Sunday, December 25, 2016

Remain in Me

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  Acts 7:54-56

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Matthew 10:19-20

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing. John 15:5

God is with us. The Christmas promise is fulfilled. However, we are jolted the very next day by the martyrdom of St. Stephen. It is a stark reminder of how far society will go to silence the prophets among us who push us out of our comfort zone. 

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts-Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders-held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth." They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis. (Image Credit: NASA)
On Christmas Eve 1968, I remember being amazed at the Apollo VIII astronauts reading from Genesis during their flight to the moon.  The reading and the awesome image of “Earthrise” propelled many to get active in the environmental movement when they saw our blue marble, our common home, floating in the darkness.

Unfortunately, NASA was sued by some prominent atheists at the time upset over Bible passages being read on a space flight. So, the next time a NASA astronaut wanted to read from the Bible, the “suits” at ground control ask him to make it a private moment that got little immediate publicity.  Fearing another lawsuit, NASA asked Buzz Aldrin to turn off his radio during the following scene which I will quote directly from Aldrin’s essay in Guideposts.[i]  

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing…"One of the principal symbols," Dean says, "is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life." Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine–common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon (Image Credit: NASA)
After Neil Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, no one witnessed the scene which proves again that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, God is there.  Here is more from Aldrin’s first person essay in Guideposts:

"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, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way."

For me, this meant taking communion. In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.

I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. 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.

And so, just before I partook of the elements, I read the words which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ.

I sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the Church everywhere.

I read: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me." John 15:5 (TEV)

Buzz Aldrin’s Presbyterian communion service and his group reunion with Neil Armstrong did not get the publicity of “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  However, this communion service was one small humble step for Christianity to be the first religion to be celebrated on another planetary object.

Despite the NASA lawyers keeping the microphone silent during the ceremony, hearing about it later does not minimize its impact or importance. 

When God sent his Son into the world on Christmas Day, the Lord fulfilled his covenant with us. He asks that we do our part no matter where our journey takes us.  He asks that we do our part in building a kingdom worthy for him to live – whether that kingdom is in our hearts or in our world…and maybe even in other worlds as we build one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

The “and” of that expression really hits home to me.  This is not one, holy, catholic or apostolic church.  It is all of the above.





How will you meld these four characteristics into the church you project to those around you?

[i] Guideposts Classics: Buzz Aldrin on Communion in Space by Buzz Aldrin

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