Wednesday, January 17, 2018

here at the edge of pluralism

if i don’t say just the right words
in just the right way
will you still love me?
if i don’t back all the right causes
for all the right reasons
will you be my friend?
can we talk?
will you listen?
can we differ?
will you see something good in me,
and will you let me see the good in you?
what will it take to keep us from
tearing each other apart?
a bad poem that’s too direct?
i hope so; this qualifies.
you’re smarter than me;
believe me, i know that.
you probably think my beliefs are naïve,
maybe destructive—
certainly not helpful.
maybe we’re discovering together
the final frontier: the edge of pluralism—
a well for some, a cliff for others.
What is the meaning of this open grave:
a mouth to swallow the dead, or
a womb to bring forth eternal life?


here at the edge of pluralism
by troy cady

Sunday, January 14, 2018

mourning prayer

It is MLK Day tomorrow so the theme of mourning is appropriate today. Before we can heal injustice, we must see that there is injustice. Having seen it, we must also mourn it, because God mourns it. Prophets know how to mourn; they know how to gather our collective mourning and, in time, turn it into courageous, compassionate action. My prayer this morning is based on Lamentations 3:19-30, a text that shows us how to mourn. -Troy

God of Hope,
Your compassions never fail;
because of your great love we are not consumed. 
You are our creator, redeemer, and sustainer—
the Lover of our souls.

I give you my life.
I give you my heart.
I give you my soul.

Strengthen us so that
when the darkness closes in
and when our spirit is overwhelmed
we would hide our hearts in you.
Help us to wait quietly for you,
to put all our hope in you.
Grant us strength in long-suffering
as we sit in silence and mourn,
knowing that you are with us,
holding us in our weeping,
weeping with us, weeping with us in love.

In Jesus’ Name,

Sunday, December 31, 2017

a harvest of righteousness

My prayer today is based on a portion of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-10) and a small portion of Isaiah 61 (verses 10-11). I invite you to make this prayer your own. -Troy


Dear Father, ever near us,
you have covered our shame
and clothed us with salvation;
you have taken away our sin
and have given us your righteousness
not by our own good works
but simply by your great love.

Thank you.
I offer you my life in gratitude;
I offer you my heart in faith.
And I ask now that you
continue your good work of grace
in me and through me
by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Help me to revere your Name.
As I do so, I pray that you would
soften my heart and
soften the hearts of many others
to receive your kingdom
as playfully and joyfully as little children.
As you plant your Word in our lives
may your will be done in us,
may the seeds you sow
fall on enriched soil
and so produce
a harvest of goodness
full and overflowing,
resulting in praise to you
from every nation
and every city, town and village
until we revel in your kingdom
in all its fullness
on earth as it is in heaven—
on every street, alley and corner
where love, joy and peace would reign supreme.

In Jesus’ Name,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

a prayer called Hope

A kind soul is facing a difficult situation right now. Prayers for all involved, please. -Troy


Hiding somewhere deep inside me
is a prayer too afraid to come out into the open.
Isn’t that the way of honesty?
If I show you my real self, will you reject me?
Friend, will you become my employer?

See me, please,
because I fear
you’re looking right past me,
an absent sort of presence.
Black voids make good hiding places.

I’m begging you,
let’s turn on the lights;
let’s talk.
Hear me out.
See the beauty in me
and call it out.

Let’s cut through the red tape
to lay hold of the scarlet thread.
Let’s weave a new tapestry,
lavishly textured, rich with color
in a black and white world.

Honesty has a name,
Love loves skin and soul,
Joy is free and Faith wants to rise in me.

My prayer’s name is Hope
and I’d like you to meet her.
She’s honest, this Hope.
I’m begging you, play with her.
You won’t regret it.


a prayer called Hope
by Troy Cady
December 28, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

mary and others like her

Holding you in my arms today,
how can I tell you how much I love you,
all that you mean to me?

