Saturday, April 4, 2020

what an empty building can teach us about truly being the church


What an Empty Building Can Teach Us About Truly Being the Church
reflections by Troy B. Cady


Photo by Debby Hudson via Unsplash. Creative Commons License.


            Earlier today, a friend of mine from high school posted an article about churches who refuse to cancel in-person services, despite CDC advice to the contrary.
            I’ve heard some Christians objecting to the fact that church services have been deemed “non-essential.” They seem to be taking it as some kind of personal affront, more evidence to buttress a narrative running in their head that Christianity is constantly under attack in America and Christians need to rise up to defend our rights before they are taken from us. So, they will continue to meet, regardless of the consequences.
            As a pastor, I must say that, while I am dismayed by such a viewpoint, I am not surprised (and that gives me even greater cause for dismay). I commented to my friend that, sadly, this kind of thing serves as a potent commentary as to just how bankrupt some forms of Christianity in America have become.

A deficient understanding of worship
For starters, this highlights to me a complete misunderstanding as to the true nature of worship. It runs contrary to the Spirit of God when Christians insist on worshipping God in such selfish ways while disregarding the harm they are doing to their fellow human beings by such an act of so-called worship. In the Old Testament, the prophets denounced such worship as false, another form of idolatry—and Jesus added his voice to such denunciations. To truly worship the living God is to perform acts of mercy and compassion for one’s fellow human. It is impossible to worship God and harm another at the same time. Yet, that is what these so-called churches are doing.

The highest acts of worship do not take place gathered on a Sunday morning in a well-appointed sanctuary. The highest acts of worship occur as acts of service to one’s fellow human beings and in one’s faithful stewardship of creation.

A deficient understanding of faith
Secondly, to those Christians who view the continuation of services as an exercise in faith, I say it is an act of pride in the form of presumption. Faith unaccompanied by humility is not genuine faith.

What’s more, faith divorced from reason is little more than mere superstition. One of the greatest philosophers of all time was Thomas Aquinas—now there was a man of faith! Aquinas knew that to love God with one’s mind was in keeping with loving God with one’s heart. God gave us reason to inform our faith and we should use it.

There have been many great people of faith throughout history who have also been great scientists and doctors—and the same is true today. There is no conflict for a doctor to say we should avoid meetings of this nature for scientific reasons while also asserting we should do so for theological reasons. The latter may be motivated by the great command to love one’s neighbor while the former provides the scientific evidence to back up such a humble act of faith.

A deficient understanding of church
Third, I am grieved by how this insistence on meeting for worship services indicates to me a desperately impoverished view of what it means to be the church. It is as if we think the church ceases to exist if we cannot meet in a certain place at a certain time each week. But the church is not a place. The church is a people, a people for all times and all peoples.

I am truly astonished how even those Christians who are abiding by the guidelines not to meet still have yet to stop and think what this crisis can teach us about what it really means to be the church, what the core essence of the church is. It is as if most Christians are just concerned with how to get through this crisis via some kind of survival mode, just counting the days until we can go back to church as we’ve always known it.

But this crisis can be a great teacher, if we will just stop, take a step back and listen to what this difficulty can show us about what is enduring about the church, whether life’s circumstances are good or bad. Instead, we are content to erect our temporary measures until we can go back to consuming our comfortable little product that suits our own thoughtless, petty desires.

I challenge Christian leaders during this time to consider how this crisis can change us not only for the time being, but also when life returns to “normal.” What are we learning about the nature of the church now that can transform how we minister in all circumstances?

The church is to be a light. We are to be about the mission of mercy and care. We are to be healers, shielding the vulnerable from harm. We are to be the first to give up our rights in service to others. We are to lead the way in giving generously of our time, talents and treasures. Now is not a time to be selfish. Now we have the opportunity to imitate the one we say is our Lord: Jesus the Christ, the one who gave himself for all in self-giving love.

May it be so.


…………………………..


Troy Cady is President of PlayFull, a non-profit ministry whose mission is “to help people and organizations play from the inside out.” PlayFull offers coaching and consulting services to Christian leaders and churches, along with courses and seminars that approach learning in holistic ways. To learn more visit us at www.playfull.org or email Troy at troy@playfull.org


Monday, March 30, 2020

Evening Prayer: The Faces of Christ, part 1

Tonight I begin a 5-part series of prayerful reflections on key turning points in the life of Jesus. Each part of the story speaks to our lives today as we wonder together.





