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May 2005

#13 -- My Journey Out: New Experiences

In the fall I began dating again. It was very difficult at first, and nothing really got off the ground. The funny thing was that I was set up by a church member, and I wasn't even "out" to the church member!

I started reading new stuff. I called this my "intellectual phase." I began with Gay Unions by Gray Temple, which argues for gay equality within the Episcopal Church. It said some interesting things about the history of sexuality, so I bought and read all three volume of Michel Foucault's A History of Sexuality. While looking for copies of that a Half-Price Books, I picked up a volume on the history of Gay Literature and another book of social commentary from the queer perspective. Both were eye-opening to me. They taught me a lot of history that I didn't know and really gave me a sense of pride that I hadn't had before. They also made me even stronger about our rights and what was unique about the gay experience. So I began to buy even more books and read even more, especially some of the classics by gay writers or with gay themes.

After the Thanksgiving experience, I felt even more confident. December was a period of reflection upon the year that had just passed. I made some important resolves and tied up some loose knots. Writing my Christmas letter is always an important exercise that compels me annually to reflect. This year I had long puzzled how to write the letter. Unfortunately the only thing I could decide to do was to write two versions. One version left off everything related to my coming out. The second version added that on at the end. When I sent them out, I realized how many people I was close to who still didn't know. I felt I had told so many, but there was a long way to go. One high school friend found out about version B, though she had received version A, and felt hurt.

The e-mails, cards, and letters related to my coming out journey were beginning to pile up. So I spent a few days collecting and organizing all of it into a binder. That had been the plan all year, but I had not gotten around to it. The process was very therapeutic and allowed for incredible moments of reflection. Reading through the thing was, at times, sobering or exciting. In the process I realized all the mistakes I had made in my relationship and sent a card with a simple apology. About a month later we began talking again.

The night the Village Station re-opened as S4, I went. I had never really been out on the town in Dallas. While there I ran into the first gay person I had known, the friend from OBU who had been kicked out for being gay. We hadn't seen each other in a decade.

The week after Christmas I spent with Mom and Revis on a fishing trip and then back in OKC. One night I celebrated my anniversary of being out. The odd paradox of my life at this time was that in Oklahoma I was fully out. Here I lived more of a gay life -- for example, everytime I was in town I'd meet up with Timothy at the bars. Whereas most Oklahomans are closeted and are out when they are in Dallas, I was the reverse.

The new year began with me more confident, more self-assured, and more fully experiencing and enjoying the newness of life.

#12 -- My Journey Out: The Winter

So, I had decided to make a change, but I didn't know what. Linda and I had a long chat that fall, actually many chats. She played devil's advocate and was right about a lot of things. I had told her that when I went to church, I wanted to go to church and not work -- I worked at my office during the week. She understood the distinctions I was making, but said I just needed to play the game. I told her that I was done playing the game. And I was.

Yet the weird irony is that immediately I felt better about things. I was consciously trying to not do the ministerial-role-playing thingy but be more authentic and natural about my thoughts and emotions even while around church folk. Oddly, I began to immediately fall back in love with my work again. My therapist and I discussed this irony. The first Wednesday night after my avowal not to play the role, I found myself more casually and easily chatting with folk and doing so much that is normally the role playing.

And that's how the holidays and the winter proceeded. When I was home in OKC over the holidays, friends asked if I was really moving back and I said, "Yes, unless something changes." But even then I was feeling less interest in the idea (proof positive that Greg was right). As January proceeded I was deep in preparations for summer events and began to get really excited about camp, the mission trip, my summer intern, the hiking trip, graduating the seniors, the college group, the June Adult Summer Classes, etc.

Plus I found myself procrastinating on my "plans." I headed into February not having done anything to prepare for a possible move. I had no firm ideas of what job I might do. Various friends had discussed ideas with me, but nothing excited me. As I had prayed since summer, I was waiting for God to show me the path ahead and nothing seemed right.

No longer was I sure that I wanted to leave ministry. Maybe I had just been through another one of those seasonal bouts that we go through. In January a friend contacted me wanting to submit my name for a pastorate on the east coast. The idea was exciting to me, though I ended up not following it through. The episode caused me to think, "If I was really ready to leave ministry, I wouldn't be as excited about this possibility."

So though I was still far from certain about anything, I entered February with the assumption that I'd be in Dallas and at Royal Lane throughout the summer.

