Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Love So Amazing

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the great line from Isaac Watts, and how we can all reflect on it this Lenten season.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today, as I was praying morning prayer, I was struck by this line from Romans: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (5:8). It’s so simple, really, but yet so extraordinary.
 
Even though we’ve all messed up pretty badly, God still loves us enough to effect our salvation. Jesus Christ was willing to live among us and, ultimately, to die for us. The cross proves that our God is not a distant, remote God. God is willing to live in solidarity with us, to enter every human pain. And, of course, Jesus was raised from the dead, showing us that God’s love is stronger even than death.
 
Paolo Veneziano [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
This Lenten season, I invite you to join me in reflecting on all this. Let us not ignore our sins and failings. Let us give thanks for God’s great love for us. And let us prepare ourselves to celebrate God’s victory over evil and death on Easter Sunday.
 
So simple. So extraordinary. “When I survey the wondrous cross,” Isaac Watts’ beloved hymn, ends with this: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: The Riches of Common Prayer

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott looks at a treasure trove of prayer hiding in plain sight in a pew near you, and wonderful for Lent: the BCP.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I’ve been writing a book on Episcopal beliefs and practices lately, and so I’ve been poking around the Book of Common Prayer quite a bit. Whenever I have occasion for a project like this that takes me deeper into the prayer book, I always walk away grateful for our tradition of common prayer. The prayers that we use week in and week out are like beloved friends, but there are also some gems lurking in the lesser-trod parts of our prayer book.

 

 
Consider, for example, “A Litany of Thanksgiving for a Church” (BCP 578) or the seasonal prayers in the Order for Evening (BCP 111) or any number of other places. There are precious gems waiting for us to find and examine them.
 
If you have a moment this Lenten season, I invite you to dig out a prayer book and flip through its pages. Visit old friends and find new ones. Learn a bit more about how our life of prayer is organized. Savoring common prayer does not prevent us from talking with God in our own words. In fact, it might give us new language for our conversations with God.
 
This week, I close with another favorite prayer, “For Quiet Confidence” (BCP 832).
 
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Christ, Be Present With Us

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on a letter he recently received, from an inmate on death row—and shares a powerful prayer.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

This week I received a letter that I won’t forget any time soon. As you may know, we at Forward Movement donate resources to prisons and prisoners. Sometimes it is a chaplain who contacts us, and sometimes it is an inmate. This unforgettable letter was from a man who is now on death row. He was writing to thank us for Forward Day by Day, which he said had given him lots of comfort over the last few years. He also shared that the date of his execution has been set for April, and he was asking for prayers.

 


Photo by Flickr user VSmithUK / Creative Commons

I can’t imagine what his life is like right now. What is it like to know the exact date of your death? As I was trying to decide what I might say in response, I happened to come across a prayer card. The prayer, which comes from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, seemed just right for him, and, I think, for all of us.
 
Be Thou, O Lord, a light unto mine eyes, music to my ears, sweetness to my taste, and a full contentment to my heart. Be thou my sunshine in the day, my food at the table, my repose in the night, my clothing in nakedness, and my succor in all necessities. Amen.
 
Jesus is everything for us and for all who follow him. I pray that not only those who are near death, but all who are in the midst of life, will find strength and courage from Christ’s presence in our lives. In this Lenten season, we remember that Jesus was tempted in the desert, knew every human pain, and suffered the sting of death. God loves us so much that Jesus Christ dwelled with us in great humility. And, in the end, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, showing us that God’s love is stronger than death.
 
May we all be inspired to live fearlessly and compassionately, confident in Christ’s presence. And I beg your prayers for all who face death, whatever the reason or circumstance.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Wandering and Yearning

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about how challenging it must have been to wander in the desert–and the yearning for home shared by all who are displaced.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

We are just a week away from Lent. I can hardly wait. This year more than ever, I will welcome this great season in which we are invited to focus on returning to God, on recommitting ourselves to following Jesus.
 
The length of the Lenten season, 40 days not counting Sundays, comes from the accounts of Jesus’ time in the desert, when we spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, meeting God and facing temptation. I was hiking in a desert not too long ago, and my appreciation for the extreme nature of Jesus’ journey only grew. The desert is not a hospitable place. Because he was fully human, he must have yearned to be home.
Jesus’ 40 days in the desert find an antecedent in God’s people wandering in the desert for 40 years. I can’t imagine. Forty years of wandering, of yearning for home, a home in the promised land.
 
