Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Find Patience and Comfort

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday brings one of my favorite collects in the Book of Common Prayer. The Rite I version is a bit better, and it goes like this:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There’s a lot in this prayer to savor. At the most basic level, I’m grateful for the reminder that through the scriptures we can more fully know Jesus Christ and the hope he gives us. I love the call to really, really dig into the scriptures. Don’t just read the scriptures. Write in your Bible! Make notes! Take in the scriptures—take them all the way in.

Of course, this all requires us to open our Bibles. It doesn’t really matter where you start or how you read. You can read the lessons each day as you say the daily office. You can use one of many scripture resources from Forward Movement. You can read your favorite Gospel. You can start at the beginning of 1 Samuel and discover a page-turner story that’s full of intrigue — and inspiration. You can pray the psalms. You can start wherever you want.

I invite you to engage anew with God’s word in the scriptures. It’s an invitation I issue regularly, because it’s one of the most important ways for we Christians to know the one whom we follow.

If you’ve never really read the Bible much before, I invite you to read just one chapter. Try it on for size. Grab a Bible, and look in one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Pick any chapter at random and read the whole chapter once or twice. It won’t take more than a few minutes. But it might change your life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist

Faith with a TwistFaith with a Twist seeks to bridge the gap between spiritual-but-not-religious by blending the ancient church’s wisdom and the spiritual practice of yoga. All too often attempts to blend yoga and Christianity have failed to do justice to both traditions —often sacrificing the wisdom of one tradition for the other. Faith with a Twist connects the traditional eight limbs of yoga with the church’s understanding and emphasis on living a holy life. This approach creates a unique blend of spiritual practices and religious wisdom that are perfect for the yoga novice and the experienced practitioner alike.

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Forward Today: Campaign ends, work begins

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I do not know any results for the midterm elections here in the United States. I do know it has been a very expensive and divisive campaign. I also know that important issues have been up for debate. I know that, whatever the result, some will feel the joy of victory and others the sting of defeat.

But there is another fact about the election. And it’s the most important one. Whoever wins, whoever loses, there is work to do. Whichever party has power, there is work to do.

As a follower of Christ, my hope is not that we establish a Christian nation, whatever that means. But as a Christian, I think participation in politics is essential to my faith. You see, as a Christian, I am commanded to love my neighbors. One important way to love my neighbors is to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive as the people God has made them to be. Everyone deserves to have basic human needs met, security, and freedom.

Voting Stickers
We love our neighbors by supporting efforts to care for the most vulnerable members of society. We love our neighbors by working for a time when our government and our society are free of oppression, violence, and degradation. In a democratic society, we love our neighbors by voting.

In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that we will be judged by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable. I believe that means that we citizens will be held accountable for how our nations treat the most vulnerable.

No political party is aligned perfectly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So whichever party is in power, our task as Christians is always to hold our leaders accountable to the high standards of our faith. Those high standards are clear: we care for the hungry, the widows, the orphans, and those whom society has rejected.

Dear friends, we’ve had an election. And now we have work to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: O Wisdom

Songs of thanks and praise, of lament and longing, of restoration and return have been on our lips for millennia. The verses of the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” explore and celebrate the many names of Jesus. Drawn from the book of Isaiah, the O Antiphons have been sung in churches and monastic communities since at least the eighth century. These beautiful and awe-inspiring phrases present a way for us to sing along with the story of God, to ponder and praise the many names of our Lord.

Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

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Forward Today: Being good neighbors

Dear friends in Christ,

The hate-fueled violence at Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday was, of course, horrifying. Eleven people died and others were wounded at the hands of a man driven by hatred and fear.

What are we Christians to do? Of course, we should pray. Our life begins, continues, and ends in prayer. But here we are called to do more. We must be good neighbors.

I have a friend who was rector of a parish with a decades-long friendship with a nearby synagogue. They had an annual pulpit exchange. They stayed in touch with one another. They shared some activities together. And once or twice each year, they prayed together. If either community had ever experienced a crisis, they had a long relationship on which to build a response and to provide support. I admire places with these enduring friendships.

Group of people
Sure, we can show up at rallies and prayer vigils. We should absolutely do that. But being a good neighbor is more than that. Is your church a good neighbor to others in your community? Too many of our congregations are inward-looking. Our world—and our Gospel—demand that we change our posture.

Get to know those who live near your church. Get to know Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths. Ask community leaders what your community’s needs are. Consider learning about and practicing asset-based community development.