#11 -- My Journey Out: Thanksgiving

We had a full house staying at Mom's for a couple of days. Family was in town for Thanksgiving. In my family we rotate hosting (I've done it twice); so this year it was being hosted by my uncle at his new fiance's house. I rode over with my liberal aunt and uncle from Missouri.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. It is so much simpler than Christmas because it is about eating, family, and falling asleep watching football. I was not looking forward to anything special this year, but I always enjoy Thanksgiving. At this point only my Mom, Revis, my sis, and her husband knew I was gay.

We got to the house; I had never been there before. Though I'd met the fiance, I'd never met her kids. Two of the three were there. Timothy was doing most of the cooking and had clear control over the kitchen. Hmm, I wondered. We all were sitting around munching on appetizers, drinking, and chatting. Timothy and I began this verbal dance of searching out clues about each other. When he said where he worked, I went Hmm even more. Then when his "friend" David arrived, I really went Hmm. After dinner when the neighbors came over for dessert, it was a gay male couple. Here I was at Thanksgiving with two gay couples!

My family began to leave. I was supposed to go back to Mom's with the same aunt and uncle. I told them I was staying to hang out. They looked puzzled, but left. We stayed at my uncle's and his fiance's for a couple of hours, all of us drinking, chatting, and having a good time. I then went out to the bars with Timothy and David and came home after two a.m.

The next morning my liberal aunt from Missouri came in while my Mom was making coffee.

"So, Scott was supposed to ride home with us last night, but he said he was going to stay and hang out with those guys. Tom and I talked about it on the way home. I told him that Scott had had gay friends since college, so he was probably comfortable."


Long pause.

"Is Scott gay?"


"Oh, okay. Well, I've wondered."

Mom and I still laugh about that day. I never expected Thanksgiving to turn out that way. So most of the rest of the family got to figure it out without my ever having to sit down and tell them.

Blessing Out of Chaos

Blessing Out of Chaos
Genesis 1:1-2:4
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – OKC
Trinity Sunday
22 May 2005

As many of you know, during this time of transition, while I am waiting for my house in Dallas to sell, I am living with my Mom and Step-dad. Many of you have met them when they have visited here. I thank you for the kind welcome you have shown them. Mom has really enjoyed the visits. That first time she visited, you gave her the floral arrangement, which she loved. Last week she told me she wanted to bring some food to Afterglow sometime when she comes, because she feels bad eating and not contributing. My step-father, Revis, also really enjoys when they come to worship. I’ll tell you a little secret. He prefers worship here to worship where they are members. Again, thank you for your hospitality toward them.

Last weekend they celebrated their one year anniversary. And what a year it has been for them. They have clearly been newlyweds. At family gatherings they sit side-by-side and hold hands, or you might look over and find Mom gently and subtly caressing Revis arm, or vice versa. When Mom gets home from work, which is usually around 8:30 p.m., Revis has dinner ready – often with a glass of wine poured and candles lit. And they really enjoy each other. They travel and go on fishing trips, which is what they are doing this weekend. They are blissfully happy with one another.

They got married last year in the garden in the backyard. It was a beautiful event with all of the family and a few close friends in attendance. They were radiant; their joy was evident.

But this had not always been the case for the two of them. Revis had spent many years in an unhappy marriage and had just concluded a very messy, very ugly divorce. Revis was a broken and damaged human being, who thought that he would never find happiness again. He left Colorado and moved to Oklahoma City in an effort to begin a new life, but he didn’t have much hope that his efforts would be realized.

My father died in 1990 when he and Mom were forty-one. I was sixteen and my sister turned thirteen two days after Dad died. Dad died one week before he and Mom were set to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary. My Mom rarely dated in the fourteen years that followed. And through most of them she was lonely and worried that she would never find anyone again with whom she could spend her life. These were difficult years for my family, especially difficult to watch my mother hurting and be incapable of helping.

Revis and Mom found each other. At church, in fact. And their love has saved both of them from the despair they had been in. Their relationship stands as a wonderful sign for the transformative power of relationships. I think it stands as a sign for the creative power of God to bring blessing out of chaos. This was most clearly evidenced for me the evening I told them that I was gay. I had purposefully waited until after the wedding, because I didn’t want to bring disturbance to my mother’s happiness that she had found after all these years. The night I told them, they both responded better than I ever dreamed. My mother held my hand the whole time as I cried and told her the whole story of all these years. At one point in the conversation Revis reached over and grasped my arm and looked me in the eye and said, “Scott, I respect, admire, and love you. I don’t understand why anyone thinks this would change anything.”