Your sleep awakens my soul.
Your breath, my breath.
Where you are, there I will be.
Tired as I am, I await your awakening.
When you cry, I can hear my own hunger.

Grow in joy, Child.
Feel my skin on your skin.
Feel my heart ache with love.

Stay warm
as I wrap you
and hold you close.

When you open your eyes, look in mine.
The world will be clear soon enough.
The past remade,
all future hopes present.
My hope, your Presence,
a song, my Hope.


Mary and Others Like Her
by Troy Cady
December 26, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

the everyday miracle

God, the Ancient of Days,
broke forth from Mary,
a teenager from a tiny town.
God knows the newborn with no bed
because God was one of them.
God knows a people
harassed and helpless
because God was one of us.
By taking the most common name
God did what was most uncommon.
When the Word became an infant who had no words
God did a whole lot of listening;
God made himself dependent
on the care of those who cared not for him.
God became hungry;
he whose hand sustains us
was sustained by the hands he made.

“Why such Love?” I wonder.
Maybe God made himself small and unimportant
so he could slip inside our self-important, shriveled hearts.
After all, we are too small for God’s kingdom
because we are too big in our own eyes.
How shall we cling to pride
when God showed us his humility?
Let us humble ourselves before the Child,
whose single purpose was to Love,
the very picture of Dignity undignified.

Christ, Child of Love,
be our abiding Peace and eternal Joy.
Grant us Faith, humble King:
as we age, let us mature to childhood.


The Everyday Miracle
by Troy Cady
Christmas 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

he will dress himself to serve

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” (Luke 12:35-37)

          Advent is a time of mystery, a time of wonder. It can be either disorienting or grounding: we look forward to the second coming of Christ even as we remember his first coming. Just when you feel you have a handle on the difference between the two, Jesus goes and says something like what he said above.
          At first, it appears to us that Jesus is talking about his second coming when he employs the imagery of a wedding banquet and servants who are admonished to be watchful.
          But the coming of the Son of Man (an image of majesty and power Jesus employs both prior to and after this text) is framed in an interesting way here. To understand what Jesus is saying, we need to keep in mind that as the Son of Man comes the "kingdom of God" (a precise phrase Luke employs more than any other Gospel writer).
          The kingdom of God is a mystery because it cannot be found in a precise time and place per se, but it breaks in to our time and place. That is why scholars refer to the kingdom of God in terms of two axes, a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. The vertical axis deals with the “where” of the kingdom: in heaven or on earth—or both? The horizontal axis deals with the “when” of the kingdom: the past, present or future—or all three?
          Jesus tells parables about the kingdom because the kingdom of God is a mystery and parable is the best way to talk about mysterious things. In parable our neatly defined rational categories are challenged. In this case, for example, we become aware that reason dictates a forced choice between the three options of the kingdom’s horizontal axis. But parable invites us to see that…

…what has happened
is still happening
and will happen again.

          This text is a case in point. Jesus might be talking about his second coming in this story but he might also be talking about what was happening and what would soon happen in his first advent.
          The people who were listening are admonished by Jesus through this story to be watchful or they would miss the arrival of the Son of Man (who was, to be sure, already in their midst). Jesus tells the listeners that those servants who are alert and perceive his coming will be in for a surprise: the master will serve the servants. He will become a servant of servants.
          The image of servant was a potent image for the people of Israel in Jesus’ day. It called forth the great section of Isaiah (chapters 40-55) where the prophet describes a “servant” who will do what God wants, restoring peace and justice in the world. Isaiah 42:1-4 is a classic text portraying the Servant:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
     he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

          Though God speaks through the prophet about the Servant as a specific person, in this section of Scripture (chapters 40-55) he also refers to Israel collectively in this vein:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.” (Isaiah 43:10)

