Where can I flee from Your Presence?

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion. (Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

History.com reported that when Apollo 11‘s Eagle lunar module landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to do something very difficult: Wait.

They were scheduled to open the door of their lunar lander and step onto the unknown surface of a completely different world. But for now, their mission ordered them to take a pause before the big event.

And so Aldrin spent his time doing something unexpected, something no man had ever attempted before. Alone and overwhelmed by anticipation, he took part in the first Christian sacrament ever performed on the moon—a rite of Christian communion.

Aldrin’s lunar communion has since become shrouded in mystery and confusion, but the rite itself was relatively simple.The astronaut was also an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, and before he headed into space in 1969, he got special permission to take bread and wine with him to space and give himself communion.

Men had already prayed in space, but Aldrin was about to go one step further—literally and figuratively. Part of his mission was not just to land on the moon, but to walk on it. To prepare, he took communion after the Eagle lunar module landed on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility during an hours-long downtime period designed to let the astronauts recover from their space flight and prepare for their moon walk.

The mood on the module was sober. Both Armstrong and Aldrin knew how important their mission was. “I was certainly aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade and that the nation’s hopes and outward appearance largely rested on how the results came out,” Armstrong recalled in an oral history.

As the men prepared for the next phase of their mission, Aldrin got on the comm system and spoke to the ground crew back on Earth. “I would like to request a few moments of silence,” he said. “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.”

Then he reached for the wine and bread he’d brought to space—the first foods ever poured or eaten on the moon. “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,” he later wrote. Then, Aldrin read some scripture and ate. Armstrong looked on quietly but did not participate.

Though the press did report the fact that Aldrin would bring communion bread on the spacecraft, he kept the ceremony low-key and, out of respect for the debate over religion on the moon, kept the ceremony confined to the spacecraft and not the surface of the moon.

Aldrin wasn’t the only astronaut to experience religious rituals in space. In 1994, three Catholic astronauts took Holy Communion on board Space Shuttle Endeavor. Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon reportedly recited the Jewish Shabbat Kiddush prayer in space (he later died when Space Shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003). And Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov took a relic of St. Serafim of Sarov, a Russian Orthodox saint, to space in 2017.

The first space communion was only experienced by two men, but it hasn’t been forgotten by the wider world. Lunar Communion Sunday is still celebrated annually at Webster Presbyterian and elsewhere to commemorate the event [it was Sunday July 20th when they landed on the moon].

In his 2010 memoir, he wrote that he’d come to wonder if he’d done the right thing by celebrating a Christian ritual in space. “We had come to space in the name of all mankind—be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists,” he wrote. “But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.”

Source: History.com


The Psalmist captures the sense that there is nowhere in all creation one can escape the presence – and thus – the impulse to worship God:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea [moon],
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.


In what remote place on earth (or elsewhere) have you celebrated communion?

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Can you calm down?

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I have felt called by music like I never have before.⁣⁣ I have been following its lead.⁣⁣ It has led me to the song “A Perfect Way to Die”.⁣⁣ The song title is so powerful and heartbreaking because WE are heartbroken by so many who have died unjustly.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Of course, there is NO perfect way to die. That phrase doesn’t even make sense. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Just like it doesn’t make sense that there are so many innocent lives that should not have been taken from us due to the destructive culture of police violence. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Sometimes I don’t have the words and music is the only thing that can speak.⁣⁣ I hope this speaks to you.⁣⁣ I hope one day this song won’t be so relevant.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Let’s NEVER stop fighting for justice.

A post shared by Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) on

A Perfect Way to Die

Simple walk to the corner store
Mama never thought she would be gettin’ a call from the coroner
Said her son’s been gunned down, been gunned down
“Can you come now?”

Tears in her eyes, “can you calm down?
Please, ma’am, can you calm down?”

