20th July 2019

Space Firsts

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 (ESV)

Fifty years ago, on 20 July 1969, the Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Sea of Tranquility. Six hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. On that momentous day, two other lesser known firsts took place: the Bible became the first book to be read on the moon and the first Holy Communion service was taken. At that point, of course, two other firsts also happened: the Communion bread was the first food eaten on the moon and the Communion wine the first liquid poured and drunk. And all of these firsts were achieved by the second man on the moon, Neil Armstrong’s fellow astronaut, Buzz Aldrin.

Aldrin had intended to read the Bible passage, quoted above, over the airways so that everyone on Earth could hear it. Then he would take Communion. But at that time, NASA was in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, because the Apollo 8 crew had read from a passage in Genesis while orbiting the moon in December 1968. O’Hare believed that religion should be kept separate from government and state, and, having successfully orchestrated the banning of prayers in U.S. schools, she was now taking her battle into space.

So NASA asked Aldrin to make the ceremony private and he reluctantly agreed. Here is his account of what happened next: “In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice my 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 from John 15. I ate the tiny piece of bread and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility.”

I like to think that the intelligence and spirit Aldrin referred to is God. The same God who created the moon and the multiplicity of gifts and abilities within us that enable us to travel through space and walk on it. As the scripture Buzz Aldrin read from the lunar surface tells us, without Him, we are nothing.

Creator God, the heavens declare your glory and we thank you for their beauty that inspires poets and astronauts alike. Thank you for the intelligence and spirit that created us to do amazing things. We acknowledge that without you we can do nothing. In the name of Christ, our Saviour we pray.

Study by Peter Mill

About the Author:
Peter Mill is an Elder and the Missions Developer of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He and his wife, Jackie, are Pastoral Workers for Grace Communion International in Scotland and Ireland.

Local Congregation:
GCI, Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
EH17 8QJ

Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church

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