Communion on the moon

Published 10:18 am Friday, July 9, 2010

John 6:53-58 53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” NIV

The first food and drink consumed on the moon was the holy sacrament of communion. At first, it was kept secret. To mark the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, Bosco Peters has posted the details of this Christian act of worship 235,000 miles from the earth.

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The First Communion on the Moon is now one of The Episcopal Church’s ‘lesser feasts and fasts’, he writes. On Sunday July 20, 1969 the first people landed on the moon.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were in the lunar lander which touched down at 3:17 Eastern Standard Time. Buzz Aldrin had with him the Holy Sacrament. He radioed: Houston, this is Eagle.

This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.

‘Later he wrote: In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup.

Then I read the Scripture, I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute Deke Slayton had requested that I not do this.

NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.

I agreed reluctantly. Eagle’s metal body creaked. I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility.

It was interesting for me to think: The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.

NASA kept this secret for two decades. The memoirs of Buzz Aldrin and the Tom Hanks Emmy-winning HBO mini-series, “From the Earth to the Moon” (1998), made people aware of this act of Christian worship 235,000 miles from Earth.

God has provided us with a memorial in the Lord’s Supper. This is to remind the world that God’s Son (Jesus) loved us so much that He was willing to die on Calvary’s Cross for us. Let us remember this each Sunday as we partake.

Dr. Hoyt W. Allen, Jr. is executive director of the KYOWVA Evangelistic Association