The plight of refugees has recently come into focus for many of us. Their struggle is not new, but more of us are paying attention now. More than 65 million people around the world have been displaced from their homes by war, strife, or persecution. Having visited refugee camps in the West Bank and in Rwanda, I have a tiny amount of awareness of their struggles. Most refugees will live the rest of their lives in camps, unable to return home because it is not safe, and unable to find a new home because no one will let them in. All these people want is what anyone wants, a place to call home. Refugees are wandering and yearning, but for more than 40 days or 40 years.
 
This Lent, we at Forward Movement invite you to join in a Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. During this time, we will pray and read scripture about hospitality, about wandering, and about caring for refugees. Let us all fervently pray that every person – all of whom are made in God’s image – finds a place to call home. Let us pray that those of us with homes will open them to a world in need.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Inspiration from the Saints

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about Lent Madness, the annual saintly smackdown that’s all in good fun–but can have a powerful impact, too.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

We are just around the corner from the eighth year of Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” that pits 32 saints into a competition for the Golden Halo. It’s all very silly, but it has a profound impact on participants. You see, over the course of Lent, as you vote for your favorite saints, you read about them and their witness. By the end of Lent, we get a glimpse into the extraordinary ways God works in ordinary women and men.
 

 

Some will object that this kind of silly and slightly irreverent fun isn’t appropriate in a world rife with serious problems. But as I blogged yesterday, there are no saints of the status quo. That is, every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.
 
This year more than ever, I’m looking forward to a fun, informative, and inspirational season of Lent Madness. As in previous years, I know a vibrant online community will form as we discuss the merits of various saints. Perhaps you will join us, if you haven’t played before. This might be in addition to your regular Lenten discipline, or maybe it will be your first-ever Lenten discipline. Whatever you do, I invite you to use the season of Lent to recommit to following Jesus. It is hard work, to be sure. But sometimes it can be fun. This is appropriate. After all, the Book of Common Prayer describes Lent as a season to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” Indeed. Let us prepare with joy.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Daily Prayer Is the Key

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes that the harder it seems to make the time and space for daily prayer, the more important it is.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Sometimes it seems that our world is spinning out of control. Whatever your political persuasion or nationality, we can all agree that conflict is on the rise. Those of us on social media might feel that we’re witnessing daily stress and angst increase by the minute. And the nonstop pulse of news cycles leaves us breathless, with little room for contemplation.
 
When something terrible happens in our world, we often hear a response of “thoughts and prayers.” This inevitably leads to a conversation about whether prayer is enough. I’d like to suggest that prayer and contemplation are essential, but that when we pray fervently, we’ll often be led to other kinds of actions. The key is making space for prayer in the first place, something increasingly difficult in the chaos of the present time.
 
Habits of daily prayer and reflection are absolutely essential for followers of Jesus. The harder this seems for us, the more important it is. Prayer is our anchor. Prayer is the thing that keeps us grounded and focused.
 
Praying for our enemies will help us to follow Jesus’ commandment to love them. Praying for a decrease in violence will push us to work for peace. Praying for God’s strength when we are afraid will help us live as Jesus told us when he said again and again, “Be not afraid.”
 
It’s just a month until Lent, thanks be to God. Soon enough we’ll be in the midst of a whole season devoted to helping us follow Jesus every day. I hope you’ll find ways, during Lent or before, to join me in focusing on our lives of daily prayer.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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ICYMI: Week of 1/27/17

Welcome back to the latest In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

The story in much of the #Episcopal world has been around prayer this week. We were impressed by the way Ryan Casey Waller preached about the subject here:

(If you were impressed by Ryan’s preaching, too, keep an eye on this space—he’s writing a book for Forward Movement this spring!)

This week we celebrated the Conversion of Saint Paul. What does this have to do with us? Plenty, says Scott Gunn, who wrote in Forward Today that “We will be asked to admit that we were wrong – again and again – and to start over. It’s incredibly counter-cultural in a world which urges us all to resist admitting error or to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.”

Marcus Halley added that Jesus’ treatment of Saul, claiming him rather than destroying him, causes him to rethink how he pictures Christ: “Maybe Jesus isn’t my avenging superhero, and maybe that’s okay.”

In #Episcopal world, the conversation has also begun shifting toward Lent. At Forward Movement, we’re really excited about our newest book of Lenten meditations, Ashes and the Phoenix. We made this graphic explaining what it’s all about:

Another one that’s great for the season is On the Way: 7 Reflections on Life with Jesus, which is beautifully illustrated and bilingual in English and Spanish. Here’s Hugo speaking more about the book.