Blessing. That’s what I received from Mom and Revis. That’s what I continue to receive from them. They bless me with their love, with their concern and support, with their desire to be a part of my life. They bless me by allowing me to live with them during this time of transition. They even keep asking me if I need money, which I don’t.

Who are the people who bless you? Where do you find blessing in your life? What sort of blessing do you desire? Maybe you are lacking blessing and searching for it? Clearly, we all desire blessing. We need to be loved, to be valued, to be told that we are worthy. The pursuit of blessing is central to human existence. It is the search for the good life.

Want evidence for our pursuit of blessing? Just go into any bookstore and look in the self-help section or at the cover of the magazines. We spend millions every year trying to achieve the good life. We want to be more effective people and more effective parents. We want to eat better and look better. We want to find the ten ways to please our woman or man. We think that if we can decorate and cook like Martha Stewart then our life will be better.

I’m not denigrating this pursuit; I think it is central to our humanity. There are even more serious ways we pursue it. We go to therapy to become healthy. We address our physical needs through medicine. We study and become more educated people. These are the endeavours of human civilization. This pursuit of the good life, of the better life, of happiness, of blessing is what characterizes our humanity.

Religion is central to that pursuit. Religious scholar Karen Armstrong writes,

. . . the religious spirit is chiefly characterized by a yearning for blessing. . . . in almost all cultures, people originally turned to religion because they wanted to live as intensely and efficaciously as possible. They knew that the world was a dangerous place and that their hold on life and health was fragile. . . . Religion helped them to overcome the limitations that flesh is heir to, to experience life fully, and to put themselves in touch with the deeper currents of existence that alone could give meaning and value to the whole.

This summer I will be preaching a series of sermons under the theme The Pursuit of Blessing. Our scriptural texts each week are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary. The lectionary has a three year cycle with four texts designated for each week of the church year. We are currently in year A, when most of the Gospel texts come from the Gospel of Matthew. During year A the Old Testament texts for this time of year come from the Book of Genesis.

This will be a series of sermons based on the foundational stories of our religious faith and even of our Western civilization. For those of you who grew up in church, these may be stories that you learned as a kid. Have you ever returned to look at them again as adults? If so you were probably surprised that they didn’t quite fit the standard “Sunday school” telling of them you heard as a kid. These are powerful stories about sex, betrayal, catastrophe, rivalry, and promise. They are stories about family struggles and the battles of the sexes. These are not simple, easy stories. They challenge us and confront us.

I believe that they are also about the pursuit of blessing, an interpretation that I take from Karen Armstrong. At the creation God pronounced that the newly created world was “very good.” God blessed the creation. And this was a blessed creation. It was orderly and full of meaning. But then Genesis tells us that something happened and the goodness and orderliness of creation were brought into question. Goodness and blessing weren’t obvious. Maybe they weren’t even assured. So humanity begins its age-old struggle to find the good life. What we will find in Genesis is the various ways that women and men of faith pursued blessing, often falling far short. In the end, they seem to learn an important lesson.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the start.

In the beginning God created.

Look at this first chapter of Genesis. Really look at it. What do you see? Can you find any structure to it?

It is a beautifully structured account of creation. Let’s just take some time to really acquaint ourselves with this text. First, we notice that there are seven days. Day seven is a day of rest, during the other six days God acts to create. Look at those six days of creation. Imagine putting the first three days in a column and the days four through six in a column next to that one. In fact, if you have a pen or pencil, I invite you to do that. Write down day 1, day 2, day 3 on the left side and day 4, day 5, and day 6 on the right. Then write down what was created on each day. Notice that the days parallel each other. In day one light and darkness are created. In day four the sun, moon, and stars are created. See that’s a parallel.

In day two the waters are divided forming the sky and the seas. Now look at day five. What is created then? On day five God creates fish and sea creatures. God also creates birds. See the parallel? On day two the waters and the sky are brought to order. On day five the creatures to inhabit water and sky are created.

