If you were alive then, you probably remember where you were at the moment you heard the news… Just like when Kennedy was assassinated and when the attack on 9/11 happened. It was one of those days that is burned into your brain and you know exactly what you were doing at the moment the news came over the media. I happened to be in a car dealership, starting to look at autos, when suddenly the news flashed that there had been a serious problem and mission control had lost contact with the Challenger space shuttle. Several minutes later it was known that the explosion had destroyed the shuttle and there would be no survivors to rescue.
That tragic event happened thirty years ago today – it’s difficult to believe that it has been that long ago! Recalling the plumes of smoke and the crazy patterns the solid rocket boosters made in the sky are imprinted indelibly on the minds of millions of people across the globe. And recounting the images of Christa McAuliffe, America’s first teacher in space, as she boarded Challenger in front of thousands of school children made the horror of the event even worse. Her family members were all at the Cape watching the launch as Challenger disintegrated before their eyes.
That evening, January 28, 1986, President Reagan was to give his State of the Union address to the American people. During the day those plans were scrapped in favor of Reagan speaking to the people about the disaster of the Challenger spacecraft and a tribute to the astronauts. The 4 minute speech is generally regarded as one of the finest tributes ever given by a president of the United States.
During his speech, Reagan spoke of the dangers involved in space exploration and living on the frontier of any worthy initiative. He expressed his pride in the men and women who worked for NASA and vowed to continue challenging the boundaries of space. He reminded us that the crew of the shuttle recognized and acknowledged the dangers involved with their mission. And then he closed his speech with a statement of faith, noting that the crew had “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” That’s quite a graphic representation if you think about it. They dreamt of space, travelled toward space and died, for all intents and purposes, in space.
The remarks that Reagan made are the foundation of the belief system of every Christian. While we are in this world, we are told that we are not of this world. In other words, eventually we will all be called “home” to be with Jesus eternally. Our verse for the evening reflects the idea that we have a greater mission than anything here on earth. We are told, in 1 Peter 2:11, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”
These words, spoken by Peter, are to remind us that we are strangers and aliens in this world, and we are to remember that sinful desires are not the things we are to succumb to. My encouragement this evening is that God’s desire is for us to look forward to our eternal time with Him. My prayer is that you will live the life worthy of being called a Christian and that eventually, when your worldly assignment is complete, you will, as the Challenger astronauts did, “leave the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” and live eternally with Him. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…