Lectionary Year B
May 7, 2000
(DH) C. HERMENEUTICAL BRIDGE
A week and a half ago, thirty-nine members of the cult group Heaven's Gate
committed ritual mass suicide, most likely with the largest death count of
an event of this kind in the U.S. in this century. Marshall Herff
Applewhite, a former Presbyterian preacher's son from Texas and leader of
the religious sect, convinced his "disciples" that a spaceship was hidden
in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. This spacecraft, directed by aliens,
would take up the "believers" to a "Higher Level of Human" and fly them
away to a better place. Applewhite gave himself the name "Do" in order to
show that names "mean nothing." Thirty-nine people followed the calling of
this name in expectation of a better world, a certain kind of salvation. A
self-proclaimed modern day Christ-like figure, Applewhite promised healing
and life. But what his disciples found were only destruction and death.
He even prophesied his resurrection after a few days, yet nobody has seen
him up and walking.
This tragic contemporary event made me wonder, in light of Acts 3:11-21:
What's in a name? Does the name of v. 16 "mean nothing," or does it mean
something? What does it mean? Granted, Jesus did not talk to his
disciples about UFO's, spaceships and aliens, but He did speak about
salvation, death, and resurrection. It seems to me that Jesus and
Applewhite appear to make similar claims. I believe that we cannot avoid
asking these questions and look very intently at the similarities between
the two, and at their differences. Scripture reminds us to do exactly
that, because many false messiahs will come, and it is their spirits that
we need to test.
[JEA - what would be some of the similarities and differences if one were to cross the bridge back and forth between the cult event and other contemporary quaestors approaching the year 2000 and the particulars of this text? other helpful Easter/post-Easter texts?].
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