Communion on the moon

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped foot on the moon on July 20th 1969. Armstrong delivering the famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. Landing on the moon is one of the most significant scientific achievements in history and yet despite the enormity of what Aldrin and his fellow astronauts had achieved he chose to pause for a moment and to take communion on the lunar module. Two hours before stepping onto the moon “Buzz” Aldrin pulled out his tiny pouch of personal items to retrieve a thimbleful of wine and some bread.

He had received special permission from NASA to take bread and wine with him to space and give himself communion. It was the first food and drink ever consumed on the moon. Aldrin is reported as having planned the moment “as an expression of gratitude and hope,” He later wrote in his book, Magnificent Desolation“I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.” I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,”

He then read from John’s Gospel and ate. On a small card, Aldrin had written the words of Jesus: “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.”(John15:5 )

A special message was transmitted back to Earth: “I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.”

For Aldrin, that meant there was no doubt he would be giving thanks to the Creator of the cosmos. In taking time to pause and remember in this simple act of communion Aldrin was able to celebrate in outer space what the God of the cosmos meant to him. I am sure there were many things Aldrin could have done to mark the occasion, but he chose in that moment to acknowledge and give thanks that through Jesus’ death on the cross a way had been made for humankind to have a relationship with the creator of time and space. As we look back on this significant moment in history perhaps we can take time to contemplate Aldrin’s humble act of acknowledging and thanking God. It is unlikely that any of us will travel to the moon, but maybe this weekend whether working, resting or even simply catching glimpse of the evening moonlight we too can acknowledge our need for the God of the universe, the one who enabled two men to make a giant leap for mankind! For with God anything is possible.