          It is likely that in Jesus’ time, the Jewish people thought of themselves as the Isaianic Servant so when Jesus gives them this image of a master who becomes a servant of servants he really messes with their minds. He both confirms their understanding of the Servant and completely overhauls it.
          In doing so, he shows how God will go about restoring peace and justice, how the kingdom of God will break in: through a God who serves…in order to teach the servants how to serve.
          This is also a powerful image not just for the Jewish people but for Gentiles as well. Biblical scholar Andrew Clark notes: “The early Roman Empire continued to operate a long-established, pervasive and legally codified slave economy in which all human beings were classed either as slaves, or former slaves, or freeborn.”[i] He points out that the terms “slave” and “servant” were placed together in some texts; additionally, he describes three kinds of “servant”: diakonos (meaning “servant, attendant, agent, intermediary”); pais (meaning “young person, boy, child, servant, slave”); and hyperetes (meaning “helper, assistant, servant”).
          I mention this here because society in Jesus’ day was highly stratified along the lines of free-persons and slaves/servants. You were either a master or slave, a servant or lord—and the well-being of the world depended on keeping straight who was who (or so they thought).
          The parable of the Prodigal Son references this social order. When the son decides to return home, he views himself as one who has lost his freedom. He settles in his mind that it will be better for him to be a hired hand (a servant) in his father’s house than to continue eking out a meager existence feeding pigs. When he returns, he is prepared to ask his father to make him a servant, but his father instead surprises him and throws a banquet for him. The father puts the best robe on him, a ring on his finger and sandals on his bare feet. He receives him as a son.  
That parable is just as shocking as this one Luke tells only a few chapters earlier. It is shocking because it disrupts the mentality of shame and honor that formed the foundation of society’s social stratification. The audience would have felt through Jesus’ story that the father honors someone who should not be honored. The son should be ashamed because it is only through his sense of shame and a long period of servanthood that he can regain his honor.  
          What Jesus portrays in the parable of the Prodigal Son and in this parable in Luke 12 disrupts the culture of shame and honor by messing with the societal order of human relationships. He portrays God as someone who is eager to take away our shame; he portrays God as someone who is eager to be a servant, to take the lowest position—to be a servant of servants.
          Jesus fulfilled the past Isaianic prophecy in his lifetime to those who were present at the time. He shows them that, though Israel is indeed the Servant, so is God. If God, their master and lord, is a servant then there is no more reason for us to be lords over one another. He levels the playing field.
          In the parable in Luke 12 he tells us how he will do this: “Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”
          Jesus literally did this at his Last Supper. It is no mistake that Luke includes the detail in his writing about the Last Supper that they were all reclining at the table. John’s Gospel also includes the detail about Jesus “wrapping a towel”, dressing himself as a servant. In Jesus the Son of Man has come—and he waits on them. His authority derives from his servanthood.

          What has happened (the prophecy in Isaiah) happens (the fulfillment in Christ/Israel), keeps happening (the present fulfillment today) and will happen (the coming we await).
          The advent of Christ is just as much an event of perception and present participation as it is an event of history. It has both objective and subjective content. It happens and will happen but the question Jesus poses to us is: “Does it happen for you? Will you accept this story? Will you participate in it?”
          The “you” is both personal and collective. It can be viewed as a “we” but I must say that it is a choice every individual has to make. The kingdom of God is present to us as One who Serves. It is a kingdom whose economy is ordered by a Servant serving servants and inviting his servants to do the same. It feels more like a party, a feast whose Host and Guests are only servants. The citizenship of God’s kingdom consists of servants whose shame has been taken away by the Lord Who Serves. This Lord is our Father who is eager to remove disgrace by his unquenchable love and joy.
          In this season of Advent, as we wait for the second coming of the Lord Jesus, let’s not miss the invitation he extends to experience his humble first coming anew by faith. I encourage you, in whatever simple way you know, to just tell him “Thank you for the gift of love you’ve offered. I receive it gratefully. I place my life in your hands, Lord.”

[i] A.D. Clark. “Slave, Servant” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, et. al (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013), 869.