Look at days three and six. On day three the dry ground is brought forth out of the waters and plants are made to grow on the dry ground. On day six, God creates the creatures that will inhabit the dry ground – all the animals, including human beings.

Why walk through this? Because I think it is important that we realize the structure of this story. For one thing, when we look at it this way, we realize that it is not a scientific or historical account of the beginning of time, but it is a literary, a poetic way of telling a story to make a theological point. The author has clearly structured his story. There is an order to it. And the structure of the story itself makes a theological point. What is that point?

The point is that creation is orderly. That creation has structure. It reaffirms that God is in control. The author is refuting the claim that the world is random and arbitrary. The author says in this grand poem that creation has a purpose, a structure. Creation is in God’s control. And creation is good.
There is something else to see here. In verse two we are told that creation is formless and void. The Spirit of God moves over this formless void, and then God begins to speak the creation. God first gives form to the formless. God gives structure where there isn’t any. That’s what happens in the first three days. Creating light and dark, separating the waters, bringing forth the dry ground, each of these is part of the effort to give form to the formless.

Next God begins to fill the void. Once the form is created, there is still emptiness. During days four, five, and six, God creates the heavenly bodies, the creatures of the water and sky, and finally the creatures of the dry ground. These three days are God’s effort at filling the void.

So, there is this beautiful symmetry to the creation account in Genesis chapter one. It is a symmetry that gives evidence to order, structure, and completion, which remind us that God is in control and that the creation is blessed.

There is another way that the story reminds us that God is in control. In the ancient Near East there were many creation myths in the various cultures. Though the different cultures had different stories, they all had features in common. In these stories the creator god usually battles chaos in order to create order. Chaos is often personified as a sea monster or sea dragon. Water represented chaos and primeval disorder. If you think about the power of floods to destroy and create chaos, then you understand why people who lived along rivers and seacoasts would picture water as a source of potential terror and disorder. In fact, the idea isn’t alien to us. Movies like Jaws or The Abyss remind us that the waters can bring chaos.

But the story in Genesis is very different from the other creation stories of the ancient Near East. God does not do battle. God doesn’t have to subdue chaos or kill a dragon in order to create the world. The Hebrews gave us an image of God as sovereign and in control. God brings the world into being through speaking, not fighting. The waters do not challenge God’s authority, but are subject to it.

Why all this emphasis on God controlling the forces of chaos? Why all this focus on God bringing order and blessing? Scholars believe that Genesis chapter one was probably written down late in Israelite history, probably during the time of the Exile when the children of Israel found themselves living in Babylon. They had been cut off from home and tradition. The temple had been destroyed. They had been taken in chains to a foreign land. Their lives had been full of chaos. For those living in exile, with chaotic lives, how wonderful it must have been to hear the message of Genesis chapter one. God is in control. God can bring order and blessing where chaos now exists.

What scares you? What causes you anxiety? What oppresses you? What are the forces of chaos in your life? What threatens your pursuit of the good life? What keeps you from finding blessing?
For many of us there are monsters that challenge us. I think that this is the power of horror films. They personify our fears. The movie Jaws isn’t simply about a dangerous great white shark haunting the New England coast and killing swimmers. Jaws is about a man, Roy Scheider’s character, who has moved out of the big city and to this small town [the name of the town in Jaws] in order to find a better, simpler life. He is looking for meaning and happiness. The shark represents all those forces of chaos that would stop us in our pursuit of the good life.

The message of Genesis is that ultimately we are not threatened by the monsters. The forces of chaos are no threat to the power of the Creator God. God is in control.

Do you sometimes fill scattered or empty? At times is there a void in your life? Have you had an experience of struggling for meaning? Genesis one addresses those anxieties. God took something formless and void, and God gave it form and filled the void. The message to us is that God can do the same in our lives. God’s blessing will help us to order our scattered lives. God’s blessing will help us to discover meaning. We can be full where we were once empty.

You see, this is the power of Creation.

I’ve seen creation first hand in the life of my mother and my step-father. They were lonely, broken, hurting people. They found each other and something new was created. Their relationship has brought meaning, wholeness, and order where once there was none. With each other they have found happiness; their lives are better. If you asked them, they would both tell you that they feel blessed. I believe that they stand as a sign of God’s creative power.

