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April 2006

Nineties Party!

Last night I hosted a Nineties Party!

In case you are scratching your head, wondering how someone could have a 90's nostalgia party, let me explain. In case you think it hasn't been long enough, remember that by this point in the 90's there was a solid industry of 80's nostalgia going on. Plus, as a gay man, I have a role in helping to define how a theme party should be done, so I wanted to get ahead of this train before it left the station. Plus, the 90's are sorta my decade. I was in high school, college, and grad school the whole time.

When I was unpacking in December, I came across an outfit that I used to love. But it can't be worn anymore; its only value now is as a costume. It is very Scott Jones 1994. It is a cream colored Henley collared shirt that I wore with a blue vest and my tweed Scottish style hat (usually turned around backwards). I added to this my woven leather belt, my Nunn Bush shoes, and even found the old, BIG, Polo glasses that I wore back then (though I didn't wear these throughout the party).

When I was unpacking the outfit, I realized I wanted to wear it again, so I needed to have a theme party, a 90's party. It would be easy enough to figure out music (what a great decade!), movies, etc. What about food? I spent weeks on this problem and was finally helped by Chuck Whittington. I had bagel bites, goldfish crackers, potato skins, chips and salsa, and Subway sandwiches -- all things that came into prominence in the 90's.

Once I had the food figured out, I sent out invitation, mostly to 30 and 20 somethings. I found out that older folk weren't sure what was unique about the nineties and were generally still wearing their nineties clothes! The younger 20-somethings who were children most of the decade had vastly different ideas as well.

So last week I planned the music. I had to call friends to loan me some of the bad music of the decade, since I had all the good stuff, but little of the stupid pop stuff. Between Jon Horinek's collection and mine, I initially had 12 hours of music! I cut it down to 7 1/2.

On the tv I had playing (though muted) Reality Bites and Before Sunrise.

The table was decorated with my flannel shirts. Dishes were stacked on books. CD's, videos, and old cassettes decorated the gaps. I had old magazines and newspapers lying around in various places, including a TV Guide from 1991 commemorating Dallas' final episode! Jon said, "Oh my gosh, you really were all prepared for this party!"

Alas, now it's been done.

Preparing for this Week's Sermon

So, the last few weeks I’ve been in a particularly strong intellectual ferment that is, in some sense, a culmination of months of intellectual ferment. And, as is so often the case in the last year, I find that a sermon topic arises that requires me to get down and wrestle with all the issues that have been running around in my head.

When I sent out my Easter season worship plans to Bill months ago, my notes for this day read, “The text says that the good news is to be spread to all nations. Talk about mission. What does that really mean in our context? It will not mean quite what we grew up with.” Well, as I came to these notes this week, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I had a variety of intuitions, but nothing fully formed enough to stand in a pulpit and interpret Holy Scripture.

I try to plan worship about a quarter in advance. Like right now, I have at least some vague idea of where we are headed all the way through September. When I plan worship, it is usually based upon some reading I’ve done. Then, after I pick out what I’m going to do, I do even more reading. Then, when the series finally arrives, I look back over all that reading and follow my train of thought to even more books. Some sermons come easily, others have to gestate and gestate. This is one of those that sent me all over the place. In the course of preparing for this sermon I looked up things in popular scholar Joseph Campbell, the philosophers Alfred North Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, and Jacques Derrida, theologians James McClendon, R. S. Sugirtharajah, Karl Barth, and Rosemary Radford Reuther, the novelists Chinua Achebe and Graham Greene, and that just to name some of the places I looked.

I was running through all these books because this topic of mission raises so many fundamental questions. At root is the issue of how we relate to those who believe differently than we do. For me, this question then brings up all the most basic questions, “what do I believe?”, “why do I believe it?”, etc.

My Equality Ride Stories

At the request of dlw, here are all the links to my various Equality Ride posts.

