By Jon Wren
This Monday, July 20, marks the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was the culmination of years of intense planning, research, and effort—and of centuries of scientific and astronomical study. It ranks as possibly the most impressive human achievement in history. People of a certain age can recall the image of the American flag on the moon’s surface and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one giant leap for mankind” statement. But probably very few people know about something else that happened that day on the moon.
After the landing, astronaut Buzz Aldrin removed from his “personal preference kit” a small loaf of bread and a chalice from his church back in Houston, Texas, where he was an elder. Aldrin read the words of Jesus from John 15:15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” He then took the elements and prayed. It was the first Lord’s Supper in space!
Aldrin later said, “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.” He remembered feeling “especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the church everywhere.”
In the middle of a moment synonymous with human achievement, there was an understanding that something even more significant had already occurred—the work of Christ at the cross. Today, when we remember Christ’s death and resurrection, we could all use the same spirit of humility as Aldrin. Because, while none of us has made it to the moon, many of us are still proud.
The words of Christ in John 15 are true for all of us, no matter what we achieve, how much money we make, or how successful we are; the only true measure of our worth is found in what Christ has done! Apart from him, nothing we do will have any lasting value. Only in his grace and forgiveness will we find real life today and eternal life forever.
Jon Wren works with the Office of Civil Rights, addressing the impact of gentrification on school desegregation. He loves history, college football, and once got a ticket for driving too slowly.