Forward Today: The harvest has come

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday’s Gospel reading brings us the parable of the mustard seed. That will probably get most of the air time in pulpits, because if offers a powerful and compelling image of God’s kingdom. But there’s another bit in the Gospel reading that’s worth paying attention to.

Jesus talks about planting seeds, and he ends with this: “The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” This is one of several times when Jesus uses images to convey urgency in the work at hand.

CC0 Creative Commons / TheDigitalArtist

I’ve been thinking about urgency lately. Our church is spectacularly good at avoiding urgent responses. We are loathe to invite people to know Jesus, though the world clearly yearns for purpose and hope. We are resistant to recast our vision of what congregations should be doing, though the neighborhoods around our churches have clearly changed. Individually, I think many of us procrastinate our own work of spiritual renewal. I know I do.

Jesus is clear. There is a kingdom to proclaim. There are lives to transform. There is a world to save. And Jesus is clear that we followers must be about it urgently.

What keeps us from urgently responding to the call of Jesus Christ? What might our church look like if we saw that the grain is ripe and we got busy gathering in the harvest?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is I Will, With God’s Help.

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Forward Today: Take prayer on vacation

Dear friends in Christ,

We are coming to that time of year when many of us slow down for the summer. If you’re a student, or if you have kids at home, the days seem much different now. Lots of us go on vacation for part of the summer. The pace of life changes.

I want to encourage you to do two things over the summer.

First, when you travel, visit a local church. These can be wonderful opportunities to receive hospitality and to worship in ways that will be both familiar and strange. Maybe you’ll get some good ideas to take back to your home church. You’ll certainly be nourished by the riches of God’s word and sacraments. The Episcopal Asset Map is a great tool to help find a church while you’re out of town.

Family and Table graces

Second, keep praying over the summer. God doesn’t take a vacation from us, so let’s not take a vacation from God. Use the Daily Devotions from Families and Individuals (found in the Book of Common Prayer starting at page 137). There are prayers for morning, noon, evening, and night. At just one page, these are brief prayers that are still filled with depth and beauty.

Another way to nurture a habit of daily prayer in families is to pray at meal time. There are very brief prayers in the Book of Common Prayer at page 835, if you want short prayers that you can memorize. Or you can get copies of Table Graces and Family Graces from Forward Movement. These are table tents, easy to pray whether there are one, two, or ten of you at the table.

Keeping up with our daily prayers helps us in our daily walk as followers of Jesus. Enjoy your summer, and enjoy praying all summer long.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale items are Table Graces and Family Graces.

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Forward Today: Celebrating joy and justice

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on tomorrow’s Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow the church celebrates the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering the time when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. As St. Luke’s Gospel tells the story (1:39-57), when Mary entered her cousin’s home, Elizabeth said, “For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
 
Even before his birth, the not-yet-born John the Baptist responded to the presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. This alone would make the feast day worth commemorating. But we also have the account of Mary’s response to this outburst of joy. She sang the Magnificat.

 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
 
This hymn of Mary says a great deal about God’s passion for justice. As we reflect on the Visitation, I wonder if we are ready to experience joy? I wonder if our lives reflect God’s desire to lift up the lowly, to feed the hungry, and to show mercy?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices.

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Forward Today: How will you fall in love with God again?

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on Bishop Curry’s powerful sermon on love at last weekend’s Royal Wedding.


Dear friends in Christ,

It seems like everyone is talking about Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding last weekend. When does a sermon ever become a news story? And yet, Bishop Curry has been on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and even TMZ to talk about his sermon. Why?
 
Certainly it has to do with Bishop Curry himself, who knows the power of media and who has the charisma to fill an entire room with contagious joy. But it’s more than that. It’s not really about Bishop Curry at all, I think. The reason the world has been captivated is that, last Saturday, some two billion people around the world heard a message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

 

Other than the spectacle of “one of our own” appearing in surprising places, what does this mean for us? Surely, there’s more to be gained here than a few chuckles from a funny impression of Bishop Curry on Saturday Night Live.
 