Equality Ride Coming to OBU

Have you heard about the Equality Ride? Based on the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights movement, a group of GLBT young adults is traveling across the country visiting colleges and universities with anti-gay policies. OBU is on the list. They will be here March 23rd & 24th. . . . [Read More]

Afraid of Power

A sermon I preached the Sunday before they arrived.

I’ve been reading about the Equality Ride as they make their way across the country and will arrive here this week. Jacob Reitan, the very young man who organized this ride, inspires me. I can’t wait to meet him. He’s already been arrested on the orders of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, so he must be a great guy. . . . [Read More]

More on the Equality Ride

Haven Herrin explains why she was arrested at Regent University. . . . [Read More]


The Equality Riders rode into town today on their magnificently painted bus to a grand welcome of cheers and hugs at Church of the Open Arms. Dinner was followed by a presentation that was attended by many members of the GLBT community, including prominent leaders. Earlier in the evening OBU officials discussed tomorrow's direct action with some of the group's leaders. I chatted with the OBU folk I knew, who warmly greeted me when they entered. This is a good sign. . . . [Read More]

Equality Ride at OBU: Day One

In my wildest dreams as a student, this never would have happened. I really did want to cry at the end of the day. . . . [Read More]

Equality Ride at OBU: Day Two

Friday I didn't arrive in the morning, so I can't give insight into what actions the Equality Riders may have taken. I do know that there was a lot of debate within the group. Some thought that they should push harder and take more direct action. My view was the direct action's purpose is to open an opportunity for dialogue. That had happened, so let's see where that gets us and reserve the option for more action later. . . . [Read More]

The Ones Not Afraid

Sermon preached the Sunday after their visit.

It takes courage to break down barriers and turn a process of exclusion into one of inclusion. This week as I worked on this sermon I read enough material to begin writing a thesis. There is much more to be said about the Purity Code, its origins, it application, and the criticism of it by Jesus and the prophets. A lot of that reading entered into my thoughts tonight. But what also entered into my thinking were the events of the week and the many conversations that I’ve had surrounding the visit of the Equality Ride to Oklahoma City and Shawnee. . . . [Read More]

Some Press Coverage of the Equality Ride at OBU

With every small step we take here in Oklahoma, our opponents rally and force us back two or three steps, proving the importance of direct action campaigns like the Equality Ride and the conversations that they generate. . . . [Read More]

OBU Update

Yesterday I had my follow up meeting with OBU administrators. This was a meeting they scheduled. It lasted an hour and half. It was quite an unbelievable experience. . . . [Read More]

I Don't Know This World

I Don't Know This World

With all the bad things that happen in the world today, the things that make you depressed about where we might be headed, it is good to hear something so positive that you are shocked it comes from this world. And maybe it doesn't?

I've been carrying on a weekly discussion group/bible study with OBU students. Last Wednesday when I met them, I heard really exciting news. One student who had been in counseling for five semesters told her counselor that she wasn't returning to counseling anymore if Lauren (who outed herself in Newsweek) didn't have to go to counseling. Administrators met and a decision was made that she didn't have to continue in counseling because the new school policy doesn't say you can't be gay, simply that you have to meet the school's standards on sexual behavior.

This is a stunning development! As I said, I don't recognize this world.

Part of me is scared, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Part of me is so excited, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.


I'm going on "retreat" this week. I'll be spending time in prayer and meditation, catching up on my reading, do some planning ahead, and finally taking some time to write and work on some of my book ideas. I won't be on the internet much, if at all.

Go, Tell

Go, Tell
Mark 16:1-8
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
Easter Sunday
16 April 2006

A week ago Saturday our congregation was busy. It was one of our Habitat for Humanity Build Days this spring. So we had one group working on a home building project. Linda, Beth, Brock, Rusty, and Chuck worked on the house, while Russ and Glenn fixed the meals. I heard that they had a great time.

A smaller group of us went to OSU to attend their gay student organization’s conference for other regional student organizations. Paula Sophia was the keynote speaker, and did a stupendous job. Judy Hey and I went to support Paula and to interact with the students.

