Buzz Aldrin Pauses for God on the Moon

Author: Pastor Mike Gutzler

This past Saturday we recognized the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the moon. During our time together on Sunday morning our resident reporter Carl told us about his experience of the events as well as the emotions he and his friends encountered. We can all agree for those who watched or heard the events live, it was a very special moment.

While we tend to remember the first words and steps on the moon, there were other special moments on that day 50 years ago. But before we talk about one in particular, it would be good to think about the events of the day in the context of our Gospel reading about Mary and Martha.

We know Martha is a hard worker and what she was doing was valid and important while Jesus was with her, but Jesus encourages Martha to take a moment to focus on God’s presence in her midst – just like Mary.

So let’s return to the lunar landing. There is a great moment in the transcript when Armstrong and Aldrin are landing the lunar modular and everyone back home in Houston is waiting and holding their breath. Here is the transcript:  

102:45:58 Armstrong (onboard): Engine arm is off. (Pause) (Now on voice-activated comm) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

102:46:06 Duke: (Responding to Neil's transmission but momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan...(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.

102:46:16 Aldrin: Thank you.

Talking about hard work, it was not all of the NASA team and astronauts working hard, but it was years of hard work to make that very moment possible.  We could ask who was working the hardest, but it is probably worth noting everyone was working really hard and doing important work.

A little more than two and half hours later, before Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the moon, we know of another special moment. The transcript reads:

105:25:38 Aldrin: Roger. This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way. Over.

105:26:08 Garriott: Roger, Tranquility Base.

[Long Comm Break]

[As he describes in his book "Return to Earth", Buzz is taking communion.]

Aldrin silently read from John 15:5, which he penned on a 3-by-5-inch notecard: “As Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains (abides) in me, and I in Him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” 

Aldrin then performed the ritual alone, which his dramatized in an episode of HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon," and played by Bryan Cranston. 

 "In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine," Aldrin said. "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."

 This was the Mary moment. Even though everyone was doing really important work, Aldrin pauses to recognize God’s presence in the midst of everything else going on. In a very different and faraway place, Aldrin calls upon God to be present there too. And God is!

 We all live really busy and hard-working lives, work that is also largely important. In the same way Aldrin pauses to recognize God’s presence in the moment, we too are called to pause from our own busyness and have Mary moments – whenever we need them.