for our benefit. It’s really quite remarkable. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…