On the way home, Judy was talking about how much she would like for more college students to attend our church. Among her reasons she listed, “I want them to know that it’s okay to be gay.” I told her that in my recent experience on college campuses, that the students know that it is okay to be gay, they just don’t think it is okay to be a Christian.

In recent months I’ve interacted with students on a variety of campuses, including my alma mater Oklahoma Baptist. What I have discovered is that many are atheists or agnostics or have otherwise abandoned the church. Their comments express a sense that the church is irredeemably broken and harmful, even some of the OBU students.

After I told Judy these things, she said, “I guess we could say, ‘Come to the gay church where it is okay to be a Christian.’”

And I love that! In fact, I plan to use it as a slogan, even in some of our publicity. Why do I love it? Because it encapsulates our challenge. Our challenge is to reclaim Christianity itself. To reclaim it as a faith of extravagant grace, radical inclusion, and relentless compassion.

The ending of the Gospel of Mark reminds us that being a Christian isn’t easy. The women in this story are left with a choice, to go and tell or to run away in fear. They choose the second. Now, don’t be hard on the women, because all the men have run away already.

This is a puzzling ending. Most bibles print two alternative endings. One is called the short ending and adds these words:

And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

The longer ending is the one found in most older translations of the bible. It includes the very disturbing passages about drinking poison and handling snakes that most faith communities have viewed with a healthy skepticism.

All of the earliest manuscripts of this Gospel end at verse eight, with the women running away afraid. That later generations wrote two alternate endings reveals an uneasiness with this ending. And the ending is shocking. There is no appearance of the risen Jesus. No comforting Mary in the Garden. No doubting Thomas. Instead the oldest gospel ends with an empty tomb, a mysterious young man, and the women running away afraid.

Even our Christian worship is uncomfortable with this text. The lectionary text assigned for this Sunday, which falls within the year that focuses on Mark, is actually taken from John. Rarely do you encounter this puzzling, disturbing, and unsatisfying ending.

We human beings, particularly we Americans, like endings with closure. I think that may be one of the most overused words in contemporary discourse. “Closure.” We want everything to have closure. We insist that unless our relationships have closure that we just can’t move on. What even is closure when it comes to a relationship? I surely don’t know. Clearly having an ending is helpful, but we’ve almost made it into a right that should be protected by the Constitution.

In our lives, in the stories we read, in the movies we watch, in our tv shows, we prefer that everything be explained, all the loose endings tied up, the plot brought to its natural end. We like our heroes riding away into the sunset or for the couple to get together happily or for the bad guys to get their comeuppance. An open ending unsettles us.

I love the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, but plenty of people didn’t. It is so unlike the standard American film. The romance with Helen Hunt is set up in the early moments of the movie. Then Hanks spends the bulk of the film alone on an island, his only company the volleyball Wilson. For 45 minutes there is no dialogue in this movie. When he is finally returned home years later, Helen Hunt is married with children. There is no resolution of the romance.

At the very end of the film, he delivers the package that he has held for years. Then he encounters a woman on a crossroads in the middle of nowhere in West Texas. She explains each geographic location that the various roads lead to, and then she drives off. We are left with Tom Hanks standing in the middle of the crossroads looking at the various roads ahead, then the film ends.

When I saw this in the theatre a man behind me said to his wife, “That’s a stupid ending.” I wanted to turn around and say, “That’s the perfect ending, and if you don’t realize it, I pity you.” Fortunately for me, I didn’t say anything.

The reason that man and so many other people didn’t like the movie is because there was no resolution. He didn’t get the girl. His life wasn’t restored. And most significantly, it just ends with him standing there.

But I think it was the perfect ending. In the opening scenes, it is established that Tom Hanks’ character is the sort of person who has life planned out, everything organized, he is in control, and he is strictly governed by his sense of time. On the desert island he controls almost nothing. It is difficult to plan and organize, and time is the most abundant commodity he has.

