July 23, 2019

Remembering the Earth Landing

We’ve just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “great leap for mankind” moon landing. It was an exciting, significant time in the history of our planet.

Most of those old enough to remember it will talk about how they gathered around television sets watching live, grainy, black-and-white images on television as Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.

After the landing of the lunar module, Aldrin asked for everyone listening in to “pause and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

In the silence that followed, he read the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Then he took the bread and wine (for a private communion) he’d brought with him for the occasion.

Later Aldrin wondered whether he should have done that because the astronauts knew they were representing all humankind, whatever their belief.

“But at the time, I could think of no better way to acknowledge the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.”

Stepping down the steps of the lunar module to the moon’s surface, Armstrong gave his prepared line: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

He spoke truth.

A couple of years later, in 1971, Jim Irwin spent three days on the moon. He’s best remembered for images of him bouncing across the moon’s surface in a moon buggy. He was the first human to drive on the moon.

He recalls an occasion when he stood on the moon looking at the earth. He stretched his hand out, thumb up, and closed one eye. The earth was lost behind his thumb.

In a sense, the whole of our planet was under his thumb. For Irwin, it made him feel “terrifyingly small.”

We can say our planet is just another rock in the universe. Yes, it sustains life. Intelligent life. Life that’s creative enough to send humans across inhospitable space and land them on the moon.

However, in the big picture of the universe, earth is insignificant.

But not to God. And He demonstrated that by an earth landing in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago with the birth of Jesus. It is what makes our planet great. Significant.

It isn’t because of who we are, what we’ve become, or our abilities or wisdom. God makes the difference.

“God so loved the world that He gave.” That’s one giant leap for humankind.

The original version of this commentary was posted by Adventist Record.