February Valentine: “Love one
another. My final lesson of history is the same as
that of Jesus. Love is the most
practical thing in the world.
If you take an attitude of love toward everybody you meet, you'll eventually
get along.” [Will
Durant in his book The Lessons
of History, is quoting Jesus here from the gospel of John13:34.]
Great excitement here the last couple of months. An Arctic snowy owl was sighted in a
cornfield about five miles from where I live.
Bird watchers quickly learned of the beautiful bird’s presence and have
driven great distances to set up their telescopes to watch it. Experts are unsure
about the reason for the bird’s
migration this far south. Normally
feeding and breeding within the Arctic Circle, some believe the food source in
the Arctic is insufficient. Though
most often consists of lemmings and rodents, snowy owls also eat larger animals
such as muskrats, prairie dogs, rabbits, foxes, and dogs.
Communion on the Moon: July 20th,
“Forty-one years ago today two
human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon.
But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module
is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. I’m
talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the
moon. A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting him myself. I asked
him about it and he confirmed the story to me, and I wrote about in my book Everything You Always
Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid
to Ask). The background to the story is
that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas, and he would soon
be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the
occasion somehow and asked his pastor to help him. And so the pastor
consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. Aldrin
took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon.
He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar
surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public
statement: “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.” He then ended radio communication and there, on the
silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the
Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what
“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.’ I had intended to read my communion passage back to
earth, but at the last minute they [NASA] 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. 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.” 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
grant me the grace of
wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, and awe
me in every crevice of Your universe. Delight
me to see how Your Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and
lovely in eyes not His, to the Father through the features of men’s faces. Each
day enrapture me with Your marvelous
things without number. I do not ask to
see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.
Joshua Abraham Heschel.
Sir James Jeans,
the famous British astronomer, once said, “The Universe appears to have been
designed by a Pure Mathematician.”
Joseph Campbell wrote of “a perception of a cosmic order, mathematically
definable.” As they contemplated the
order of the earth, the solar system, and the stellar universe, scientists and
scholars have concluded that the Master Planner left nothing to chance.
slant of the earth, for example, tilted at an angle of twenty-three degrees,
produces our seasons. Scientists tell us
that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans
would move both north and south, piling up vast continents of ice.
moon were only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 250,000, the tides might
be so enormous that all continents would be submerged in water – even the mountains
would be eroded. If the crust of the
earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, and without it
all animal life would die.
oceans been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been
absorbed and no vegetable life would exist.
earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons [that’s a six with
twenty-one zeros]. Yet it is perfectly
balanced and turns easily on its axis.
It rotates daily at the rate of more than a thousand miles per hour, or
25,000 miles per day. This adds up to
nine million miles a year. Considering
the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around
an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitation, the words of
Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He poised the earth on
earth revolves in its own orbit around the sun, making the long elliptical
circuit of about six hundred million miles each year – which means we are
traveling through space at nineteen miles per second or about 68000 miles per
further invites us to meditate on “the marvelous works of God” [37:14].
Consider the sun. Every square yard of the sun’s surface is
emitting a constant energy level of 130,000 horsepower [that is, approximately
450 eight-cylinder automotive engines] in flames that are being produced by an
energy source much
more powerful than coal.
major planets in our solar system range in distance from the sun from 36
million to about 3,664 million miles; yet each moves around the sun in exact
precision, with orbits ranging from88 days for Mercury to 248 years for Pluto.
the sun is only one minor star among the 100 billion burning orbs that comprise
the Milky Way galaxy. If you were to
hold out a dime at arm’s length while gazing at the night sky, the coin would
block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes could see with that
attempt to comprehend the almost countless stars and other heavenly bodies in
our galaxy alone, we resonate to Isaiah’s paean of praise to the all-powerful
Creator: “Lift your eyes and look:
He who created these things leads out their
army in order, summoning each of them by name.
So mighty is His power, so great is His strength, that not one fails to
answer” [40:26]. Small wonder that David
our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the world! Whoever keeps singing
of Your majesty higher
than the heavens, even through the mouths of children, or of babes in arms, You
make him a fortress, firm against Your foes, to subdue the enemy and the
rebel. I look up at Your heavens, shaped
by Your fingers, at the moon and the stars You set firm, what are human beings
that You spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that You care for him?
discloses a power that baffles our minds and beggars our speech. We are enamored
and enchanted by God’s
power. We stutter and stammer about
go out into a desert of some kind [your backyard will do] and come into a
personal experience of the awesome love of God.
Then we will nod in knowing agreement with that gifted English mystic
Julian of Norwich, “The greatest honor we can give the Almighty God is to live
gladly because of the knowledge of His love.”
We shall understand why, as Kittel’s Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament notes, that in the last years of his life
on the island of Patmos, the apostle John wrote, and wrote with magnificent
monotony, of the love of Jesus Christ.
As if for the first time, we shall grasp what Paul meant when he said,
“But however much sin increased, grace was always greater; so
that as sin’s reign brought death, so grace
was to rule
through saving justice that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our
Lord” [Romans 5:20-21]. [Essay
taken from Brennan Manning in his book
The Ragamuffin Gospel].