Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sabbaths on the Moon

This year's theme for the Interfaith Families Project is "sabbaths"; the value of taking time off from our daily routines to acknowledge our fortune and connect us with our world. But, we learned today, "out of this world" experiences aren't excluded from Sabbaths either. Our spiritual advisor, Rev. Julia Jarvis, shared with us a dream she had recently. In it, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong had written a message in the sky: "Don't forget to breathe."

I'm sure when Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, and Armstrong was the first human being to walk on the moon, that they did have to remind themselves to breathe. But on at least two of the moon missions--Apollo 8, which orbited the moon at Christmas 1968, and Apollo 11, which first landed on the moon a little more than six months later, the astronauts actually created sacred spaces within their spacecraft.

The Apollo 8 crew read the Creation story
from Genesis while in lunar orbit...
The first example is better known. On Christmas Eve 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders) made an historic TV broadcast in which they read the Creation story from Genesis. Watching it on YouTube this afternoon, it still raised goosebumps.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a well-known atheist activist at the time, had brought a lawsuit following the Genesis reading. So when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Buzz Aldrin gave himself communion aboard the lunar module after offering following suggestion to those listening on the ground:

...and Buzz Aldrin took communion on the
lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission.
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.

In these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we think about, among other things, how to keep the sacred in our lives, I'm touched by these explorer's simple efforts to create spaces for the sacred-- that could accomodate faiths in addition to their own. I also can't help but be affected by the way that they were moved to do so when their experiences simply defied words.

L'Shanah Tovah. And may we be inspired by these otherworldly Sabbaths.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post! Never heard of this history though my Dad was an avid NASA fan. Thanks for sharing.