Last week we observed Pentecost. What does Pentecost share in common with the Creation? I think that Pentecost stands as a sign for God’s continuing creative work. At Pentecost the Spirit moves just as it moved at Creation. And at Pentecost something is created. It is not the world. What is created is a new community, the church. By the power of the Spirit a group of normal, average people is formed into a radical community of love and hope.

Friends, we are that group of people. We are a sign of the power of God’s creation. We are, in fact, God’s continuing work of creation. In our individual lives and in our life as a community God continues to bring blessing.

We proclaim ourselves to be a people of hope. In what does our hope rest? Our hope rests in the power of God who creates the world, who brings blessing where once there was chaos. Our hope rests in the Resurrection of Christ that announced to the world that the forces of death, suffering, and oppression are defeated and that new life is possible. Our hope rests in the coming of the Holy Spirit that proclaims that God’s power to create and raise from the dead is poured out on all of us – women and men, rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old.

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Today God’s creative power continues in and through us. Chaos has no power. Blessing is yours.

Fear of Fire

This sermon was preached at CoH-Dallas as part of a series they were doing on fear. I was assigned the title/theme Fear of Fire.

Fear of Fire
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Dallas
18 May 2005

Let me tell you a story.

It comes from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, from the final of the seven books – The Last Battle. This book tells the story of the end of the mythical world of Narnia. Narnia is this wonderful place – a magical world with witches and Talking Beasts, dwarfs, unicorns, and other interesting characters. Narnia was created by Aslan, the great lion who is the Christ-figure in these stories. Aslan returns to Narnia on occasion to save it from its enemies. Narnia is also visited by children from England who come on occasion to aid in rescuing the country.

In this final book we meet the last king of Narnia, Tirian, and his subjects. The land of Narnia has been invaded by their enemies, the Calormenes. The Calormene troops have fooled many Narnians into believing that Aslan has returned to punish Narnia and that the Narnians are to be enslaved to their enemies. Many average Narnians are confused. Some of them form a rebellion with the king leading to thwart this invasion and subversion. Some of the children from England have been called to Narnia to help in its time of need.

The battle finds itself outside of a stable. This stable has been used by the Calormene troops in their effort to fool the people. They have told them that they are keeping Aslan inside. In fact they have one of their own troops stationed inside, and he will kill anyone who dares enter.

The king and his loyal subjects eventually find themselves backed up against the stable and forced one by one through the door. They are afraid of what lies on the other side. Even they have become afraid of what evil might lie in wait.

When the battle forces King Tirian through the stable door, he is shocked by what he finds. Instead of being in a dark, dank stable, Tirian finds himself in a wide, beautiful country. There is an entire land inside the stable with mountains, rivers, forests, and valleys. The sun is shining and Tirian realizes that he is not in an evil place. Tirian is met by those who have come through the door before and other characters of legend out of Narnia’s past. They greet one another and are puzzled by finding themselves in this place. They turn around and examine the stable door. When they look through the cracks in the door, they can see outside to the battle that is still raging.

Off to the side of the stable door a group of dwarfs is sitting huddled in a circle. During the invasion and the battle the dwarfs did not take sides but fought only for themselves. They refused to come to the aid of their fellow Narnians. During the battle, the dwarfs were forced through the stable door. However they don’t seem to realize where they are. The dwarfs don’t see the wide country or feel the warm rays of the sun. The dwarfs seem stuck in the stable. They are huddled in a group, afraid and thinking only of themselves. Our band of heroes tries to convince them that they are not in a dark stable but the dwarfs won’t be taken in. They say they will not be fooled. So they go on sitting there only seeing darkness and not really seeing what is around them.

Aslan appears and tries to help the dwarfs, but they won’t be helped. The dwarfs say, “Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” Aslan explains, “You see, they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they can not be taken out.”

Then Aslan goes on about his work. He leads the heroes of Narnia back over to the stable door through which they watch the end of Narnia. The stars fall, the inhabitants of Narnia flee through the stable door, the seas rise, the land is destroyed, and the sun is put out. The land they have all loved has come to an end. The stable door is closed.

They then begin to journey through this new magical land they have found themselves in. As they travel they realize something. They recognize this land. Why, it looks so very like Narnia, yet bigger and better and different. The Lord Digory, who was present at the creation of Narnia, explains, “the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”

The group of heroes travels through the land taken in by all they are experiencing. Let me now go to the words of C. S. Lewis himself as he describes what happens.