Our world needs good neighbors. And we all need each other. Let’s all agree to respond to the crises we see, but let us also resolve to begin today on our journey of being better neighbors.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Morning Resolve

Morning ResolveThis unique devotional book for personal or small group discipleship and spiritual formation utilizes this daily prayer to guide readers as they examine and meditate on a portion of the prayer each week and examine and employ spiritual disciplines. Ultimately, the intentional crafting of a simple, sincere, and serene life is a spiritual discipline, too. Morning Resolve will guide readers into the spiritual practices that bear good fruit for a grace-filled life. Published by Cascade Books.

Regular: $23
Today: $17.25*

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Forward Today: For an election, let us pray

Dear friends,

Most readers of this weekly email will be residents in the USA. This nation is preparing for an important midterm election in a few days. Even for readers in other countries, it’s an important moment, as the relationship of the USA to many other nations will be affected by the outcome.

I want to ask everyone to do three things as we head toward the election.

First, if you are eligible to vote, I very much hope you will vote. This is an important part of exercising our civic responsibility, and it is certainly one key way we Christians carry out our work of following Jesus in civil society. You can learn more about the issues, voting locations, and so on at vote.org.

Second, become engaged in the issues. There are plenty of ways in which reasonable and faithful Christians can disagree on politics and party. But there are other ways in which every Christian might find themselves united. Governments almost never care for the most vulnerable people in society. That’s true of any party, and it’s incumbent on us Christians to look out for, to speak up for, and to stand alongside those who might otherwise be forgotten.

Season of Prayer Graphic

Third, I urge you to pray. Sometimes people draw a distinction between prayer and action. I am here to tell you that prayer is action. Prayer changes hearts and lives. Prayer may result in changes that are scarcely imaginable. Prayer may prompt us to engage in other actions. Above all, prayer helps us attend to our relationship with Almighty God, and this reminds us of who we are.

Forward Movement is offering daily prayer suggestions on Facebook and Twitter. Follow us there. Perhaps you’ll offer the prayer we have suggested for each day up through the election. And maybe you’ll share those prayers with your friends on social media. Through prayer, all things are possible, because we know that with God, all things are possible. Let us pray.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: The Path

The PathWalk in the footsteps of faithful men and women who have done their best to follow God’s call. The Path is the story of the Bible, excerpted from the New Revised Standard Version so that it is clear and easy to read. Follow the path of God’s love all the way from the beginning to the end, from Adam’s creation to John’s revelation.

With informative trail signs to help you see how each piece of the narrative fits together, The Path is an experience unlike any other: an amazing 360-degree overview of the vast, sweeping story of God’s extraordinary love for ordinary people. Join us on this epic adventure, a journey through the Bible to grow closer to God.

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Forward Today: Creating a culture of discipleship

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m sending this from Charlotte, where people from across the church have gathered for the fifth annual Discipleship Matters conference hosted by Forward Movement. Our reason for gathering is to help lay and clergy leaders create a culture of discipleship in their congregations.

It’s important work. Too many of our churches are barely-living museums or societies of preservation. The highest values in such places include surviving as an institution, avoiding conflict, continuing familiar customs, and providing positive feelings. While they don’t sound bad, when you take them together the picture is antithetical to the Gospel.

The Gospel demands sacrifice and risk. The Gospel privileges the call of Jesus Christ over our own personal preferences or even safety. The Gospel is about bold action, not vague feelings.

So what does this look like in a church? Churches that prioritize discipleship – making followers of Jesus Christ – are places where worship, prayer, and study are prized. This is not to avoid the world’s needs, but rather to anchor us and to remind us of our calling as Christians. Churches that value discipleship teach generosity, humility, and listening for God’s still, small voice.

Discipleship is not a church growth program, but it turns out that churches where discipleship matters are places that tend to be thriving and growing in measurable ways.

Intrigued? Visit the Forward Movement Facebook page for news and video highlights of the conference. It may take us a day or two to get them uploaded. Ask around, and find a nearby church were discipleship is the thing. Visit, learn, and see what might work in your church.

If you are blessed to be in a church where there’s already a culture of discipleship, thank your lay and clergy leaders for making this a priority. Consider sharing what you love about the journey of following Jesus with friends and even folks at other churches. Let’s create a wave of discipleship.

Making disciples is, without doubt, the most important thing our church does. Let’s keep at it, shall we?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift – the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

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Forward Today: The Way of Love

Dear friends in Christ,

If you read Episcopal Church news much, you’ve heard that Bishop Michael Curry, our Presiding Bishop, has been talking about the Way of Love. You might think of this as the spiritual practices that make the Jesus Movement come to life in our lives and in our church.

