One Giant Leap

News this morning of Neil Armstrong’s death will make anyone who remembers the moon-landings immediately turn back in their minds to that extraordinary event.

I find myself able (just able) to join them. The landings are the first event that I can date which I have any memory of. I particularly remember my parents waking me up and taking me outside to look at the moon by way of sharing their excitement that there was someone up there.

My memory of that night means I can remember the 1960s, though only just. I am, part of the space age. I can’t, to my regret remember the Beatles who were still going at that time and I don’t think I can accurately place anything else that happened in the decade of my birth.

Neil Armstrong’s story is one of incredible bravery and courageous endeavor.

I remember being particularly moved by the release not long ago of the statement that the American President would have made if they had not been able to get the astronauts home.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Anyone searching for a last-minute sermon illustration to match this morning’s gospel reading (which is yet another piece from the gospels about the bread of life) might well look towards the story about Armstrong’s colleague taking communion bread and wine to the moon to ensure that the first meal eaten there was the sacrament.

Rest in Peace, Neil Armstrong. You took one giant leap. Now you take one more.


Today is the anniversary of something special. I know you know that it is the anniversary of the moon landings, but I bet you don’t know why that is special to me.

Well, that event forty years ago is my first memory. Or, at least, it is the first memory that I can accurately date. Just like Kirstin, I can remember being woken up in the night and taken outside to look at the moon and I remember being told that there were people on it for the first time. I was a little younger than Kirstin too, I was three.

The moon has always fascinated people. It is part of our religious life, determining the date of Easter and consequently all kinds of other things like Mothering Sunday (in the UK at least), some holiday dates in some educational establishments and the date of bank holidays. At least, it is supposed to be the moon that does that. In fact, the moon calculation we use to determine Easter is way out of date and far from accurate. It is based on a virtual moon, not an actual moon.

My Muslim neighbours, of course, rely even more on the moon, to determine the start of months and hence religious festivals.

Perhaps the moon is so strange and alluring because it seems plausible to even the smallest child, that it is an other world. A different place to here. A place where things could be, but must essentially be different to here. The stars don’t do that for me. Lightyears separate me from being able to think about them coherently as other worlds. But the moon seems near and yet far, elegent and gentle, somewhere betwixt here and there.

[NB – Easter Calculation details are here].