The new [Narnia] was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there, you will know what I mean. It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. . . . Come further up, come further in!” He shook his mane and sprang forward into a great gallop – a Unicorn’s gallop which, in our world, would have carried him out of sight in a few moments. But now a most strange thing happened. Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with him: not only the Dogs and the humans but even fat little Puzzle and the short-legged Poggin . . . . The air flew in their faces as if they were driving fast in a car without a [windshield]. The country flew past as if they were seeing it from the windows of an express train. Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath.

The characters eventually find themselves in the garden at the center of Narnia, where they encounter all the old heroes of legend and where they soon realize that all the worlds are connected to Aslan’s world.
At the close of the book, Aslan is speaking and says,

The dream is ended: this is the morning.

Lewis then concludes the Chronicles with these words:

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

I first read this book when I was in sixth grade. I remember distinctly reading the portion where they begin to run, where the Unicorn encourages them to come Further Up and Further In. I read that portion just before recess, and when I got outside I ran. I ran all over the place. I was so full of energy and joy and hope and peace. It may have been the single best recess of my elementary years.

And to this day this story remains an elemental part of who I am. When I picture God or Jesus, I picture Aslan the lion. When I picture heaven, it looks like Narnia. When I meditate, the place I picture myself going to is Narnia. I walk its green hills and swim in its cool pools and lie under the shade of its trees. Twenty years later, I can’t read those words I’ve just read without being filled with energy, joy, hope, and peace.

Let’s consider who was afraid in this story. It was the dwarfs. Aslan says that they are so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out of their prison. They are too afraid to risk. Too afraid to make themselves vulnerable. To afraid to truly live. If they open themselves up and trust what the others are saying or if they only really see what is around them, then they do run the risk of being fooled once again. It is possible that this new country will end up being too good to be true. It is just so much easier for them to sit there huddled together. They think it guarantees them that they won’t be hurt again like they’ve been hurt before.

Wow! How often have we heard those things before? How often have we said them or thought them? “Too risky.” “Don’t want to be vulnerable.” “Won’t let myself get hurt again.” “Fool me twice, shame on me.” So we put up our walls and hide our true feelings. We are afraid to love, afraid to step out on chance with a new job, afraid to trust our family and friends with the truth, afraid of what might happen. It is just too risky.

And from experience we know that the risks are all too real. We told someone that we were gay expecting them to respond well and instead the experience was horrific and a relationship was destroyed or damaged. We experienced pain and grief.

Or maybe we loved someone with all our being and that person broke our heart. We had never felt better than we felt with that person. But with that intensity of positive feeling we made ourselves vulnerable to the worst pain we’ve ever experienced. The joy was intense, but so was the heartache. We just don’t want to risk that again.

Or maybe we risked by moving to a new place, taking a new job, or standing up for something, only to face financial difficulties, experience loneliness, or be attacked for what we did.

Yeah, life is risky. And experience tells us that we need to protect ourselves.

You know, we should protect ourselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As with so many other things, there is a balance to find. We need to risk, but not to engage in patterns of behaviour over time that are unhealthy. What we need to avoid are the dwarfs problems. In this story they are ultimately self-centered. When Narnia was under attack, they refused to help their fellows. When other people needed them, they weren’t there. So the dwarfs find themselves beyond help. If you find yourself developing a pattern of behaviour that refuses to ever help anyone in need because it is too risky for you, then you have moved beyond self-protection into a destructive self-centeredness that is robbing you of life.

The dwarfs have ultimately become trapped into believing that everyone else thinks the same way that they do. They won’t trust people, because people might be as self-centered as they are. Therefore, they are unable to believe. If you become distrustful of other people, you run the risk of losing the joy of life. You might miss something genuinely good when it comes your way. You might think that it is “too good to be true.” Or maybe you will take something good that a person does for you and view it in a negative light, ultimately pushing away someone who may have really cared for you.

The dwarfs are afraid to live vibrantly and passionately. The fire of the Spirit is alien to them. Because of their self-centeredness and lack of trust, they can’t open themselves to the work of the Spirit around them and among them. They can’t receive the gifts of Aslan as gifts.

And look at what they miss out on! They miss out on new found life! A life where they don’t have to worry about being taken advantage of because in this new world everything has changed. They don’t see this. They don’t see the work of God.

