Summary: The Lord’s Supper is so significant that when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin because the first people in history to walk on the Moon, Aldrin celebrated the auspicious occasion by taking the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus never asked His disciples to remember His birth. But He did instruct them to remember His death and resurrection. He gave the church two visible symbols (called “ordinances”) as reminders of His death. These two ordinances are: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is an object lesson that represents a great spiritual truth for believers.
When I was a child growing up in church, I welcomed the times we took the Lord’s Supper in my little church back in Kentucky. I did not welcome it because I was a super-spiritual teenager. I welcomed it because it cut-down on the amount of sermon from our pastor. I greatly underestimated the importance of this memorial meal.
The Lord’s Supper is so significant that when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin because the first people in history to walk on the Moon, Aldrin celebrated the auspicious occasion by taking the Lord’s Supper. In 1969, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, a congregation just outside of Houston, Texas. He told the lead pastor of his church, Dean Woodruff, that he had “been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing.” Aldrin got the idea for the communion ceremony while at Cape Kennedy working with the “sophisticated tools of the space effort.” “I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man,” Aldrin said.
Aldrin got busy with preparation ahead of the launch. The communion bread was carried in a plastic packet, the way regular inflight food is wrapped. Because there was just enough gravity on the moon for liquid to pour, Aldrin wanted to pour the wine into a chalice from his church. The pastor had presented him a silver cup that was small and light enough that it could be carried in the astronaut’s personal-preference kit.
Aldrin described the surreal ceremony this way: “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.” Before taking the elements he read the words of John 15:5 that he had handwritten on a scrap of paper: “I am the vin, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fuirt, for you can do nothing without me.” Fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong looked on quietly but did not participate. Aldrin later said that taking communion on the moon was his way of giving thanks to God for the success of the mission.
Down south of here at Webster Presbyterian church, the spiritual home of many astronauts, Aldrin's communion service is still celebrated every July, known as Lunar Communion Sunday. Pastor Helen DeLeon told me how they replay the tape of Aldrin on the moon and recite Psalm eight, which he had quoted on his return trip to Earth ("… what is man that thou art mindful of him"). The church still holds the chalice that Aldrin brought back with him.
The truth is the Lord’s Supper is a big deal even if it was never celebrated on the lunar surface.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.