Click here to view other installments of my reflective evening prayer sessions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Evening Prayer: Cross Prayer

For the past week I have been leading a session of evening prayer every day. This is the seventh session. You can find the previous six sessions in my YouTube playlist here

These days it seems like we are all reaching out into the darkness to try and make sense of how our lives are changing. In tonight's bit of quiet reflection, I invite you to pray with me in this quest for meaning.



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

questions of ultimate concern

Photo by Dmitri Ratushny. Creative Commons License.


In times like these, certain questions of ultimate concern naturally surface. We wonder: “What will become of us?” We become aware of our own vulnerability, our own fragility. The life we have been building and the rhythms to which we are accustomed change. We instinctively feel that when we come out on the other side of the ordeal, the world will be a very different place.

To be human is to be contingent. No person is an island. We are dependent beings. We depend upon the physical world: food, drink, light, clean air, an ecosystem so delicately balanced it is capable of knocking us speechless with awe. We have bodies and when one’s body comes under threat it is human instinct to guard against such threats.

But we are more than just organs, bone and skin. We crave relationship, we have emotion, and we have deep-seated needs of security and a sense of identity. We have creative impulses and we want our lives to be generative. One’s body may grow stronger or weaker, but these deeper emotional and spiritual impulses remain constant (and can even intensify in response to our life situation).

The mind can help us address these deeper needs but it can really only get us so far. Though the mind can help us think rationally in the midst of crisis, there may linger certain irrational fears and primal desires that lie deeper than our abilities to think our way through them.

Life is ultimately a way of the heart. Love makes sense but, in the end, the opening of the heart to love takes faith. One never knows if one’s openness will be betrayed by the one for whom we opened our heart in the first place. Trust is courageous and to have courage is to live by the way of the heart.

I believe that when we pay attention to these deeper questions (when we can get beyond just playing mind games) we come to a point where we come face to face with God, who is the ultimate ground of all being, who is there, ready to meet us in love, in whom we find
love,
security,
identity,
creativity,
purpose,
meaning,
acceptance,
peace,
grace,
and joy.

My calling in this life is to help people engage these ultimate concerns, to find a way out of mere existential angst (or avoidance), and to thrive in the deepest part of their being. If you would like someone to talk with about these things, I would count it an honor to be that friend to you. Just send me a message and we can talk. I promise I will not preach at you but will mainly try to be a good listener. The soul is a tender space. I will be gentle and, perhaps, playful. The soul is the spring of joy, after all.

Always remember: you are not alone and you are loved.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

sanctuary


there is no sanctuary more lovely
than the beauty i see in your heart
let your eyes be my windows
let me see the world through your colors
let me remain here in you
renewed in the stillness
strengthened by the quiet
my life in your life
your life in all life
the life of my beloved

here the Word is sung
hear the soft melody
soothing the soul
receive my prayer
crying mercy
comfort in grief
here in this place
here in your heart
my loss is your gain

these burdens i leave with you
laying myself at your altar
resting in grace
as dust settling
resting in peace


………………………….


sanctuary
by troy cady
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Saturday, February 22, 2020

words, silence and presence


in silence the word i speak
grows stronger

in the silence i turn
to the healing touch
of love,
the gentle quiet
caressing the cuts,
treating the trauma

the silence warms
the heart
like a candle’s flame
brightening
the room,
whispering awake
the speechless soul

here in the silence
i seek you
and meet you—
the Word of hope
growing stronger within

out of the silence
the Word emerges,
a presence fuller
than many words

hear the silence invite—
the Word dwells richly
without and within

i pray
these words
emerge
from the fullness
of the Word’s silent presence

…………………

words, silence and presence
by troy cady
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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

crumbs


in today’s meditation
i fixed my eyes
on the crumbs
scattered like stars
atop the dark blue plate

the tiniest flecks
clustered in one place
appearing to me
like the dust
of ancient galaxies

and i am part
of this universe—
one particle
among trillions
upon trillions
of worlds
dispersed,
whose presence
is accounted as fallen
and powerless,
but graced
ever so briefly
by the sun’s setting light
and the day’s quiet
on the edge of night

…………………….

crumbs
by troy cady
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