But the rest of our characters do. They get to experience life in its fullness. First they experience salvation from their problems. They are no longer battling the evil Caloremenes. On this side of the door they are safe, and they also get to rest and be at peace. As they begin to settle into their new surroundings, they are overwhelmed by its beauty and richness of meaning. Beauty and meaning are themselves part of a rich, full life.

My favourite part, however, is the vitality, the energy, the exuberance, the joy that comes over them when they begin to run. It is like their spirits are on fire. They run across the hills and valleys and over mountains and rivers and up the sides of waterfalls. They run and are not weary, almost as if they have mounted up on wings like eagles. Contrast this with the dwarfs who remain huddled together, sitting in the darkness. The dwarfs are maybe just too lazy to grasp hold of this new life. This new life is full of energy, and it just might overwhelm them.

I want this kind of joyful exuberance in my life. Even if I am not able to physically run like these characters in the story, I want that kind of energy. I want that kind of spirit. I want that kind of passion.

It may begin with feeling, but it doesn’t stop there. Many of us may think we are passionate, when we are really only emotional. Passion is feeling, but it is more than that for us. It also needs to be a habit. As a habit it doesn’t simply come and go like a feeling, but it persists and becomes a part of our character. In many ways feelings are beyond our control but our ability to take a feeling and develop it over time, remain attentive to it, discipline ourselves by it does take our effort and control.

Ultimately, however, I think that this kind of life is a gift. A gift from God. The exuberant joy in The Last Battle is made possible as a gift from Aslan. God has opened up a new life for us. The resurrection has announced to all that death and suffering, oppression and exclusion will not have the final word. No beauty, joy, love, peace, hope, and life get the final word. With Pentecost that power has come upon us. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell among this faith community, energizing it with the power of God. This is your gift!

It’s not a gift that gives you a free pass and lets you forever avoid death and suffering, oppression and exclusion. Actually because you are a part of this new life you will be misunderstood by others. But even in the midst of continued life, you get to live with a new power, a new hope. You don’t have to be afraid of the fire. In fact, we are told to be not afraid.

Instead of sitting huddled in the darkness, afraid to risk, afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be passionate, grab hold of the new life that God has given you. Live a life filled with fire. For these are the words of Jesus, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Theology on Tap

We had the first meeting of the Theology on Tap group tonight. I was not a part of the old group, because I didn't live here at the time. It was fun. Lots of good argument/discussion and some pedantic. It made me think about some things, some of which I hadn't thought about in a while. I'm sure I'll blog on some, or comment on other folks blogs, if they post about the issues. I'm too tired to write now. I'm going to call the boyfriend and then go to sleep. Next month we will be discussing Yoder's Politics of Jesus. Splendid!


I just got off of the phone with Kevin Sinclair. He was talking about what he's going to do with the Royal Lane youth on Wednesday nights, and I was talking about the sermon first draft I had just written. It was an energetic conversation, as those with Kevin always are. Part of the fun is how much Kevin is now a colleague with whom I can dialogue. He's not just the one asking questions anymore.

I mentioned how I was using a suggestion from Brueggemann to read the Noah story through the lense of the Exile, particularly the references to the Flood narrative from Isaiah 54. Kevin said that he thought it was interesting to use the exile motif with a congregation of gays and lesbians because of its liberation emphasis. I said that that was exactly why I was using it and that I had regularly over the last month found myself gravitating to exile literature or using the concept of exile as an interpretive lens. Kevin and I then got into a discussion about how probably all of the Old Testament should be read through the lens of the Exile experience because much of the literature was written, compiled, or edited during or after the period of the Exile. What do you think?

Summer Cold

Well, this cold I've been battling for a couple of weeks finally seems to have caught up with me, mainly because I think I'm so worn out. So after working some yesterday morning, I laid around yesterday afternoon and am working from home today all in an effort to relax and let my body restore itself. Yesterday I went out and bought lots of medicine to dope up on. Mom caught it and seems to have it worse (or something else besides), and now Revis is getting sick. This is Mom's week of vacation, but instead of doing what she had planned, she's sitting around coughing her lungs up.

