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Man on the Moon
July 20, 1969

All over the earth there’s just a few hours left before the lunar module is detached from Apollo 11 and lands on the moon. We wait as the most ambitious, amazing, dangerous space project progresses in breathtaking steps. We pray for their safety, “Lord, guard and guide the men who fly the great spaces of the sky.” At the same time all over the world, the excitement and the anticipation of this moment is almost uncontrollable. Who would have believed that in your lifetime—in my lifetime— two men would walk on the face of that ancient source of beauty, mystery and wonder—the moon?

Neil Armstrong himself echoed the wishes and dreams of so many of us. Many years ago on a warm spring night after his high school graduation, he stood on the back porch with his science teacher, John Christ. He looked up and he said, “Mr. Christ, someday I'm going to be up there. Someday I’m going to be on that moon.” In just a few hours he will fulfill not only his own ambition, but the dreams of mankind for centuries—to walk on the moon. Men have always loved the frontiers and explore the uncharted lands, to discover. We’ve always been captivated by the unknown.

A few years ago, everyone was hanging their heads and thinking the frontiers were no more, but then we were excited by the snowmobile expedition to the North Pole, and hopefully to the South Pole.

Then our imaginations were triggered by the wonder and the mystery of the ocean—what’s in the depths of the ocean, another frontier.

Or perhaps one of the most mysterious frontiers of all is that of inner space. What is in this thing called matter? Scientists have not yet isolated the entity in matter that cannot be broken into component parts. We have not yet found the basic substance, or whatever we call it, that is unsplittable. And so we explore another frontier.

Today there are dramatic frontiers in the spirit of Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Roald Amundsen, Neil Armstrong and everyone involved in making brilliant history in our lifetime. The Star captured the feeling of this event in a Wednesday editorial titled “Restless Men’s New Adventure,” “Today’s plan for landing on the moon is, in a sense, only an episode in restless man's exploration of the outreaches of his environment. It has often been said with regret that the frontiers of America are no more. But it is part of the genius of man that he creates new frontiers. Or God created them and man is accepting the challenge to probe them.”

On the other hand, we hear some radio preachers and read articles in many religious publications denouncing the whole space program, saying that if God wanted us up there, he would have put us there in the first place. I wonder what kind of a Bible those people read, certainly not our Bible. No wonder some get disillusioned with the church to hear remarks like that. So many people try to put the church in the untenable and unbiblical position of supporting the status quo and being against anything new, any kind of progress. The spirit of the Bible always is GO. The first historical event of the Bible is when God called Abraham and said, “Go. Leave your land of Ur and go to this new country to which I will lead you.” God called the little band of slaves out of Egypt and said.” Go! Go to the promised land.” Jesus calls us to lay side the garments of this world and go to the kingdom of God. And even life in him is characterized as like being born all over again, a new dynamic, vital experience. And now God calls us to go to the vast areas of space, starting with the moon.

The moon has long been an object of man’s interest. We’re all familiar with poets and songwriters associating the moon with romance. But there's also much mention of the moon in the Bible. I did a little research reading all the verses where the moon is mentioned in the Bible. The moon caused conflict in the early days for many ancient persons worshiped the moon, worshiped the sun and the stars, called them deities. And when this little band of Hebrew slaves got into the land of Canaan and came in contact with this religious custom, they were confused. As the years went by, most of the people adopted this new kind of religion. Altars were built on which they could worship the moon. They would also climb up on rooftops and salute the moon as it made its path across the sky.

In 621 BC, King Josiah instituted religious reform for the Jews.The sovereignty of God over his creation was honored. 2 Kings 23, “The king commanded Hilkiah the high priest bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal…And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings..and those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens.” So a lot written in the book of Deuteronomy was a warning for the children of Israel and it's a warning for us today also. Deuteronomy 4:19, “Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them.” The moon in the Hebrew faith is not an object of worship, but a symbol of the creative power and majesty of God. The first chapter of Genesis tells us that God placed the moon in the firmament of heaven that it may light the world.

The ancient people of that time worshiped the moon and called it a deity. The Hebrew faith came along and said, “Our God put it there! Our God placed it in the firmament and our God's will keeps it there.” Not only did the Hebrews say that God invented the moon and placed it there, God can even use it according to God's will. In those passages which deal with the end of the present age, when things revert to chaos, the passages say the moon will be dying. Then when God triumphs over the evil forces, the moon will shine again and the Lord himself will provide his everlasting, eternal life—the moon in accordance with God's will.

The poor moon all through the centuries has suffered superstition and has been blamed for an awful lot. We even see some of the superstition in the Bible. The full moon even was thought to exert an evil influence on people. And stories like Dracula go way back in history. Even in Jesus’ day, when he healed the people, some of them were called in the literal Greek, “moonstruck”. When translated into English, various other words are used, although even in English, we have a word that is the literal translation of the Greek word called “lunatic”. Luna is a word for moon. The emotionally ill, mentally ill have been blamed on the full moon for many centuries. The poor moon has suffered much; now we'll find out just what is out there.

