I’m back on the Moon. Well, it is still the 50thanniversary year since the moon landing and those momentous words, ‘It’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind’. I have the Apollo 8 ‘Earthrise’ picture pinned above my desk to help me, I say, remember some perspective. But instead of gazing at the blue ball hanging there against the back darkness I am drawn to look down, as it were, to hands holding bread and a small chalice of wine. Yes, I had recently reread the account of Buzz Aldrin’s communion where he had written, “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.”
When I say ‘reread’, this might give the impression that I knew about this for a long time but I only learnt about this event about 6 weeks ago –and I was a wide-eyed, keen, star-struck boy who prided himself on knowing about NASA’s Apollo programme but I had no recollection of this happening. I also had no knowledge that NASA had been criticised and there were even court cases because of the reading of Genesis 1 at Christmas by the Apollo 8 astronauts orbiting the Moon.
I know we could have discussions over the relationship between science and religion, the sep-arationofChurchandState,howtoviewAldrin’s communion service (symbolic comfort, real comfort, real presence and so on), and even speculations about alternative futures if the reli-gious rituals or readings were from Islam, Judaism, Taoism, or an atheist manifesto. But I was drawn by this rereading and by my experiences of this week –meetings, driving, visiting folk, Bible Study, teaching, praying, being home alone this week –to St Augustine’s opening words –it is a prayer –in Book 1 of The Confessions:
Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –we who carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. Yet these hu-mans, due part of your creation they are, still do long to praise you. You stir us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.(St Augustine, The Confessions, 2ndEdition, Translated by Maria Boulding OSB)
Whether in Brandon, Coventry, Cambridge, or Harlow –or on the Moon –we have a desire, a longing, is it a hole?, a something –that ‘completes’ us –gives us meaning and purpose –a safety and a security –and people fill this desire, longing, hole?, this something with lots and lots of things. For Christians that longing is fulfilled by God –and not just any god in the super-market of religions –but specifically Jesus of Nazareth, the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, the Jesus on the cross, the Jesus ‘in-between’, and the Jesus of the empty tomb –because this Jesus brings us God’s grace and forgiveness and life. Christians can live this life by engaging with Jesus (in worship, meditation, and prayer where he comes to us) and through engaging with the world (where we go out to serve Jesus in our neighbour).
Whether we engage with science, politics, farming, retail, teaching, medicine, a trade, the military in this world –remember that God made and loved the world so it is not barred or off limits to his children –we do so knowing also that Jesus is with us in all these endeavours and that is why I can understand why Buzz Aldrin wanted to have communion on the Moon. GS