Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Edwin Aldrin


Edwin Aldrin, better known as Buzz Aldrin, turned 85 last January. If he can celebrate a few more birthdays he will be on track to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing on January 20th. Aldrin piloted the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) to the surface of the moon and landed it at 20:18 UTC on July 20, 1969. Six hours later at 02:56 UTC on July 21, 1969. Neil Armstrong and he stepped onto the surface of the moon.

Aldrin, an elder in the Webster Presbyterian Church, had decided to take a home communion kit with him on the flight to the lunar surface. While still in the LM he spoke these words over the radio contact with mission control.
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. (Listen to the recording here)
He then read a portion of the Bible to himself, ate a small piece of bread, and drank a tiny chalice of wine as a brief ceremony known as communion. Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas has the chalice used for communion on the Moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20 with what has come to be known as Lunar Communion Sunday.

Buzz Aldrin has lived an incredible life which has been described in his book Magnificent Desolation. It tells of moments of greatness like his contributions to the Apollo landing and his discovery of an Earth/Mars orbit called the Aldrin Cycler; but it also tells of times of depression, alcoholism, and marital struggle. Aldrin later stated that he has now had second thoughts about how he celebrated the moon landing.
Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind -- be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God. It was my hope that people would keep the whole event in their minds and see, beyond minor details and technical achievements, a deeper meaning -- a challenge, and the human need to explore whatever is above us, below us, or out there.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin is certainly an interesting and complex man. He has the capacity to inspire us to do great things and dream big. He has also learned to give thanks and live a grateful life. May he inspire us to do the same.

Works Cited:
Huffington Post, The Moon Communion Of Buzz Aldrin That NASA Didn't Want To Broadcast; Posted: 07/19/2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/19/moon-communion-buzz-aldrin_n_5600648.html
Webster Presbyterian Church website; http://www.websterpresby.org/content.cfm?id=314
Wikipedia, Buzz Aldrin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_Aldrin 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Postcards from Pluto

The latest images from the New Horizons spacecraft, which is headed for a rendezvous with Pluto on July 14th, show a series of four dark spots on the lower edge of the visible disc. The pictures were taken on June 25th and 27th when the vehicle was approximately 22 million kilometers from Pluto. Some are speculating that these spots may be evidence of clouds in the atmosphere and the shadows those clouds create on the dwarf planet's surface. Analysts will continue to watch for other developments as New Horizons continues to approach Pluto and its moon Charon. The atmosphere of Pluto is certainly one of the significant aspects of study for this probe and New Horizons raced to get to the planet before the atmosphere could freeze over on its long journey away from the sun (see my previous blog here).

Click on this image to see a larger picture.

NASA's website will have more images and live commentary as the probe gets closer to her July 14th flyby. Check back with them regularly for more information.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Meditation for a New Day



I have not read much of John Calvin, but it is worthwhile to meditate upon these words:
This is the wondrous exchange [mirifica commutatio] made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.- John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion.
 May we all experience this wondrous exchange.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Redeeming Sexuality




Debra Hirsch has written her first solo book and I want to highly recommend it. Hirsch previously wrote Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship with her husband Alan Hirsch and now she turns to the topic of sexuality with her book, Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality. In it she reveals much about her own journey of faith and the course her understanding of sexuality has taken from early adolescence to her current understanding.

What makes this book so good is the way she adopts and explains a hermeneutical approach that allows us to distinquish other difficult ethical and cultural issues from the issue of holistic sexuality. She desires that we see how intrinsic sexuality is to our very being and says, “Sexuality is written through every aspect of who we are. We need to adopt a view of sexuality that encompasses all of our humanity, not just our genitals.” (p. 70, 71)

Debra Hirsch starts from a very positive perspective on sex. She quotes James Nelson (Reuniting Sexuality and Spirituality) and reminds us that,
Actually, Christian theology at its best has recognized that sin is not fundamentally an act but rather the condition of alienation or estrangement out of which harmful acts may arise. However, it has taken a long time for theology to acknowledge that sexual sin is fundamentally alienation from our divinely intended sexuality.
To put it overly simply but I hope accurately: sexual sin lies not in being too sexual, but in being not sexual enough – in the way God intended us to be. Such alienation, indeed, usually leads to harmful acts, but the sin is rooted in the prior condition. (p. 78)

She also reminds the reader that we are all broken by sin and that our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the LGBTQ community are no more or less broken than those who find themselves outside of the LGBTQ community.
We all must turn, with all that we are (sexuality included), in order to receive saving grace. No one is excluded from this call, and there is certainly absolutely no room for self-righteousness, because we are all – at the end of the day and to the end of time – beggars showing the other beggars where to get the bread. (p. 122)
. . . all of us hobble into heaven and get there by grace. There is no room for self-righteousness and exclusion based on disputed interpretations on non-essential issues of the Bible. (p. 131)
In chapter 7, Hirsch also gives us a high view of celibacy and urges us to encourage those who make such a commitment. “. . . we need to take a fresh look again at celibacy; it’s not the spooky monster it’s made out to be.” (p. 129)

The hermeneutic she recommends to us comes from William J. Webb and is called the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic.” (p. 139-147) This allows Hirsch to come to a traditional understanding that homosexual activity is sinful alongside other forms of sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual). But, she then emphasises that we Christians have often been guilty of leading with theology. She suggests that we must instead “lead with our embrace.” (p. 145-147)

What Debra Hirsch is truly advocating is a church of grace and truth. She argues for a church that will allow people to belong before they believe and believe before they become sanctified. She is suggesting that the church must become a place of welcome where all may meet the saviour and make a decision for him and then begin the transformation of sanctification. On page 199 she states that
Centered-set thinking allows everyone to journey to Jesus in his or her own unique way, and we all end up perfectly unique in him (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). While we all might be heading in the same direction, our paths are different and we journey at a different pace.
I encourage us all to consider the thoughts presented in this great book.