In the last few days and today, we're going to be bombarded with all kinds of coverage. The newspapers are full of it. And I suppose you wonder why we have to go to church to hear all about it too! I want to mention on this most exciting day a perspective and a dimension that is not found in the mass media. On a day like this in the history of mankind, our faith has much to say. We who call ourselves  Christians can bring a perspective and dimension to this day which will enhance central tenets of relevance and meaning to life. Today is an opportunity for us to express our faith and commit ourselves more fully to God’s great work. Couldn’t we use this as an opportunity to commit ourselves, and to pray that the whole world would commit itself to the task of advancing the cause of human life as rapidly as we have advanced the technological? All systems our go in technology. As the fantastic feats are performed, all systems are go! But, way behind the technological advancements are human relations and human life. When we can build a machine to send men to walk on the moon, why can't we rid this world of disease, poverty and war? We can design a $55 million machine to take them to the moon. Why can’t we feed the two thirds of the world that goes hungry every night? Why can't everyone live in a decent house? Why can’t everyone receive an adequate education? Why do we have to build nuclear weapons? Why do we have to send young men to die on foreign battlefields? Why can’t we live in peace? Why can’t we build a society as well as machines? Why not?

Now that we have overcome the forces that have held men to the face of the earth, why can't we overcome the age-old forces of hate, selfishness, greed, striving for power and striving for wealth that hold men in poverty? It's much easier to overcome gravity than it is to help people overcome. It’s much easier to build machines than to build people. A few months ago, do you remember the garbage collector in New York City who said,  “I don't know why the teachers get more money than I. After all I have to ride around in the back of a truck all winter. Without garbage collectors you will see a diseased world. Garbage collection is very honest profession.” I do think it is more difficult to work with children and youth than it is to ride on the back of a truck in wintertime.

I spent the summer in camping where it's easy to work with children and youth. So now that we have made some terrific advancements in space, can’t we make life better on this earth for people? Can’t some of the billions that we pour into the space program and some of the billions we pour into war pour more than peanuts into education? We put the peanut shells into rebuilding our cities and rehabilitating people. Priorities need to be re-examined and maybe today as the whole world looks up to the moon, may we pray that somehow we make all systems go to make life better for people.

As we look at the moon today, as we watch TV, I can't help but think of the vastness of what God has given us. He's given us the task of stewardship. God has entrusted to us the earth, and now even the universe is open to us. May we take this occasion as an opportunity to take better care of what he's given us. No, it doesn't really take too much money to take better care of what he's given us. Do we have to throw our candy wrappers out the window? Do we have to clutter up God’s earth? Can’t we be better stewards of what he has given us? Do we have to leave our messes on campgrounds, in picnic areas and on beaches where we try to enjoy public beaches amidst the clutter of trash? Do we have to do that? We're very old fashioned when we go canoeing and camping. We still say the old fashioned saying: leave this place better than we found it, but why? iI was dirty when we got here! We are stewards. This is God’s earth given to us to take care of, and we pour our garbage and our filth into the rivers. We kill off Lake Minnetonka. Our Camp Frontenac down in Red Wing has to transport its campers this summer to a Roman Catholic swimming pool because the Mississippi River cannot be swum in—it’s so contaminated. We can send a man to the moon but we can’t keep our garbage out of the rivers. We can fly through the air but we can't keep it clean to breathe. I wonder if we're going to make the moon a refuse center, if we’re going to throw candy bar wrappers all over Saturn and add filth to the water on Mars. Can’t we take better care of what God has given us and who has opened to us the whole universe for our exploration? I think that is the perspective we should bring to bear on the great adventure today so that it would cause us to commit ourselves to improve life for humans, and to take better care of what we’ve been given.

There's a dimension that people who call themselves Christians can enjoy what happens today, and make this an opportunity for us to praise God for what has never been open to us before. We are the first people who've ever lived who can praise God for being able to walk on the moon! When a Christian lifts up his eyes and sees the heavens— the sun, moon and stars—he sees them as God’s gift to us. And we praise him. We sing the Doxology every Sunday, “Praise him all ye heavenly host.” The heavenly host includes the moon, the stars and the sun. All creation joins us  in praising our great God. “How great thou art.”

When the psalmist lifted up his eyes to heaven, he saw God’s love, which most people don't see. When we see the moon in the sky, we see God's love. Psalm 134, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far he’ll remove our transgressions from us.” The Psalmist had no conception of how high heaven really is, and how far the east really is from the west. But he saw the evidence of God's love and care for us. May the full impact of God’s sovereignty, majesty and love move us today.

Also, when the psalmist was in distress, when he was in trouble, when his enemies were at hand, when everything was going wrong, then he looked to heaven where he found comfort. Psalm 97 tells us the heavens proclaim His righteousness. The heavens proclaim God’s faithfulness. God can be trusted, He can be relied upon. His word can be believed. When grief strikes us, when death strikes us, when disease hits our bodies, when problems, tensions and anxieties hit us, then we can trust God. We know he will see us through. Why? Because we look at the moon. It rises. It sets. It follows the natural order around the earth.

Let the heavens proclaim. Let the heavens testify. “Oh Thou, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth.” Let us praise God’s grace. Let it well up within us as we rejoice over all that God has given us! What a great life and what a great time in which to be alive!

© 1969 Douglas I. Norris