But it rained fire in the city that day, they say
A river of blood in the streets
No love in the streets
And then came silence in the city that day, they say
Just another one gone
And they tell her, move on

And she’s stuck there, singing
“Baby, don’t you close your eyes
‘Cause this could be our final time
And you know I’m horrible at saying goodbye
And I think of all you could have done
At least you’ll stay forever young
I guess you picked the perfect way to die
Oh, I guess you picked the perfect way to die”

New job, new city, new her
Bright-eyed, you would have been proud if you knew her
Flashing lights in the mirror, “pull over, pull over”
A couple nights in detention and it’s over, a whole life’s over

They came marching in the city that day, they say
Carryin’ signs in the streets
Cryin’ eyes in the streets
But they heard nothing from the city that day, they say
Just another one gone
And the city moved on

We’re stuck here singing
“Baby, don’t you close your eyes
‘Cause this could be our final time
And you know I’m horrible at saying goodbye
I’ll think of all you coulda done
At least you’ll stay forever young
I guess you picked the perfect way to die
Oh, I guess you picked the perfect way to die”

Another dream lost
Another king and queen lost
Another broken promise they refuse to make right
Oh, another night to live in fear
Oh, another night that you’re not here
Another reason to get out there and fight

But I say, “baby, don’t you close your eyes
‘Cause this could be our final timeAnd you know I’m horrible at saying goodbye

But I’ll think of all you coulda done
At least you’ll stay forever young
I guess you picked the perfect way to die
Oh, I guess you picked the perfect way

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Alicia Augello-Cook / Sebastian Kole
Perfect Way To Die lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Among the names of the many Black lives lost

In her lyrics Keys imagines a Coroner calling the mother of a deceased son to come identify his body. We listen in to hear the Coroner plead:

“Please, ma’am, can you calm down?”

I don’t know.

I don’t know if you should even ask any mother who has lost a child to racial killing to calm down.

I don’t know if she can; I don’t know if we can… or when we can calm down.

All I know is that we cannot expect peace, if we cannot have justice.

All I know is that we should expect more rivers of blood until we recognize the fountain of blood shed by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

All I know is the Prince of Peace is a just judge, and He is first to fill the gap that alienates us from God, from others, and from ourselves.

Lord have mercy…

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The Place for the Ship is in the Sea

In his book on the life of 19th century evangelist, D.L. Moody (A Passion for Souls), Lyle W. Dorsett tells the story of a return trip Moody took back to the U.S. on the German steamer, the Spree.  Leaving on November 23, 1892 from Southhampton, England en route to New York, the seas were choppy.  Four days in and in the middle of the Atlantic, the main shaft of the propellor broke and fragments exploded causing the Spree to take on water. They floundered for three days till a Canadian freighter, the Lake Huron, happened upon them and towed the Spree for eight days to Queenstown, Ireland.

Dorsett would write:

Moody never forget the Spree, its cracked hull, and God’s great mercy.  He often spoke of the rescue, the courage of her crew, and the miraculous escape. As difficult as those days must have been at times, Moody suffered more agony and sleeplessness over the wounded church than he did over the wreck of the Spree.

He laboured tirelessly to bring unity among Christians, inviting people from ever conceivable regiment of God’s army to help rescue and nurture souls.

Thus the allusion to the opening quote above. In response to this, Tullian Tchividjian writes:

We need to avoid being culturally removed – failing to be “in the world,” like a ship out of water. We also need to avoid being culturally relaxed – becoming “of the world”, like a ship being submerged.

But this is the state of the western Church today. The sea is in the floundering ship, and there are many holes in her hull.  Eugene Peterson laments in his memoir, The Pastor:

[The] lack of common cause resulted in what it seemed to me was a lot of religious clutter, much of what struck me as an accumulation of trivia. My imagination had been schooled in the company of Moses and David; my congregation kept emotional company with television celebrities and star athletes. I was reading Karl Barth and John Calvin; they were reading Ann Landers and People magazine.


All this inspired me to write:

Seeping through every dried-out shiplap board

this boat has not been at sea for a very long time.

 

Now hands are sore for pulling ropes

Sails torn by rot

Block and tackle rusted in place, useless.

Barnacles encrust the once sleek hull,

her crew drunk and forgetful of their tasks.

 

The place for the ship is in the sea,

God help it when the sea is in the ship.


Pray that I would have God’s spiritual energy to continue “to labour tirelessly to bring unity among Christians, and invite people from ever conceivable regiment of God’s army to help rescue and nurture souls.”

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And the People Stayed Home


This poem has been making the rounds, falsely attribute someone named Kathleen O’Mara in 1869, and then falsely said to have been reprinted in 1919 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. This poem is actually written during this COVID-19 pandemic by author Kitty O’Meara.

