This may feel a week late as the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing was last weekend. That ‘one small step for a man’ is a moving memory for me having got up in the dead of night as a small boy and been allowed to watch the drama live on a very small black and white TV in my parents’ bedroom. I marvelled at the achievement and I still do. It is not too late to recall the moon-landing. This week is the anniversary of the return to Earth. Perhaps that was the even greater miracle with all the stress of lifting off from the Moon and docking with the command module. It is almost biblical. In the Communion Service, we thank God saying: ‘You met us in your Son and brought us home’.
There has been some comment in the last week about the fact that the Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin, who was an elder at his Presbyterian Church, celebrated the Eucharist whilst on the moon’s surface. The appropriately named Sea of Tranquillity was the landing site where a replica olive branch was left as a
symbol. Aldrin explained his simple but remarkable act saying: ‘We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets. . . God reveals himself in the common elements of everyday life.’ – The bread and the wine.
The Moon missions were an act of faith. Many involved rated the chance of success and survival at less than 50%. Faith sustained many of the astronauts. Eugene Cernan, the 11th of the 12 men to walk on the Moon said on seeing the Earth from the Moon, ‘Science and technology got me there but when I got there and looked back home at the Earth, science and technology could not explain what I was seeing nor what I was feeling’.
On the way back to Earth, Aldrin read this passage from Psalm 8 which seems to put the achievement in the right context. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers; the moon and the stars, which you have set in place; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”