Monday, July 20, 2009

Meeting the Lord in the Air

According to a Voice of America report, Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Soon after they landed, Aldrin took a piece of bread and a cup of wine that had been consecrated for communion. The first food eaten and the first cup poured on the moon were communion elements.

Aldrin, a Presbyterian elder, wanted to give thanks to God on behalf of all people. The meal was to be a meal of thanksgiving or Eucharist (from the Greek, “eucharistos”). Aldrin wanted to offer a response to God for God's faithfulness. I am deeply moved that Aldrin would want to respond to God in that way.

The VOA report did not delve deeply into the theology, but I was interested in how Rev. Dean Woodruff prepared for the communion service. The article took pains to suggest that this was a “personal” or “private” act. However, it wasn't. In the Presbyterian Church, Communion is a communal act. The Lord's Supper is a sign and seal of our communion with God and with each other.

Several weeks prior to the launch of the Apollo 11, the Webster Presbyterian Church in Texas celebrated communion. After the worship service, a group of elders gathered with Buzz Aldrin. (Aldrin was restricted from contact with too many people.) During that time, Aldrin was given the bread and wine for communion. A benediction was not offered so that the Lord's Supper on the moon was in fact an extension of the worship service in Webster, Texas.

Aldrin on the moon gathered with those Presbyterians in Webster, Texas and with the saints of all time and places. Over 350,000 miles away, Buzz Aldrin remained in the presence of the Lord and the bosom of the Church.

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