Of course, our own resources are hardly the only ones for this season. One other Lenten activity that caught our eye is Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday. Here’s a post from Episcopal Cafe sharing bilingual resources for your church to participate.

Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful week!

Forward Today: Converting Our Hearts

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott considers the Conversion of Saint Paul, just how courageous that conversion was–and what that means for us.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today the church celebrates the Conversion of Saint Paul. On this day, we remember how Saul, who devoted his life to persecuting followers of Jesus, converted and became Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
 
Think of the courage that must have taken for Paul. He had to admit that everything he had previously stood for was wrong. He had to be willing to start over with a whole new focus and purpose in his life. He had to spend time around people who probably didn’t trust him at first, with very good reason. He had to go from being among the powerful agents of the empire to being among those who would be vulnerable to persecution or arrest.
It’s good to remember that the point of this Christian life is conversion. The Gospel invites us all, constantly, to amend our ways. We are invited to admit that our familiar, comfortable ways are not Jesus’ ways. We will be asked to admit that we were wrong – again and again – and to start over. It’s incredibly counter-cultural in a world which urges us all to resist admitting error or to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.
 
So on this day when we give thanks for Saint Paul’s conversion and his witness, let us all think about how we might need to be converted. What do you need to stop doing for the sake of the Gospel? What does the Gospel demand that you begin? How can we all move from comfort and familiarity to welcome the inherent uncertainty and danger of the Gospel life?
 
Our world needs brave witnesses of Christ’s love. May you and I have the grace and courage to answer the invitation of Jesus Christ.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Learning from St. Peter

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes on the Confession of St. Peter–and why Peter is such a “reassuring and empowering” figure.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Today the church celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. I don’t know about you, but St. Peter is one of my favorite people in the Bible.
 
I like St. Peter because despite the fact that he messes up over and over again, Jesus obviously loves him and, in fact, chooses him to lead the church. Just about nobody messed up worse or more often than St. Peter. He denied Jesus three times. He said impetuous things. He got it wrong more often, it seems, than he got it right.
When Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them who people were saying he is, the disciples reported that people were getting it wrong. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they said he is, and it is mess-up-all-the-time St. Peter who answered it right. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
 
This whole story is reassuring and empowering. I mess up all the time, too. Odds are, the same is true for you. We Christians get it wrong more often than we get it right. And if Jesus could love St. Peter, he can certainly love us. The story also reminds us of another important thing. St. Peter, despite his constant mess-ups, remembered who Jesus is. We should do the same.
 
So today, I’m going to try to get it right a few times. That is, I’ll try to choose following Jesus over following anyone or anything else. I know I’ll mess up. But getting it right isn’t the only thing I’m going to work on. I’ll do my best to remember who Jesus is.
 
Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Jesus loves us even when we head the wrong direction. Thank God we don’t have to save ourselves, for Jesus is our Savior. And that, my friends, is Good News.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: The Word Will Stand Forever

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott suggests a remedy for challenging times: re-engaging with scripture.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Many of us are uneasy about the political and social situation in our country now. I don’t mean this to be partisan. In conversation, I’ve heard both Democrats and Republicans bewail the division in the United States. Whatever your station in life or political affiliation, we can see division, rancor, and violence all around. But what are we do to?
 
I’ve written about this before, suggesting prayer and action. As I’ve been thinking over the last few days about how I will respond to what I’m seeing, I know that action and prayer will be important. One action that I will practice is not focused in direct political change, but it is perhaps the most important thing I will do. My plan is to re-engage the scriptures. This month, we’re promoting The Path: A Journey Through the Bible here at Forward Movement. Our own ad campaign worked on me! I plan to read this wonderful survey of the grand story of the scriptures.
 

 

Through our RenewalWorks ministry, we have a lot of data on the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, including the catalysts that promote spiritual growth. We know that the single most important catalyst for growth is scripture engagement. Get people reading the Bible, and their lives change! Even if you’ve read the entire Bible several times, it still makes a difference to read scripture. While I read a bit of the Bible each day with the daily office, The Path will marvelously remind me of God’s saving purpose for us and all creation.
 
This puts things in perspective. It’s easy to be crushed by our fears or our anger. But as the Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever ” (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whatever the newspaper says, God’s word is freshly revealed in the scriptures each day, ready to refresh and renew us.
 
Maybe you’ll join me? Whether you use The Path, The Bible Challenge, the daily office, or just open up a Bible, I know that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart, as in mine, through the scriptures. I don’t know about you, but I need the reminder these days. The word of our God will stand forever.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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