O’Meara posted this to her blog The Daily Round on March 16, 2020. It went viral (no pun intended), racking up thousands of shares as it circulated on social media. On March 19, Oprah Magazine dubbed O’Meara, a former teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, the “poet laureate of the pandemic.”  Since she wasn’t seeking online fame, it’s all been “embarrassing” to her. “I hope it’s over, because that’s not what I ever longed for.”

A former teacher and chaplain, O’Meara is now retired. She said, the poem “offers a story of how it could be, what we could do with this time.”  It was written in one sitting, the byproduct of months of built-up anxiety while watching the pandemic brew on the news.

“I was anxious for the past few months. I knew this was coming and I couldn’t be of service,” O’Meara tells OprahMag.com. After years working in palliative care, O’Meara is especially concerned for her friends who still work in the health care profession and are on the frontlines of battling the virus.

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Come back to me my dear child

I was in Singapore when the Covid 19 virus began to gain pandemic momentum. One Sunday, Pastor Wei-en prayed this prayer with his congregation:

My dear child,

I remember the day you were born. You came into this world naked, empty and vulnerable. I looked on you with love and saw how beautiful you were even then, for you were and are made in my image. I gave you parents and caregivers who took care of your physical needs, teachers and mentors to guide you. I provided for your every need according to my riches in glory. And with each passing day, you grew.

Somewhere along the way, when I knew you were ready, I revealed myself to you and called you to myself. Remember that moment when you first understood the depth of my love and forgiveness for you through the death of my Son Jesus? Remember the relief you felt when you realized you did not have to bear your guilt any longer?  Remember the joy you had when you gave your life to me? Remember that feeling of stepping out of darkness into my wonderful light? Remember the freedom you found when you decided you would let me lead you and you could stop depending on yourself to make it through life? Remember the hunger you had for me – how excited you were to listen to me through my Word, and entrust every decision, big or small, to me through prayer?

Yes, I remember those times very well too, my dear child.

What has happened since then? Have the gifts I have given you – your education, your work, your home, your money, your possessions, your gadgets, your family, your children, your friends, your health, your ministry, your leisure – brought you closer to me or led you further away from me? Have the difficulties I have allowed you to experience drawn you deeper into my grace that is always sufficient for you, or have they hardened your heart towards me? Am I still in the centre of your plans, your passions and your pain?

Come back to me, my dear child. I am waiting for you. Come and experience the joy of my salvation anew. Come and enjoy your first love once again.

Your Heavenly Father


In times like these, we need perspective. Pastor Wei-en of Bible Church wrote that these are “words from God to us loosely adapted from Ezekiel 16.”

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Delightful Isolation

Image: Crosswalk.com

Delightful isolation!

By happy chance I would not

have wanted to be alone with anyone

but you; and here we are in quarantine.

 

All those primordial promises

Made with rapturous innocence

Now find themselves weighted with life and time and love

Showing up as immense investments made long ago.

 

How could we have known

The journey we have taken?

We were euphoric fools skipping from the altar

headlong into covenantal duty.

 

Who could have predicted our path?

The children, the misses, the breaks, the falls?

The failures and successes that masked themselves

in the camouflage of life?

 

Now is the joy of contentment not ecstasy.

Now is the moment of truth.

Now is our best year

For it is the now of being together with you.

 

May this be a satisfying solitude

whereby happy chance I am

not alone with anyone but you

here in delightful isolation.

Delightful Isolation, for our 37th wedding anniversary; for such a time as this.
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When It’s all over

A girl sings from the window during the flash mob, March 13, 2020. Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Image

 

And when the contagion curve goes down

and governments announce that ‘we have done it’

please please

do not return to immortality

don’t put on the invincible suit again

of unbreakable

of insufferable

do not forget what you have felt

please please

be vulnerable forever

Keep singing on the balconies

Keep applauding the cleaning ladies

to the cashiers, to your mothers

do not forget that you are only human

that you are fragile

that you are finite

and take care of life, the planet

and to all the beings of the world 

until the day of your death

as if you learned something.

Taken from “Minga Verde Permacultura


A tender, gentle nudge to live as if we’ve learned something. Let it be.

May we walk from here with humility.

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