It seems to me, we have two big opportunities. The first is to renew our own love of God and our neighbors. How can we once again fall in love with God and then share that love with others? And the second is this: how can we invite other people to know the transforming power of God’s love in Jesus Christ?
 
Not long ago, Forward Movement published a book that Melody Wilson Shobe and I have written. Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices offers one way to explore what a life rooted in love looks like. Our book suggests that knowing and sharing God’s love is rooted in the sacraments, in daily prayer, in service of others, and in sharing the Good News.
 
How will you fall in love with God again? How will you invite someone else to know the transforming power of love?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Broken. Just $13.50, today only!

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Discover a life rooted in the power of love

Dear friends in Christ,

On Saturday, the world was captivated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s powerful sermon at the royal wedding. It’s gone viral, and that’s surely due to his core message. “This way of love is the way of life” and “We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love.”

But what does a live rooted in the love of Jesus Christ look like? Learn how to pray, live, work, and worship in the way of love as you read Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe.

 

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe have written another winsome resource for Episcopal newcomers, veterans and everybody in between. Read it if you want to learn the relationship between our prayer, our belief, and our daily life. Read it to get re-rooted in the unique Anglican approach to the Way of Jesus. Just read it.” – The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Buy direct from Forward Movement for just $22.

The book includes discussion questions, and bulk pricing is available.

Also available on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.

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A summer reading giveaway

Our summer reading list features some of our most compelling and soul enriching titles of the year. Whether you’re reading poolside, on the bus ride to work, or at the airport, we hope whichever book you choose will add richness to your summer, and to your spiritual life.

During the week of May 21 – 25, we will be hosting a giveaway on our Facebook page, giving away one of these featured titles each day. Follow us on Facebook to participate.

Broken

In his book, Broken, Waller has engaged me like no other Christian book ever has. His work reads like a conversation with a trusted mentor: there is vulnerability, questions asked, hard truth, and sage advice. We all go through seasons of darkness and Waller, with great empathy, reminds us that to be Christian is to admit and even embrace our brokenness and turn to a Lord that loves us anyways.”

-Shannon Tabor, Amazon Review

 

The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Finally we have a book title that speaks directly to the essence of the Bible: The Social Justice Bible Challenge. This book goes a long way in helping those who read it to hear the Word of God and live it. You must give this book to your family and friends.”

-The Reverend Dr. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Priest and Director, Core Values and Latin America & Caribbean Relations

 

Walk in Love

The most comprehensive, and comprehensible, guide to Episcopal faith and practice available. A perfect book for new comers, long-time members, and anyone in between.” (Read the entire review here.)

-Adam Trambley, rector at St John’s Episcopal Church, Sharon, PA

 

 

Are We There Yet?

I thought at first that this book would be good for my little Parish. Of course, I had to read it first. I discovered it was medicine for MY soul! Every contributor offered insights, wisdom, and grace. This year it was a pilgrimage just for me (with the wonderful company of the authors). Next year I will be in the company of many of my dearest spiritual friends.”

-Prof Larry, Amazon Review

 

Note to Self

This is a book many of us need. Here is ancient wisdom distilled into contemporary form to give shape and purpose to lives that are often noisy and without boundaries. Charles LaFond gently offers his own experience and the good sense of others to help us discern a better way. We are in his debt.”

-John Pritchard, Retired Bishop of Oxford

 

Forward Today: Come, Holy Spirit

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on the upcoming Day of Pentecost, and asks: “What do you think would happen if the Holy Spirit descended afresh on our church?”


Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we will celebrate the awe-full (as in full of awe) Day of Pentecost. Consider what it might have been like for those disciples. They saw tongues of fire. They heard people from other nations speaking in their own languages. It’s no wonder some bystanders wondered if people had been drinking too much.

