It is a very distant memory, hay and indistinct. My parents are holding me, and on the television there is a grainy picture of a man climbing down a ladder in a funny suit. He looks more like a bug than a man....and there was something about an eagle landing.
And now, just about a half-century later, humanity is landing an unmanned space probe on a comet as it hurtles on its unimaginably wide orbit around our solar system. What a stunning thing this experience is when held in relation to that achievement of the United States Apollo space program when it landed human beings on the moon, our closest celestial neighbor.
This morning, I opened up my computer to review the news and the first thing I saw were high resolution images of the turkey-leg/lopsided barbell of the comet 67P. Somewhere, out there in the universe, there is a chunk of ice, dust and rock bigger than the city of Los Angeles...and we are looking at close up pictures of it that are clearer than the last "selfie" I took on Sunday at my Church. Lo and behold, that probe launched a smaller extension of itself that has actually landed on the comet.
What were once the universe's mysterious, traveling harbingers of great events in human history has now become a human achievement, much as was Perry's pole expedition, or Hilary's summiting of Everest.
We still have hunger, fear, sickness, poverty and a planet in environmental crisis. We still have a great deal to achieve here on this terrestrial ball if our (and other) species will experience enduring survival, and yet for this one moment I am filled with hope. The human spirit, questing to learn and explore as it must, has reached another moment in which we pause and look back, look around and then look forward....and all is possibility in our line of sight.
Even as you think about how momentous this one moment in human history is to us, please allow your attention to shift to other moments when we realize just a fragment of the creativity that made us under the hands of a loving God who continually creates, redeems and sanctifies us in this earthly pilgrimage. Human endeavor is wildly ambitious, innovative and it seems that little can hold us back when we are willing to put our time, our resources and our talents to the task.
And THERE'S the rub....putting ourselves to the task.
It took will, creativity, ambition, hope and a willing patience for the European Space Agency and its partners to spend over a decade on achieving this moment. For us in our own lives, it often takes that same sort of time span to meet our own (or our community's) goals....and it takes faith, resolve and hope for us to both find and recognize sustainable success. God has invested us with imagination, and it is incumbent upon us to exercise it and then go "all in" on the vision that results.
We never rise higher as human beings might than when we embrace that calling. We never fall further than when we abrogate the same.
I won't be an engineer or physicist sending probes to land on comets in this life. My ambitions and hopes lie closer to home; but that same commitment of being "all in" is being asked of us all....be it from ensuring a safe and warm home for a child, a vital church for a community or a program to eradicate poverty in our lifetime....
If we can land a man on the moon, and an exploration probe on a comet....then what holds us back from other callings....to really feed the poor, tend the sick, preserve the planet, foster true justice and build up the health of THIS terrestrial ball that we call home?
Only our own doubt, fear or anxiety holds us back. When we are willing to give up on holding those shadows dear, then oh, what light might shine!