At the end he is standing at a crossroads, which is clearly symbolic. His life is laid out before him. He can make a fresh start. Nothing is planned. Nothing is organized. He is free to make a variety of choices. Which choice he makes isn’t important, what is important is that he finally has learned to live free.

People aren’t satisfied with this ending of Mark because it is also unsatisfying – nothing is wrapped up. But much like Cast Away, the openness of the ending is why it is the perfect ending. The openness of the ending offers us a choice and a challenge. It leaves us wondering if it is okay to be a Christian, like Judy said, or whether we will run away in fear.

Let’s look at a couple of things in this text. First, it is the women coming to Jesus’ tomb to anoint him. These women have been there traveling with Jesus and the twelve all along, but they’ve been in the background, silent. We know that more than the Twelve traveled with Jesus, and these women seem to represent a group of female disciples.

All of the Twelve have run away. And one, Peter, has denied Jesus. There is an irony in Peter’s name, which means Rock. Peter is supposed to be the solid foundation on which the church is built, but this solid foundation has responded to Jesus’ arrest and death by allowing his fears to control him.

The women, however, attend the crucifixion and now come to the tomb. Unlike the men, they aren’t allowing their fears to control them. This reminds me of Steel Magnolias when all the men leave the side of Shelby’s deathbed and only her mother M’Lynne is there to the end.

So, these women reveal a greater courage than the men. But they also show that they too have failed to see, that even they do not understand what Jesus was teaching. On the way to the tomb, they make it clear that they expect Jesus’ body to be there; they assume he is dead. These women have not understood his teaching that he would be resurrected.

Maybe they haven’t understood because in the Jewish religion the resurrection was something that was supposed to happen at the end of time, when God’s reign begins. Yet, from the very beginning of this gospel Jesus has been announcing that God’s reign has already begun. The heavens have ripped open and God is set loose in the world. Repeatedly he has criticized the disciples and the religious authorities for failing to see that we are now living in God’s promised kingdom.

If God’s reign is here and now, then that means that there will be resurrection from the dead. So, if everyone had been paying attention, really understood, and really believed, then they shouldn’t have been surprised that the tomb was empty.

But they are. They see the empty tomb and the mysterious young man and they are afraid. The young man tries to comfort them and instructs them, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Now there is a lot in that sentence.

The women are to give the message to the disciples and Peter. Peter is singled out. Peter is singled out, probably, because he is the one who has denied Jesus. The statement of the young man is a sign that Peter is forgiven, that he is still included. And this is a message we need to remember. When we don’t feel worthy, when we don’t feel blessed, when we think we’ve screwed everything up, come back to these words, “and Peter.”

The young man says that Jesus is going ahead of the disciples. Jesus is still leading, Jesus is still showing the way on the journey. Once again they are invited to follow.

And where are they supposed to go? To Galilee. Galilee not only means the specific place, but it is a symbol. Galilee is the beginning. It is the place where Jesus’ ministry started and where he performed so many of the signs and wonders and actions of compassion, grace, and inclusion. It is the place where 5,000 are fed. Where the lepers were healed. Where the demons were exorcised. Where Jesus reached out to Gentiles and tax collectors. Where the boundaries that exclude people were broken down in favor of the outcast and the oppressed. The message is that the disciples are to go back to this place and begin again by faithfully living as if the reign of God has fully arrived.

If they make this journey, then they will see Jesus. Just like elsewhere in the Gospel of Mark, sight not only means our physical eyesight, but also includes our spiritual insight. If the disciples will continue to faithfully follow the path, then they will finally gain the spiritual insight and understanding that they currently lack.

All of this is what the women are to go and tell. But they don’t. They are overcome by fear and run away and the story ends.

At the end of this story none of the characters are left to go and tell the world this good news. But that is why it is the perfect ending. Let me explain.