Works Cited

Hirsch, Debra. Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Making Scientific Discovery Interesting



The Making of Ambition


Lukasz Sobisz, is the Technical Director of Simulation for Platige Image's film, Ambition. The film is directed by Tomek Baginski and stars Aidan Gillen and Aisling Franciosi. In an interview about the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission and the accompanying film, Ambition, Sobisz expressed his surprise that the European Space Agency would need the creative skills of the film-making company for which he works.
I'm very surprised you need something like this at all now. Mankind sends a probe into space to catch a comet and land on it, and we need a great director, film, and actors to convince people this is interesting.1
Works Cited:
Ambition. Directed by Tomak Baginski. Performed by Platige Image. 2014.
The Making of Ambition. Directed by Wojciech Jagiello. Performed by Lukasz Sobisz. 2014.

1 (Sobisz 2014)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rosetta and Philae: Hello My Friend, Hello



Rosetta and Philae Communicating Again

In November of 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft delivered the Philae lander to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (see my previous blog here). This represented the first soft landing of a spacecraft onto a comet. This in itself was a great accomplishment despite the fact that the mission did not go quite as planned. The Philae lander was intended to send back data on the composition of the comet but landed in a region where its solar panels were shaded by a cliff and, after 57 hours of operation, it could not recharge sufficiently to achieve all of its science operations. The onboard computers powered down into hibernation mode and its orbiting partner, the Rosetta spacecraft lost radio contact with the lander.

However, as anticipated, as the comet has continued its approach to the sun, and solar energy has become more intense, the Philae lander has been able to recharge sufficiently to reconnect with the Rosetta orbiter. The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that on June 19, 2015 several packets of lander information were delivered to Rosetta1. The two spacecraft are again communicating and this is a very hopeful sign for the mission analysts. The comet will make its closest approach to the sun on August 13 and the agency is hopeful that the increasing solar intensity will allow the lander to continue to gain charging capabilities and restart its science operations.

Meanwhile, the Rosetta spacecraft continues to send images and scientific data to earth as the ESA has extended its mission until September 2015. Rosetta will continue sending back images and data related to the comet while anticipating more data from the Philae lander. The European Space Agency continues to dream about how best to utilize both vehicles and is now considering landing Rosetta on the comet at the end of its lifespan. The ESA even has a cool mini-movie that addresses the importance of such missions that is designed to inspire ambition. Check it out here.

1 http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2015/06/19/rosetta-and-philae-in-contact-again/

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Broken From the Start



Jon Foreman (lead singer, guitarist, main songwriter for Switchfoot) has new solo music out. He released an EP to NoiseTrade called Old Seasons, New Day and one of the songs on that EP is called “Broken From the Start.”

In this song he is wrestling with his mortality with words like, “When our cords are cut that’s when we start to die” and “Lately every breath feels like I’m kissing death.” In the last verse he recognizes that as an artist he may never be truly respected until he is dead: “they still won't pay respect until you die.”

Why all of this pointing to death? The chorus gives us some insight.
If you hide yourself deep inside
Deep inside
In time you've got nothing left to hide
There's nothing left inside
Tonight, honey
I'm gonna break your heart
Mine was broken from the start
Broken from the start
Despite the fact that we are “born to die,” we cannot lock ourselves up deep inside. Our hearts need to be broken. We need to open ourselves to others and to someone greater than ourselves. There must be hope beyond the mortality of this life.
Broken From the Start
(words and music by Jon Foreman)
(Listen while you read the lyrics)

(Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
Life is a gift like fresh cut roses
Cut from the branch and brought inside
It's a slow contradiction, it's beauty in a vase
When our cords are cut that's when we start to die

(Oh)
Lately death and life get so confusing
I can't tell the difference here tonight
Lately every breath feels like I'm kissing death
And when time is dead I cease to be alive

If you hide yourself deep inside
Deep inside
In time you've got nothing left to hide
There's nothing left inside
Tonight, honey
I'm gonna break your heart
Mine was broken from the start
Broken from the start

(Oh)
Choice is the only thing we're given
For one to live another dies
One road says, "Hello"
The other says, "Goodbye"
And the rose that you don't choose begin to die
(Oh, oh)

If you hide yourself deep inside
Deep inside
In time you've got nothing left to hide
It dries up inside
Tonight, honey
I'm gonna break your heart
Mine was broken from the start
Broken from the start
Broken from the start
Broken from the start

They won't pay a cent to hear you laughing
They might pay a little to hear you cry
If you do it long enough
They might even pay attention
But they still won't pay respect until you die, die

If you hide yourself deep inside
Deep inside
In time you've got nothing left to hide
It's all dead inside
Tonight, honey
I'm gonna break your heart
Mine was broken from the start
Broken from the start