For centuries, the Jews have observed the Passover by celebrating a Seder Supper. Many Christians (including me) do the same. The reason we (as Christians) also share in this feast is simple. The famous dinner Jesus hosted for his disciples on the evening before his death on the cross (the one we like to call “The Last Supper”) was a Seder. It was at this meal he instituted the rite that has become a sacrament in today’s church—Holy Communion.
Over nineteen hundred years after Jesus celebrated his final Seder, two young astronauts landed on the moon. Their names were Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Buzz was an elder at a Presbyterian church back home in Texas. When they landed, one of the first things Aldrin did was give thanks to God and celebrate with some bread and wine he brought with him from his congregation. He wrote about this experience in a Guideposts magazine article. He told his story in these words:
“You can do nothing…”
“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 … Apart from me, you can do nothing.” He then said:
“I had intended to read my communion passage back to Earth, but at the last minute, they 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’s reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.”
“I ate the tiny toast 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 that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there were the ‘Communion Elements.'”
“And, of course, it’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon – and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the “Love that moves the Sun and other stars.”
One of the most beautiful things about celebrating the Lord’s Supper lies in its simplicity. The elements (bread and wine) can be found almost anywhere. They’ve been around for thousands of years and have been basic staples in most cultures—definitely in the Jewish one. It was just like Jesus to take the unpretentious things to highlight the deep, spiritual truths in life.
He lived a humble life, but brought the profound truth of God to us. Jesus, the Passover Lamb, conveyed hope and salvation. For that, we are eternally grateful.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]