The Body and Blood on the Moon (Josh Graves)

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.09.13 PMDr. Joshua Graves is a minister and writer. He is the author of How Not to Kill a MuslimThe Feast, and Heaven on Earth (with ChrisSeidman). You can follow him on twitter @joshgraves.

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are famous for a definitive moment in American history –the giant leap in human creativity, engineering, and science. We simply know their moment as the first human landing on the moon. 

My generation (I was born in 1979) is virtually incapable of appreciating (even with the help of Wiki and Google and YouTube) the magnitude of Aldrin and Armstrong’s raw achievement. You’ve seen the photos. Some of you have the uncle, the conspiracy theorist, ever ready to tell you that we did not, in fact, ever land on the moon. “It’s propaganda!” This is the same uncle who believes the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers 9-11-01 was orchestrated by the U.S. government with President Bush’s approval. 

One curious story has emerged out of this seminal moment . . . the story comes directly from Buzz (Aldrin, not Lightyear, I have to remind my 4 year old son, Finn). I wonder, to myself, if Neil thought about this moment during the final few days of his life a few years ago. I wonder what these memories meant to him as he drew closer to the great mystery that is our inevitable death.

An elder in a Presbyterian Church in Houston, Buzz Aldrin wanted to mark the moon-landing occasion as a tribute to God, the Creator, and as a blessing for the rest of the world. (You can look this up in Aldrin’s book, Magnificent Desolation.) After consulting his minister, he decided the sacrament of Communion would be the most appropriate. Don’t ask me how this worked in zero gravity (one-sixth gravity technically).

During a break in the hype, hoopla, and conversation with the rest of the U.S., Aldrin took out bread and wine. He received the meal Jesus had instituted two thousand years prior, when no one could have possibly imagined space travel. Aldrin read the words of Jesus, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5) He also read Psalm 8: “You have set your glory in the heavens . . . When I consider the heavens, the words of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place . . . Who are we that you are mindful of us, human beings that you care for us?”

The first food ever consumed . . . the bread. The first liquid, wine. On the moon, the collision of humanity and space, the body and blood were invited to mark the magic of the moment. 

In Aldrin’s own words:  “. . . It’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon — and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the ‘Love that moves the Sun and other stars.’”

When these sacred moments come to you . . . what do you do? How do you respond?

The birth of a child.

A marriage rescued from the theft of divorce.

Relief from immense physical pain.

The call that announces the absence of cancer from your body.

The end of an arduous journey.

The return of a prodigal friend or child.

Good news from a distant country.

The death of a hero, like Armstrong.

Bread and wine, a table, a thankful heart. Christianity, for centuries, call these sacramental moments. 

Sacred.The Love of God holds all things together. 250,000 miles from home. Aldrin knew that God was all around, in each moment, on the moon, in the bread and in the wine.

Like the prophet Jonah of the Jewish Scriptures, Aldrin and Armstrong learned what he already knew, there’s nowhere you can go that God isn’t.

So eat and drink and celebrate and dance and laugh and give thanks. Chief Tucumseh famously penned these words, words that fit Armstrong’s life and death so well. “When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

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