Notre Dame Fire and Communion on the Moon

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Credit: Earthrise by William Anders

Much has already been written and reported about the tragic fire causing severe damage to Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral earlier this week. My sadness joins that of many in the world.

Historical structures with cornerstones dating back to the early 12th century are priceless. More importantly, notwithstanding differences between Lutherans and Catholics, this cathedral has served as a place of worship for nine centuries. I hope and pray reconstruction will occur.

Today is Maundy Thursday, observed in the Christian Church throughout the world as the anniversary of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. It happened as Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples. Biblical accounts are Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23.

On several occasions I’ve written about the Lord’s Supper, aka Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Holy Eucharist, etc. But I don’t recall writing a Perspectives article that tells the story of Communion on the moon. So here we go.

Apollo 11 landed the first two human beings on the moon in July 1969. Those of us old enough to do so remember it well. It also marked the first occasion on which a Christian took the sacrament of Communion on an astronomical body other than Earth.

This event took place in the interval between the lunar module’s landing on the moon on July 20, 1969 and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface several hours later. During that period of time, astronaut Buzz Aldrin privately observed Holy Communion using elements he had brought with him to the moon.

Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life. Knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his pastor to help him. The pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon.

On the silent surface of the moon, nearly 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John and quietly took communion. Here is his own account of what happened:

“In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

“I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute Mission Control had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.”

“Then I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements. Neil [Armstrong] watched respectfully, but made no comment to me 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.”

Not incidentally, another astronaut has done the same. Col. Jeff Williams, longtime faithful member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston, communed numerous times during his lengthy stays aboard the International Space Station in 2006, 2009, and 2016, with sacramental elements consecrated at Gloria Dei.

I spoke with Jeff and his former pastor, Rev. John Kieschnick (my second cousin-once removed and very close friend) this week. Both men humbly and thankfully honor this wonderful spiritual and sacramental blessing from our Lord Jesus.

Regardless of where it is received, whether in a centuries old cathedral or on the moon, Holy Communion is a precious gift of God. It’s as close as a human can come to Christ this side of heaven. Receive it with a heart of thanks for God’s love, made real in the human being named Jesus, Savior of the world and Lord of the universe!

Terry and I pray that your observances of Holy Week and Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, will be blessed. And we pray for you and your family a joyous Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

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A Basketball Coach’s Prayer

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Credit: Wikipedia

As basketball fans know quite well, March Madness ended this past Monday night. In the final game, Virginia won the championship over Texas Tech in overtime. Numerous other games were played in a single elimination format. One loss and the team goes home.

After one of those earlier games, Virginia Tech’s Coach Buzz Williams prayed for the team’s three graduating students in the locker room following a two point loss to Duke in the Sweet 16. His prayer was a blessing and moved many to tears—even those who don’t follow college basketball.

Here are excerpts from an article by Megan Briggs, a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com:

Williams prayed for Ty Outlaw, Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill, players who have been with him for the majority of his five years as coach of Virginia Tech men’s basketball. According to sports commentators, these young men have built Virginia Tech into a respected contender on the national college basketball scene, a fact that is clearly not lost on Williams and is apparent in his prayers.

Coach Williams said: “These young men will lead Fortune 500 Companies and will be good men, not just looking to the immediate future, but also down the line.” Williams prayed for Robinson: “I pray for his life as a leader, I pray for his life as a father, I pray for his life as a husband. As he becomes the governor, as he becomes the mayor, as he becomes the head coach, anoint him with the opportunity to impact people’s lives.”

Williams thanked God for Outlaw’s and Hill’s respective mothers, who he says supported their sons to be able to go to school and play basketball.

Indicating that Hill had had a troubled past or difficult family situation, Williams said, “I pray that as he becomes a husband, the examples that he’s seen since he’s been here will break the cycle in his life. I pray that as he becomes a leader, as he becomes the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that he would continue to dispel every potential possible stereotype that’s been labeled to him.” 

Williams also prayed for the players to have humility. “God I pray that you would fill these guys with the right kind of humility and the right kind of love—that it’s not selfish, that it’s not for them…that they would know that the best kind of leadership is servant leadership.”

“Help them not to go astray. I pray that your spirit would guide the steps that they take.”

Williams ended his prayer assuring the players he would always be there for them. “Anytime you need a hamburger, anytime you need a place to stay, you call me. You’ll have my cell number the rest of your life…I will always take care of you. I will always take care of your mom.” 

“I’m incredibly thankful for the example you’ve set for my sons. I’m incredibly thankful for the example you’ve set for my daughters. Your character will always win,” Williams concluded.

It’s clear that character is a big theme in the Virginia Tech basketball program, and that Williams is an awesome coach. Telling the players he loves them, the heart of God the Father was on display that night in the locker room.

Interestingly, just a few days after losing to Duke, Coach Buzz Williams accepted the head basketball coaching position at Texas A&M, my alma mater. Regardless of the success of his team on the court, his godly influence will be a blessing!