The idea behind the Way of Love is pretty simple. There are seven steps: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest. We begin by turning—or repenting—toward Jesus. And then we anchor our lives in study, prayer, and worship so that we might be bearers of God’s blessings to the world.If you want to learn a bit more about the Way of Love, you can visit www.episcopalchurch.org/wayoflove. There’s a fantastic three-minute video there where the Presiding Bishop sets out what it is and why it matters. We at Forward Movement have also created a web page with information about the Way of Love and some of our resources that connect to these practices.

If seven steps seems like too many, maybe start with two simple daily practices. Read a bit of scripture every day, and spend a few moments in prayer. I guarantee you, if you do this for a while, your heart will change. There’s nothing gimmicky about the Way of Love. These are ancient and biblical ways to follow our savior, Jesus Christ.

Our world is desperate for words and deeds of hope. If we can become people of the Way of Love, we can bear tidings and acts of hope.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: What Are You Waiting For?

What are you waiting for?Get in line. Take a number. Count down the days. We spend so much of our lives waiting: waiting for a new job or a well-deserved vacation; for love or an apology; for test results or cures to kick in; for things to stabilize or to get shaken up. At no other time of the year may the theme of waiting feel so poignant than the season of Advent.

This year, while waiting for things mundane to things sublime, embark on a seasonal journey with daily meditations that will work on your soul to bring a richer quality and depth to your waiting. These reflections are perfect for individual use and are affordably priced to share with your entire congregation.

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Forward Today: A hospital for sinners

Dear friends in Christ,

The daily office Gospel reading for today has given me a much-needed reminder. From Luke 5, “Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.'”

There are lots of ways to think about our church and its purpose. I often think of us as a community of disciples. Sometimes we might like to think of the church as a refuge. For most of us, church is a holy place we visit to worship God and to be nourished by the sacraments. But one of my favorite images of the church is a hospital for sinners.

Sainte-Chapelle

As I mentioned last week, we are all sinners and we all need saving. A medical hospital saves lives, and a church is a hospital that saves souls. To be clear, Jesus Christ is the one who saves souls, but it is in the church where we are reminded to repent and to follow our Savior.

It’s tempting in our divided age to cast aside people who we don’t like. But we Christians are nurses in the hospital for souls. Our task is to love our neighbors. Our task is to invite people into a relationship with Jesus.

I am grateful that Jesus loves and redeems me, despite all my sins. And as I look around, I see lots of people who are potentially, like me, patients in the hospital for sinners.

Let us all give thanks that our God reaches out to the lost, for we are all lost at times. And let us all look for the lost, the least, and the last. For they are the special concern of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Icon from Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, via flickr.


Today’s Flash Sale: A Journey with Luke

Journey with LukeA masterful storyteller with the compassion of a physician, Luke paints a picture of Jesus as healer, full of mercy, forgiveness, and love. The Gospel of Luke features the lovely Magnificat, Mary’s love song to God, and the nativity story heard in Christmas pageants around the world. Luke includes three parables not heard in any other gospel: the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, and the unjust judge. Luke, also believed to be the author of the book of Acts, emphasizes prayer as central to the life of faith.

Join the journey with Luke with fifty days of scripture readings, meditations, and prayers written by dynamic spiritual leaders from around the world. A Journey with Luke is part of a series of fifty-day Bible studies and is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with the Word of God.

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Forward Today: We’re all sinners

Dear friends in Christ,

Last week I wrote about politics and the Gospel. Among the mostly positive responses I received, I noticed that a number of readers said something along the lines of “Thank you for saying this. I’m tired of THOSE PEOPLE not getting it right.”

I feel this way too, sometimes. But in my better moments I remember that Jesus warned us about naming other people as sinners. Of course, Jesus wanted us to remember that we are ALL sinners. We all need redemption.

Candles

One thing that all Christians seem to have in common is that we like to talk about other people’s sins. It’s certainly a lot easier than talking about our own sins.

By all means, we should name evil when we see it. We should name injustice. We should work to defeat evil, injustice, oppression, and fear.

It’s worth remembering that, for Christians, “good people” and “bad people” are not meaningful categories. We are all good in that God made us all in God’s own image. That is true for every person in every nation on earth. We are all bad in that we are all sinners. We all do terrible things. That is true for every person on every nation on earth.

So next time you think of how those people have sinned, remember that you have sinned too. I ask you to pray for me too, a sinner. And let us all give thanks to God that we have a redeemer who can free us from the tyranny of sin. Jesus Christ stands ready to welcome all who turn to him.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=24172274%40N00&view_all=1&text=candle


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31.