By Хомелка [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

I worry that in our zeal to make Pentecost the capstone of the Easter season – to turn it into a big party – we have missed the awe of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against parties, and I’m grateful for our realization that Easter is a season of 50 days. But I wonder, on this feast of the Holy Spirit’s descent, if we pay enough attention to the Holy Spirit.
 
Too often, I hear people saying, “The Holy Spirit was here” when things have gone their way or when an experience was delightful. And perhaps the Spirit was there. But a cursory glance at the scriptures suggests the Holy Spirit’s arrival is not always about warm, fuzzy feelings.
 
Sometimes the Holy Spirit pushes people to act boldly for the cause of the Gospel. I mean, to do things that risk life and limb. Sometimes the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sins, and the fruit of an encounter with the Spirit is repentance. The whole book of Acts is filled with stories of the Spirit’s power leading the church to open itself to the world around.
 
What do you think would happen if the Holy Spirit descended afresh on our church? Would we hear new things from those who are different from us? Would we be pushed in new, astonishing directions?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale items are Prayers New and Old and Prayers for All Occasions.

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Forward Today: Springtime gratitude is not just for spring

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on spring, and asks: What keeps you from constant amazement?


Dear friends in Christ,

Spring is here. Technically, it’s been spring for several weeks, but at least in the part of the country where I live, we’re just now enjoying what might be called spring weather. The sky is blue, the flowers are blooming, people are outdoors more, and it’s the season of picnics.

 

For some reason, I’m especially grateful this year. Maybe it’s an usually long winter. Perhaps it’s the chaos of world news contrasted with the simple beauty of flowers. Whatever it is, I’m filled with gratitude for the goodness and beauty of creation. The thing is, two weeks ago, the world was just as amazing. But I wasn’t in a place to appreciate nature quite as much. I wonder what life would be like if my heart and mind were always open to the wonders of nature, to the beauty of creation?
 
And it’s the same for our neighbors, isn’t it? Do you ever meet someone and think, this person is amazing! It’s such a blessing to hear from this new person I’ve just met! The thing is, there’s an amazing person lurking inside everyone we meet. The question is whether or not our hearts and minds are open.
 
Today I’m praying for the grace and the wisdom to be amazed. It’s never a question of whether amazement is around. The question is always whether I’m open to seeing it.
 
What about you? Are you grateful for springtime? Are you grateful for the things you see and the people you meet? What keeps you from constant amazement?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. Just $21 today only, and a great gift idea!

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Forward Today: Let’s celebrate Saint Mark the Evangelist

In the new Forward Today, Scott suggests a way to honor St. Mark: simply read his whole gospel.


Dear friends in Christ,

Today is the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. This is a major feast, a red-letter day! We remember and celebrate the author of the Gospel of Mark. You can read about Saint Mark and the fascinating history of how the church has remembered him over on Wikipedia. The story of his relics would make a great Hollywood movie.

 But that’s not my point today. I want to encourage you to celebrate this day in a particular way. For one thing, your local church may be offering Holy Eucharist for Saint Mark’s Day. Churches are, after all, meant to observe all the major feasts. Beyond that, there’s a simpler way to honor this evangelist. We can read the Gospel he wrote.

A lion on St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Photo: Scott Gunn

Mark is the shortest of the four gospels. You can read it in about an hour, maybe less. My friend from seminary, Bert Marshall, goes on the road reciting the entire gospel. On a sabbatical several years ago, Bert memorized the entire gospel. He travels to churches and tells the story, in one sitting. Having experienced this, I can tell you it’s gripping. Mark’s writing is compact; there is a high degree of urgency. Bert tells the story in a way that makes it seem like he is simply telling the story, and that’s the point of the gospel. We tell the story.

You don’t need a guest to come and read the gospel out loud. You could gather everyone in your home and read the gospel, out loud or silently. It’s a quick read. And it’s a wonderful way to savor the power of Jesus’ life, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection.

So, today, let us honor Saint Mark the evangelist as we read the great gift he has offered us in writing a gospel.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is all-ages coloring book Pathways of Faith.

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