As an added bonus, go to this link to get a glimpse of the way Coach Williams teaches his players about life, not just about playing a game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qz58jMhDDA

One final note. After a valiant effort in the overtime championship game against Virginia, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard headed to the locker room, followed by a CBS camera crew. As soon as he joined his team in the locker room, he and the team knelt for prayer. Almost immediately the camera switched from the locker room to the studio. I’m just sayin’ …

Perhaps we’re seeing a trend. Whether or not the Triune God actually cares about collegiate basketball or sports of any kind, it’s always OK to pray! God bless your day!

A Memorable Retirement Observance

This past Sunday, March 31, Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Tex. observed the retirement of Pastor Doug Dommer and his wife Delo. Doug had served Salem for 38 years in a number of roles in support of two senior pastors, Wayne Graumann and Tim Niekerk.

The celebration was inspirational. It began with an informal hour of sharing by women and men who had known and worked with Doug over the years. Speakers included one of his brothers; a couple young pastors whom Doug had influenced and mentored over the years; a woman staff member who introduced video reflections of Doug’s sermons and gave her own testimony of Doug’s support and encouragement for women using their God-given gifts; and his former senior pastor. Terry and I were invited to honor Doug’s wife Delo, a wonderfully gifted and talented woman.

That informal hour was followed by a service of worship during which Doug preached his farewell sermon, reflecting on his years at Salem and focusing on Philippians 1:3-6: I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

A few memorable points from his sermon are these:

God’s grace always precedes our peace.
Many churches eat their pastors alive. Salem loves their pastors to death.
The work we do is God’s work. He began it. He will perfect it.

One of the most moving parts of the service was the final hymn, A Mighty Fortress. Immediately after the conclusion of the sermon, Doug went straight to the organ bench and played this hymn as I’d never before heard it played. By anyone. With no notes. Majestically. Worshipfully. Powerfully. Inspirationally. A mighty fortress is our God … the Kingdom’s ours forever!

The concluding moments included words of appreciation and affirmation from senior pastor Tim Niekerk, along with presentation of a cash gift. The amount was not disclosed, but the presentation left no doubt that its purpose was for the purchase of a new automobile.

During these two separate activities, appreciation for Doug’s ministry and Delo’s partnership was articulately and emotionally expressed. Yet throughout the morning it was clear that the real appreciation was directed toward our gracious God … Father, Son, Holy Spirit … for the gifts Doug and Delo have received and the way they have used them to be a blessing to the thousands of people they have influenced for Christ during their 38 years at Salem.

Well done, good and faithful servants!

Estate Planning Myth #1

In my work with Legacy Deo I talk to people about estate planning. Creating a plan is an important step for every person to take, regardless of age or financial status. It can be done by using a variety of methods of current planning for future gifts to family and charitable causes.

Almost every day I encounter people who have misconceptions about how, what, where, when, and why estate planning should occur. Accordingly, a large part of what I do is help people understand what is mythical and what is factual about estate planning.

This week I’m beginning a series on Estate Planning Myths, sharing one each month. Here’s Myth #1: “I’m not wealthy enough to consider planned giving. I just don’t have a large enough estate to worry about planning for the distribution of my assets when I die.”

Here’s the fact: Regardless of the size of your estate, what you have is God’s gift to you. As people entrusted with the management of whatever we have received as a blessing from God, you and I have the responsibility of carefully and prayerfully planning the distribution of what we have to the people and the causes we love.

Read the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30 about the varying amounts of money entrusted to the care of each of a master’s three servants. We’re not all equally blessed. What we do with what we have is important, no matter how much we have or don’t have.

Every heartfelt gift you and I make to our family and to our church or other charitable cause is helpful, no matter the size of the gift.

So whether your possessions are worth $10,000 or $10,000,000, take the steps necessary to be sure they are efficiently and effectively passed on according to your wishes.

That’s the essence of estate planning, also called planned giving. Legacy Deo can help!

Contact us at info@legacydeo.org or call us at (800) 880-3733 or (512) 646-4909 for a free Wills Planning Guide. You’ll be glad you did!

Help for Kenyan Girls facing FGM and FEM

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For more than half a century I’ve known Flora and Ray Tacquard. They live in Spring, Texas, a northwest Houston suburb. Ray and Flora are faithful members of Trinity Klein Lutheran Church in Spring, which has been involved for over a decade in ministry among the people of Kenya.

Kenyan Schools of Hope (KSH) is an organization that provides ministry to children from the Maasai tribe, who live in the African countries of Kenya and Tanzania. Ray chairs the KSH Board of Directors and Flora is Rescued Girls Coordinator. Here’s what they say about KSH:

Kenyan Schools of Hope believes all children should have a place to feel safe, be loved, and have the opportunity to reach their potential. We base our efforts on the great commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” to fulfill the great commission “go and make disciples.”

Though prohibited by law, it is estimated that 70% of young girls from the Maasai tribe in Kenya still undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Forced Early Marriage (FEM).   

Normally “cutting” is done under secrecy to girls 5-17 years of age in unhygienic conditions using crude instruments. Sterilization and anesthesia are seldomly used. The results of this brutality are obvious. Sometimes even death occurs. Following FGM, FEM is immediate, no matter the age of the girl. 

