Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
Fifty years ago this week, the entire world watched as the United States attempted to safely land two humans on the lunar surface and have them return safely to Earth. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would actually land on the moon. They did not immediately scramble out to walk on the surface, however, even though they were only scheduled to be on the lunar surface for a brief 21 hours. Instead the schedule had planned that they would take a rest period before going through the procedures that would eventually enable them to be the first humans to step foot on the moon.
As they prepared, Buzz Aldrin took the time to have communion.
As a Presbyterian elder, Aldrin was deeply faithful. He was fully aware of the historical and scientific significance, and the danger, of this mission. Just two and a half years before, three of his fellow members of the Apollo astronaut corps had died during a launchpad test. He knew the hundreds of thousands of people whose work had placed Aldrin and Armstrong at this moment. In order to prepare himself for this momentous time on the moon, he had asked permission and taken bread and wine with him in his limited personal items.
NASA did not broadcast this part of the mission, although Aldrin was in communication with Mission Control. Nonetheless, he prayed, read scripture, and then partook of the bread and wine he had brought with him—the first sacrament, but not the last, observed in space.
This Sunday, we will joyfully celebrate a baptism, and join in communion together afterward. We will remember that the bread and wine offered to God to be consecrated is made of ordinary stuff of the Earth, formed by human hands, but offered to God and then returned to us in an unending orbit of love and mustard-seed faith.
God uses that ordinary stuff to remind us that we ARE the body of Christ in the world, and as Buzz Aldrin understood, even beyond the world. That we are not meant to live aloof from one another, but rather, and vitally, that each one of us is part of a community of disciples gathered together by the love Christ himself embodies in the world, throughout space and time. Literally.
Jesus, the Holy One of God, who was and is and ever shall be, stands before us in every moment, even when we are scared or anxious or joyful, asking to be allowed in, to feed us in a way that sustains us. To see that all we have that really lasts is made not of flour or rice or grape, but of the wondrous, self-giving love revealed to us throughout creation—on this earth, under the vast expanse of stars, and under the beaming light of the moon that now bears the footprints of humanity for all time.
May we remember and celebrate the bravery that put us on the moon 30 years ago, the willingness to dare and dream and accomplish something regardless of its difficulty. May we join in the discipleship embodied by Buzz Aldrin, as well, and remember be together strengthened around the altar for whatever lies ahead of us, conscious always of our mission to the world, in the name of love and true peace.