This gospel was written not just to tell a story; it was written to create new disciples. The author’s goal was to inspire generations who didn’t know Jesus personally to also live as faithful followers of his message that God’s reign has begun. So, when the gospel ends, we realize that we, the readers, are the ones left to go and tell. We have heard the story. Hopefully we have seen and understood Jesus for who he is. Hopefully we have recognized the full meaning of his ministry and teaching. Hopefully we understand that this is a good news of grace, compassion, and inclusion.

And hopefully we’ve released whatever fear this may inspire. To live faithfully into this message of grace, compassion, and inclusion means to give up our self-centeredness. It means that we must break down the walls that we put up to protect ourselves from other people. It means that we can’t be controlled by our fears but must live with abandon the life that Jesus calls us to.

If we’ve done those things, then it is our job to go and tell. We are the ones standing at the crossroads. We are the ones who have to figure out if we are going to run away in fear or follow faithfully back to Galilee. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, because even Peter is invited. So, we are all invited.

Why are the women afraid? Why do they run away? Why might we find it easier to abandon the church instead of reclaiming that it is okay to be a Christian? I think the women flee because they do finally get it. They finally realize that God’s reign has begun. They finally understand everything that is being asked of them. And for a moment, at least, they are afraid of the costs.

Nelson Mandela, the great hero of the apartheid struggle in South Africa and the first democratically elected president of that country, said the following profound words:

Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God: your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

This is why the women are afraid. They are afraid to make manifest the glory of God within them. It is a power that frightens them, because if they admit that this power and glory is there’s then they are called to a radically new life.

This is where the Gospel of Mark leaves us. Are we up to the challenge of reclaiming Christianity as a faith of extravagant grace, radical inclusion, and relentless compassion? Will we be too afraid to live into our potential as children of God? Will we run away in fear? Or will we grasp hold of the power and the glory that are ours and follow Jesus back into Galilee where God’s reign is breaking forth and all things are created new?

Thanks for Smoking; Adam and Steve

Thank You for Smoking

Genius. Pure brilliance. Hilarious from beginning to end. Well-written, superbly acted, expertly staged (with great humour). You absolutely must run out and see it immediately. And you need to keep your eyes open for all sorts of subtle gags here and there. One gag took till the next shot to don on the 5 of us in the packed theatre who got it and laughed riotously while everyone else tried to figure out what was so funny, but, by then, the shot had changed. I won't say what it is, because you need to figure it out for yourself.

5 popcorn kernels
4 1/2 film reels

(I can't remember the last time I gave such a high rating)

Adam and Steve

I saw this a few weeks ago, but kept forgetting to write about it. A delightful, comically absurd romance that has a handful of lines in it that will surely be remember for years to come and used in a variety of social settings. Unevenly paced, but well worth the ticket price and full of humour. The gross out humour at the very beginning is some of the best I've seen. And Parker Posey's in it, so that's really all the recommendation you need (especially seeing her in a fat suit, or even later when she's skinny, but still using her fat jokes in her comedy routine!).

4 popcorn kernels
2 film reels

OBU Update

Yesterday I had my follow up meeting with OBU administrators. This was a meeting they scheduled. It lasted an hour and half. It was quite an unbelievable experience.

I don't want to go into details about the conversation, but just want to say that it was quite a positive experience. I was amazed at the level of friendliness, trust, respect, and gratitude that I was shown.

I've not supported the Brister presidency, and posted often about my OBU complaints last year during the petition drive. On this issue I want to commend Dr. Brister for his handling. Or, at least, backing off and letting others handle it. I believe that he has done a better job than Bob Agee would have.

Of course I will only be happy when the discrimination that OBU engages in is completely rooted out of our society. But I also really don't care about Southern Baptist policy, and haven't for a long time. They are on the losing side of this contest, even though they will inflict great harm as they lose. What I am pleased with is a chance to talk openly about something that has remained too hidden, and a chance to help students who need it.