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

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Forward Today: Is the Gospel political?

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve been pondering the Gospel and politics this week. Two things have happened to get me thinking.

First, the Archbishop of Canterbury last week criticized sharply corporate greed and increasing economic disparity. You can read a bit about what he said in the Washington Post. Naturally, there was a fierce response from those who said Archbishop Justin Welby should stick to religion and avoid politics.

Second, several people have contacted me about the author of this month’s meditations in Forward Day by Day, saying that the author is “too political” and that our devotions should “stick to religion.”

Here’s the challenge for us, especially those of us who are United States Christians. We do live in a time of increasing partisanship and social fracture. It’s tempting to look for some quieter spaces into which we might retreat from the ever-louder cacophony of talking heads and yelling politicians. It might seem, to some, that church should be such a place of refuge.

Meeting Jesus on the Margins

Alas, the Gospel will not permit us to avoid issues that our culture has labeled as political. The scriptural witness is clear, for example, that we must welcome strangers. We must care for the poor. We must decry those who would label some as sinners unworthy of our love and care. We must share our wealth. And so on.

To take up these topics is not to inject politics into religion. To take up these topics is the very essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, one can make the claim, with some support, that partisanship is to be eschewed in the church. I agree with this. We won’t be publishing meditations about tax brackets or mechanisms for funding health care or precise immigration quotas. These are all things that reasonable Christians can and should disagree about.

However, we at Forward Movement will continue to engage fundamental issues — including economic inequality, racism, sexism, and violence, to name a few – because they are key issues not just for civil society but for Christians.

The Gospel isn’t Republican or Democratic or Labour or Conservative or Green or any other party. But the Gospel demands that we work for a world in which justice, mercy, and grace reign supreme. Thanks be to God.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Broken

BrokenBefore Jesus broke the bread, he blessed it.

In the age of social media, where our lives are curated to show only our best and most beautiful selves, it is easy to believe we are the only ones who are broken. But we are not alone. We are all broken and in need of God’s blessing. No one has it all together; no person is perfect.

In essays both humorous and achingly vulnerable, author Ryan Casey Waller urges us to join him in pouring out our brokenness, not just to God but to each other. Waller takes us through the trials of following Jesus during seasons of doubt and disbelief, anger, shame, and even hate, but always brings us back to the amazing news that Jesus blessed the bread before he broke it.

Through Jesus, our brokenness is blessed, our wounds healed, and our hearts made whole.

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Forward Today: Holy Cross Day

Dear friends in Christ,

This Friday, we celebrate Holy Cross Day. For much of Christian history, the cross on which Jesus died has been a source of shame. The very idea that our Lord and Savior would be executed by the state seems like a defeat in our culture of success and might. The shocking event of Jesus’ crucifixion is just as jarring today as it was some 2,000 years ago.

I’ve had the great privilege of visiting Jerusalem several times. Each time, I spent some time in prayer in Calvary Chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion. Archeologists can’t prove that Jesus died in this spot, but all the archeological evidence lines up in support of the possibility.

It always seems a bit jarring to me that the site of Jesus’ death is so…shiny. It’s radiant with candles. It’s surrounded by polished metal. The walls and the floor are marble. It all looks almost…festive.

Chapel

How are we to reckon the horror of a painful death with the radiant chapel? Maybe we can find the key in one of the prefaces for our Eucharistic prayers in the Book of Common Prayer (page 379): “For our sins he was lifted high upon the cross, that he might draw the whole world to himself; and, by his suffering and death, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who put their trust in him.”

The cross is the instrument of our salvation whereon Jesus freely gave himself for us and for our salvation. The cross is where we can celebrate God’s triumph over death and all the worst evil the world can muster. On the cross, Jesus reigned as Lord of Love.

This Friday, let us all celebrate Holy Cross Day. Let us keep the cross not as mere adornment, but as the center of our faith and life. Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the World. Come, let us worship.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottgunn/14136115257/in/album-72157644951849962/


Today’s Flash Sale: A Journey through Acts

Journey Through ActsThe Book of Acts shares the story of the birth of the Christian church, connecting the earliest followers of Jesus to Christians 2,000 years later. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into followers of “The Way,” the community of Jesus’ disciples, and empowers them to share the Good News of God in Christ. Join the journey through Acts and follow in the footsteps of the apostles Peter and Paul and many others such as Barnabas and Lydia, all bearing witness to Jesus’ saving grace. Featuring fifty days of scripture and reflections by spiritual leaders from around the world, A Journey Through Acts is part of a series of 50 Day Bible studies and is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with the Word of God.