Tag Archives: Forward Today

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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Forward Today: The Gift of Silence

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott suggests a practice to try when Advent (or any season) gets hectic: silence.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Annually, right about this time of year, I suddenly realize that Advent is nearly over and Christmas is coming soon. I wish I could tell you this is a spiritual insight. But it is instead the pressure of sending cards, buying gifts, and preparing celebrations. It’s Advent preparation, but not necessarily in a good way. On a good day, I remember what Christmas and Advent are really all about and I regain my perspective.
 
For me, one of the most powerful and surprising ways I manage to center myself is with silence. Believe me, it doesn’t come naturally, which is all the more reason I need the practice. Maybe you’re a person for whom silence is a comfortable gift. If so, I commend you. Maybe you can tell us how you managed that in the comments or on social media. If you’re like me, I commend the gift of silence. Precisely because it is difficult, it is important. Silence rejects the urgency of our culture. Silence rejects the noise and the talking heads. Silence rejects agendas and opens our hearts to listen for God’s still, small voice.

 

Our liturgy demands some silence. Just after the breaking of the bread, the Book of Common Prayer requires silence. The rest of our liturgy is usually filled with constant motion and a surplus of words. But after breaking the bread, it’s as if the whole creation stops. Like on Good Friday. And in that bread-breaking, heart-breaking silence, we prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
 
What if we managed to get everything to stop so we could prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus Christ in our Christmas celebrations? Several years ago, when I was a parish priest, I had the idea to leave three minutes of silence after the sermon each Sunday in Advent. I knew that, for many, it would be an eternity. I was nervous, and I prepared myself for complaints and the failure of this experiment with silence. How wrong I was. After church, a number of people told me what a gift it was in this frenetic time to make space for silence. Even squirmy children – we had a lot of them at that church! – were affected by the mystical gift of silence.
 
I encourage you to try out the gift of silence. Spend a few minutes in silence alone. Pray or meditate or just let your mind rest. Try out silence at home. Maybe at dinner time, set aside a minute or two or five or whatever seems like just a bit too much. Savor the gift.
 
In quiet hope and silent preparation, I am,

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Ambassadors for Christ

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on Christmas and “this funny time of year for Christians and the public life.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Someone recently asked me if I’d speak to a reporter to offer a theological perspective on a game called Santa vs. Jesus. I haven’t seen the game, but of course I Googled it. It’s a hard game, meant to be humorous, apparently designed to make the point that Christmas is about Jesus. OK, fair enough. I’m sold.
 
That got me to thinking about this funny time of year for Christians and the public life. Some people wonder if it’s better to stick it out with Advent for the duration, or if we should cave and join wider culture in celebrating Christmas. And of course, certainly people try to stir a battle each year over an alleged “war on Christmas” with pointed commentary about the correct greeting for this time of year or even what color Starbucks coffee cups should be.

Mostly this is all very predictable and not a little silly. But there is a deeper issue lurking in the conversation. How should our Christian faith be lived in the public sphere? Is it OK to display our faith, or does respect for others compel us to hide our faith? Should we expect public and commercial entities to cater to our Christian faith? When can we do this lightly, and when does it become a serious issue?

 

 Photo of Glasgow Cathedral by Flickr user Michel Curi / Creative Commons

 

Around 10,000 people will receive this email, and I expect there are 10,000 different answers. I’d be interested in reading yours on social media (Facebook or Twitter) or as comments on the Forward Movement blog. For my part, I think a pluralistic culture means that I should be a proud and respectful Christian, and I should delight in meeting proud and respectful Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and more. By being ourselves and by approaching others with openness and curiosity, we can forge deep and meaningful relationships–which is what our world and our nation needs right now. Whether you’re an Advent stickler (like me) or already in full-on Christmas mode, I hope you and I can be ambassadors for Jesus Christ–joyful, loving, penitent, generous people–this time of year and always.
 
If you see me and wish me a “Happy Holidays” I will smile and thank you. I’ll probably greet fellow Christians with “Have a blessed Advent” for the next few days, and then for the duration of Christmastide, I’ll say, “Happy Christmas.” Rather than worry about whether I got or gave the best greeting, I’m going to do my best to give thanks that I can greet another person with Christ’s love and in his name.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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ICYMI: Week of 12/2

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

With all that’s going on at Standing Rock, and the Church’s spotlight on the issue, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s issue to sharing Standing Rock resources.

To start, here is the Standing Rock tribe page—a great place to learn more about the history and issues at stake, and to explore ways you can take action. Head to the Stand with Standing Rock page to learn more about support you can offer.

Here’s an excellent video, including a beautiful reflection on prayer (starting at 7:27).

This interview with Teresa Pasquale Mateus offers really helpful perspective on what’s actually happening on the ground at Standing Rock, and considers the broader spiritual framework of the issue. A key quote:

“The gathering at Standing Rock is not only blocking a pipeline’s construction; it’s much more than that. These prayer-warriors are full of hope and the resilient faith that dares to envision another world. People from all faiths are participating in ceremony as an act of resistance, chanting: “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life.”

And today, Bishop Curry sent a powerful letter to the Governor of North Dakota and the Sheriff of Morton County. The full letter is here. A quote:

“The Episcopal Church is grateful to stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds of the Sioux Nation. We do so seeking to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us that love of God and love of our neighbor is the highest moral law and religious duty (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:25-37).”

Lastly, the Episcopal Church homepage currently features more on Standing Rock and actions you can take.