I've had such a crazy schedule the last few weeks, coming after a couple of crazy months. Last week over the nine days from weekend to weekend, I made three trips to Dallas -- two driving and one flying. Three times I had my car in the shop being worked on. My laptop died on Saturday, with the sermon for Sunday only on it. When I'm in Dallas I never have enough time for all the things I need to do -- work, pack, run errands, visit with Royal Laners, hang out with new CoH friends, and spend time with my boyfriend. Yes, exactly as I predicted, I'd move to OKC and find someone in Dallas.

But this month has been rich and meaningful. I'm loving preaching every week. What a fun discipline. I really enjoy this very social congregation. I have a blast when I'm hanging out with the staff in Dallas. Three articles about me have appeared in the local press. We've had many visitors at church. I'm enjoying reconnecting with those OKC-area friends that I didn't see everytime I'd travel back here for the holidays. A couple of weeks ago I spent the day in Norman and really felt old, because I suddenly realized how long it had been since I had walked the campus daily.

This weekend will be very busy. It is the annual Gay Rodeo here in OKC, and I'll be at our booth most of the weekend. Plus there are five parties in three days and the Paseo Arts Festival. Dorothy, Revis' mom, will be in town for a week beginning Thursday. And the boyfriend is coming to visit this weekend.

I hope I get this cold kicked before Friday, or I'll be exhausted again next week!

#10 -- My Journey Out: Mom's Visit

After I told her, Mom wanted to come visit. But our schedules were such that it made it difficult to find a weekend that would work. She was worried about me. She wasn't worried about my being gay; she was worried about what people might do to her little boy. She went into protective mode. It was cool to watch.

Mom and Revis were heroes to my gay friends, and the friends all wanted to meet them. Ben & Leland wanted to have Mom & Revis over to dinner the next time they were in town. So, when the visit was finally planned and on the calendar, I spoke to Ben and Leland.

I wanted them to have a party and invite a bunch of our friends. They throw great parties. This particular party would have a purpose, however. Mom was worried that I didn't have a support group. Plus, Mom had never really known that many gay men and women who were in longterm, monogamous relationships who were professionals and active church goers. I wanted her to see that side of gay. And the best place to do it was Ben & Leland's -- they live in Plano for goodness' sake! You can't get more boring suburbia than that.

So Ben sent out invitations to our friends explaining the importance of the party and its purpose. His event planning side kicked into high gear, and we had various conversations about the menu. He decided on a buffet of soups with appetizers and desserts brought by the guests.

I told Mom we were going to a party at Ben & Leland's. "Is this a gay party?" Yes, there will be mostly gay people there. I want you to meet my friends and see that I have a support group, that I'm okay. "Okay." Come to find out, she and Revis started bragging to their friends that they were going to their first "gay party." Someone told them the food would be good.

I must admit that I was a little nervous. It ended up that none of my straight friends that knew I was out and who knew Mom and Revis were able to come to the party. So, they were going to be the only straight people there. I was hoping they wouldn't get overwhelmed.

We got there and Ben was busy working in the kitchen, as he usually is. Leland welcomed them at the door and embraced them. Then he gave them a tour of the house, explaining what work they had done and were about to do, pointing out various objects of furniture and decor, etc. Your typical first-time-in-a-house-tour. He even showed them the master bedroom and bathroom. Mom and Revis were polite and interested. Then all the guests began arriving. Almost everyone showed up. We ate and talked. Revis told stories of Vietnam and surfing when he was a kid. We spent most of the conversation discussing college football (which some of us have continued to laugh about months later). I went around and hugged and thanked everyone for coming and helping me out.

We were driving back to my house in the car. I'll encapsulate the conversation. "Did you have a good time?" "Yes." "What did you think?" "They are wonderful people. It was a nice party, and a nice house. It looked just like a normal house. Even the bedroom." "Sure." "Thank you for doing that, Scott. I had never seen gay people like that. They are all in longterm relationships. Some of them have children. They have professional jobs. They are all really nice, wonderful people." I was grinning from ear to ear, my purpose having been achieved. "Well, that's why I wanted to do that, so you could see that I have a support system and that I'm okay." "And Ben and Leland are so nice. I thought it was funny that the kitchen is Ben's territory and Leland is supposed to stay out of it. It's just like a real couple." I smiled, "Because they are a real couple."

Of course Ben and Leland and I had to get together that week to debrief the event. They were so honored that it was a huge success.

So not all those days during those months were dark. Many were wonderful, like this one. Thankfully I did have a support group of incredible friends, a loving mother, and a step-dad who is a gift from God.