With no choice of when or whom she marries, young girls are sold for a dowry of cows or goats, often to an older man as his third or fourth wife. The possibility of attending school ends forever.

After offering free vision clinics among the Maasai people of Kenya for over ten years, we were approached by two Chiefs and other Kenyan leaders to build a rescue center for these vulnerable girls. The dormitory/hostel is presently housing 21 girls with more expected to be welcomed soon. The classrooms will be completed in March (that’s this month), and the school is currently open with 29 students in temporary accommodations.   

As part of the education offered at Kenyan Schools of Hope, the saving love of Jesus is paramount. In fact, the Board of Directors in Kenya named the school Osiligi Lutheran School.  Osiligi means “hope” in the language of the Maasai.

Partners in this significant mission outreach are welcome. Whether individual, church, business, or organization, the opportunity is there for you to help change the life of a girl forever.

Donations may be made at kenyanschoolsofhope.org or checks may be mailed to Kenyan Schools of Hope, 5201 Spring Cypress Rd., Spring, TX 77379. For more information, send an email to hope4kenyangirls@att.net. We pray God will touch your heart to support Kenyan Schools of Hope, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.

I encourage you to add your support, as the Spirit of God moves you.

Celebrating Victory in Christ

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Many of you recall that my dear mother went to heaven January 10, just over two months ago. All three of my siblings and spouses, along with their children and grandchildren, spent time, money, and energy caring for our Mom, especially during her last few years on this earth. My sister Carol, whose birthday is today, was the anchor. She lives closest to Mother’s assisted living residence and with rare exception spent at least five days a week caring for her.

A couple months prior to Mom’s passing, Terry and I, with Carol also present, paid a special visit. We surmised Mom’s passing was imminent and wanted to be sure that her memorial service would be conducted according to her wishes. So I asked a few questions about her funeral service preferences, using as a guide a form I had helped prepare a couple years ago. She was glad I asked.

Legacy Deo, formerly Lutheran Foundation of Texas, is pleased to offer to you a copy of that same document — Celebrating Victory in Christ Funeral Planning Guide.

There is no charge for an electronic copy of this valuable tool designed to assist people in planning their memorial service and other important end of life details. Topics include:

  • Introduction
  • Personal and Family Reference Information
    • Your Information
    • Your Immediate Family Information
    • Person(s) to Make Arrangements
  • Planning for Your Celebration of Life Service
    • Type of Service
    • Facility Handling Arrangements
    • Pastor(s) to Officiate at Service
    • Music Selections
    • Scripture Readings
    • Pall Bearer Contact Information
    • Colors, Flower Selections
    • Military Honors
    • People to Notify of Your Passing
    • Meal or Reception in Connection with Service
    • Other Details of Your Service
    • Memorials
    • Significant Dates in Your Life
    • Photographs and/or Videos for Remembrance Service
    • Burial Location
    • Details of Burial
    • Burial Marker
    • Selection of Coffin if Desired
    • Obituary Preparation
  • Location of Legal Documents and Information
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Trust Documents
    • Organ Donation Designation
    • Life Insurance Policies
    • Other Documents
  • Leaving Your Legacy
    • Christian Preamble for Your Last Will and Testament
    • Family Blessing or Remembrance
    • Gift Legacy
  • Appendix
    • Suggested Hymns and Other Musical Selections
    • Suggested Scripture Readings

For your free copy, call 1-800-880-3733 or 1-512-646-4909 or contact info@legacydeo.org. If you use this guide for planning your own memorial service, your family will be spared the difficulty of making these decisions for you without your input, at a time of sorrow and grief.

Do it now, while it’s on your mind. Provide a copy of your completed form to someone in your family and also to your pastor. You and they will be blessed as a result.

Seven Old Age Adages and One Piece of Advice

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This week is the celebration of the 55th anniversary of my graduation from Texas A&M University, known during my days there as A&M College of Texas. Thinking about all my aging classmates leads me to share with you these old age adages. Read, smile, and enjoy.

  1. A reporter interviewing a 104-year-old woman asked: “And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”
  2. A senior citizen feeling his age said: “I have outlived my feet and my teeth. I’ve had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I’m half blind and can’t hear anything quieter than a jet engine. I take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. I have bouts with dementia. I have poor circulation and can hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. I can’t remember if I’m 85 or 92 and have lost all my friends. But, thank God, I still have my driver’s license.”
  3. Another senior said: “I feel like my body has gotten totally out of shape. So I got my doctor’s permission to join a fitness club and start exercising. I decided to take an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour. But by the time I got my leotards on, the class was over.
  4. An elderly woman decided to prepare for her funeral and told her preacher she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated. Second, she wanted her ashes scattered at Wal-Mart. The preacher asked, “Why Wal-Mart?” The lady said, “That way I’ll be sure my daughters visit me at least twice a week.”
  5. Know how to prevent sagging? Just eat till the wrinkles fill out.
  6. It’s scary when you start making the same noises as your coffee maker.
  7. A senility prayer: “God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

My serious and sincere advice: While you’re still of sound mind, be sure to take care of the responsibility and privilege of planning your estate. Provide for your family and your favorite charitable causes. We at Legacy Deo would be honored to help.