Scott Gunn recently described Advent in Forward Today as a time for “waiting, but not for waiting around,” noting that this season lends itself to action and social justice. To that end, we’ve launched a new series of “Advent Actions” on the blog. Each Sunday this season, we’ll be publishing 3 suggested actions you can take for the week: one around civil society and government, one with neighbors, and one at the home. The project feels all the more timely given what’s happening at Standing Rock. Click on the candle below to see the first set of Advent Actions, and check back on Sunday for the second.

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“Waiting, but not waiting around.” Amen.

Forward Today: Advent Is for Waiting, But Not Waiting Around

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the beginning of Advent, and how this season of waiting shouldn’t be equated to just “waiting around.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

If the church were like the mall, we’d already have moved on from Advent. Thank God, the church is not like the mall. Instead of rapid-fire movement from one shiny thing to the next, the church moves a bit more slowly, with deliberation. And our things are not always that shiny.
 
A couple of weeks ago, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, a priest in Minnesota, wrote to me with an idea. She wondered if there might be a way to combine our Advent practice with the desire for social justice. Indeed, the contrast between hate-filled graffiti on the outside of some Episcopal churches and the love-filled worship could not be more extreme. Daughtry’s question led me to wonder how we might have our love-filled season of Advent spill out into the world.

 

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Last Sunday, we at Forward Movement published our first of four weeks of suggested activities for Advent. These activities encourage us to make real our desire to love our neighbors, and to make God’s love known in the world. They’re perfect Advent activities–slightly subversive ways of inviting God’s kingdom into our world. We might not think of Advent as a time of action, but as I wrote in that blog post, Advent is a time for waiting, not for waiting around.
 
We’re just getting started on Advent. I hope you will find your own way to enter into the fullness of this season. Pray the daily office. Use our iPhone app to color in each day in a devotional Advent calendar. Spend a few minutes in silence each day. Give to charity instead of buying gifts. Visit our blog each week to get ideas for how you can connect more deeply with your community and your neighbors. Read the scriptures.
 
Whatever you do, I urge you to use this holy season to open your heart to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, to seek and serve Jesus Christ in friends and strangers, and to know Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Word and Sacrament.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Giving Thanks and Getting Ready

In this week’s Thanksgiving edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on gratitude in a difficult year–and how we can all be grateful for the coming season of Advent.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Most years, I’m ready to set aside my usual frenetic pace to pause in gratitude for all the blessings of this life. I know that’s the right thing to do, but it’s going to be harder for me and many others this year.
 
As I think about the lavish feasts that will be held across our nation, I can’t help but think of all those who don’t have enough. Many of my friends are afraid in new ways this year–afraid of violent attacks or afraid of being deported. These are not idle worries. Churches have been defaced with Nazi symbols, and the public has not exactly rushed to the aid of those at the margins. Who am I to give thanks from my comfortable perch?
 
And yet, as I look at Christian history, it is in the midst of difficult times that God’s presence is necessary and empowering. I’m not saying that comfortable people should sit back and watch the vulnerable suffer. Quite the opposite. God calls us to testify of God’s love, to join the most vulnerable people and stand with them, to calm their fears.

 

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Gratitude will be different for me this year, and maybe for you, too. I’m grateful for God’s presence in my life and in the world. And I’m especially grateful for the coming season of Advent. Lord knows, we need a season to focus on preparing our hearts for Jesus and for proclaiming the kingdom of God’s mercy, grace, righteousness, and justice.
 
Are you afraid? Are you grateful? Maybe both? Let us pray.
 
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
As we turn toward Advent to prepare to worship Jesus Christ in the throne of his manger, let us prepare to worship him in the throne of his people–the poor, the vulnerable, the refugees, the prisoners, and all who are in need.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Let Us Pray

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the election… from the vantage point of yesterday. What might we reflect on and work for as Christians, no matter the results?


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I write this on Election Day, not knowing yet what the results will be. As you receive this, we know who will be the next President of the United States. We know by now many of the people who will serve in Congress. Local races have been decided, and important issues have been decided in ballot initiatives.
 
No one needs a news anchor to predict something else. However our presidential campaign has turned out, we know that the United States is deeply divided. During the campaign–and before, to be sure–we have seen increased division along lines of race, economic class, political preference, sexual orientation and identity, religion, and more. That won’t change with the results of this election. In some ways, this election, like all others, is an opportunity to start a new chapter. This is true today perhaps more than any other day in recent memory.
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Photo by flickr user cisc1970 / Creative Commons

 

What can we do? It’s an easy question to ask, a difficult one to answer, and a really hard one to live out. We Christians can pray. We can pray for reconciliation, for our enemies, for those who wish us harm, for those we fear, and for all those working for reconciliation. We can form relationships across obvious lines of division. We can make sure our churches are places where the whole community, not just some of the community, is welcome and involved. We can practice empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree and trying to imagine what might bring about a common vision. We can work for justice and peace for all people, even when it is difficult or dangerous for us to do so. We can, above all else, give thanks for the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and whose love is stronger than any division on earth, stronger even than death itself.
 
Thanks be to God it is nearly Advent. We have a whole season ahead of us, a time to devote ourselves to preparing our hearts and our lives to receive the gift of Jesus Christ. We have a whole season to remember the promise of God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness. We have a whole reason to seek mercy and truth.
 
It’s time for us to stop decrying our division and to start doing something about it. That will take a different form for each person and each community. What will you do? What do you hope others will do? For now, let us pray.
 
O God, give me strength to live another day; let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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