Tag Archives: Forward Today

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.

Forward Today: Time for learning

Dear friends in Christ,

In many parts of the world, this is a time of year when schools resume. Whether or not you have children at your house, you may well be noticing the energy of study and learning all around. I always love this season.

This is a natural time to embrace learning about our faith. I’ve written about this before, but I think it’s a message worth repeating.

Is your church offering classes for the autumn? Can you sign up for a class somewhere else? Maybe you’ll commit to reading a book or even watching videos on a certain subject. We at Forward Movement have lots of books and other resources, but there are lots of other options too.Church Next

I’m excited to be teaching a course in The Wednesday Night Bible Study offered by our own ChurchNext. You can take the course I’m co-teaching with Melody Shobe. We’re talking about heresy, doctrine, and the Bible. Or you can study evangelism in the Bible with Marcus Halley, or the Bible and racial justice with Kelly Brown Douglas. Each one is a six-week course offered online on Wednesday nights.

But there are loads of options. If you’re not sure where to start, talk with your priest or with another experienced Christian. Whatever you do, I encourage you to join the spirit of the season and recommit to Christian learning.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Reclaiming Christianity

Reclaiming ChristianityIn a world hungry for the hope of Jesus, Episcopal Bishop Claude E. Payne offers a roadmap for individuals and churches to seek and establish rich spiritual lives and to connect deeply with God and our neighbors. Too often, spirituality is privatized and kept under wraps, not to be talked about in public circles. But Payne encourages us to reclaim our faith in the public square, in our communities, and with our family and friends. After nearly five decades in ordained ministry, Payne writes that he has never been more optimistic about the future of Christianity.

Across the country, Payne has witnessed people and congregations full of energy and compassion, committed to a life-giving, dynamic faith. In Reclaiming Christianity, Payne presents a practical and comprehensive model for sharing this faith with our neighbors and communities and encouraging all to seek a deeper connection with each other and with the Divine.

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Forward Today: The holiness of labor

Dear friends in Christ,

We are coming up to Labor Day weekend, at least for readers from the United States. You might wonder why I’m mentioning this, since Labor Day is a secular holiday, and I usually don’t write about secular holidays.

It turns out that our Book of Common Prayer has a collect appointed for Labor Day. You can find the contemporary version on page 261.

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

ToolsImage Source: Pixabay

It’s a lovely prayer, isn’t it? That prayer dignifies the work that we all do, whether we are employed or not. It also reminds us of the importance of all those others who work and of those who lack employment.

If you are in the US celebrating the holiday, I hope you’ll set aside a few moments for prayer or conversation with those around you. Remember the dignity of work and the indignity of exploitation. Pray for those who, in our culture that assigns value to people based on income, lack employment. Think about how everyone has a vocation, and ask how God might be calling you and your loved ones to labor?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Invite Welcome Connect

Invite Welcome ConnectGuided by the gospel imperative to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect equips and empowers individuals and congregations to practice evangelism, hospitality, and connectedness. Invite Welcome Connect’s founder, Mary Parmer, shares the deep truths of this ministry as well as practical steps to assess your faith community and begin implementation. This resource also features stories of transformation from more than two dozen lay and clergy leaders. Foreword by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry.

Learn more about Invite Welcome Connect at invitewelcomeconnect.com

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Forward Today: The Mighty One has done great things

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. There is quite a bit of celebrating to do, because Mary and her witness are extraordinary.

I love the ancient title for Mary, Theotokos. It can be translated Mother of God, which is a somewhat startling way to speak of Mary. Sometimes people prefer to call Mary the God-bearer, another translation of Theotokos that is evocative. Either way, when we think of Mary we must also think of her relationship to Jesus Christ, the one she boldly and courageously brought into the world, the one she taught and loved and eventually mourned.

Mary and Jesus

Via WikiCommons: Wall painting in the old Church of 
St. Mary of Zion, Axum, Ethiopia.

But it would be a grave error to make the mistake of thinking of Mary as a mere vessel. Too many people over too many centuries have made that mistake. If you want evidence of Mary’s strength and faith, look no further than her song, 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.”

Mary’s understanding of salvation history and her role in it is inspiring. Mary’s song perfectly captures God’s love for those at the margins and God’s challenge of those with wealth and power. And Mary understands all that, yet she knows that it is not about her. “the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

We would do well to follow Mary’s lead. We are not called to bear him into the world as she was, but we are called to proclaim and to celebrate Jesus Christ as she did. We are called to remind the powerless and the poor that they are dear to God.

Let us today celebrate Mary’s strength, Mary’s faith, Mary’s courage, and Mary’s sense of God’s mercy and justice.

Peace,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s Flash Sale: The Social Justice Bible Challenge 

The Social Justice Bible ChallengeFeaturing forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

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Forward Today: Changed by the journey

Dear friends in Christ,

If you are a regular reader of this email, you may have noticed that the last couple of weeks were written by colleagues at Forward Movement. I was away on vacation, and I’m grateful they kept Forward Today going.

Lots of folks enjoy some vacation time in the summer. Maybe you’ve been away or soon will be. There are lots of reasons to enjoy a bit of travel–or maybe a “staycation.” We can see new places and new things. We enjoy hospitality of others. We can savor a bit of leisure.

Sainte-Chapelle, ParisSainte-Chapelle, Paris

I love travel, because the experience of difference always provokes me to reflect. The encounter with the unfamiliar sometimes opens my heart and my eyes in ways that I might not have experienced otherwise. And when I return to my normal place and normal routines, I sometimes find I’m changed in big and small ways. Maybe I notice things I hadn’t noticed. Or perhaps I develop gratitude for something I had taken for granted.

Jesus was always taking his followers to new places, literally and metaphorically. I wonder if he knew there is value in a disrupted routine? As followers of Jesus, I think we’re called to go to new places, whether it’s a literal journey or a metaphorical voyage.

What about you, dear reader? Has a journey changed you? Has your faith grown in the encounter with the unfamiliar?

Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s Flash Sale: Pathways of Faith: An All-Ages Coloring Book 

Pathways of Faith Coloring Book A coloring book for all ages—but especially for adults who may have forgotten the simple joys of creating—Pathways of Faith offers a respite from busyness and daily demands. Relax and restore as you spend time coloring these original illustrations that capture the amazing stories of the Bible and God’s love for us. Come and spend some creative, refreshing time with God. The Lord knows we need it!

Normal: $12 | Today: $9

Forward Today: Union of Black Episcopalian’s 50th Anniversary

Dear friends in Christ,

This time last week, my husband David and I were in Nassau, Bahamas. No, we weren’t on vacation—we attended the 50th annual conference of the Union of Black Episcopalians or UBE. Growing up, I thought everyone knew what UBE was. Now, I realize that many in the church have never heard of it, or don’t see why it’s still relevant. Let me share a little about UBE, and why it is essential to The Episcopal Church.

UBE’s primary goal is to teach black people how the governance of the church works—notably, General Convention. Black deputies get lots of support from UBE leadership. UBE is a place for black clergy and laypersons to gather for workshops, panel discussions, and plenary sessions about topics relevant to us in today’s worship community. UBE offers a space for us to worship together with the music of our elders and ancestors. The Union provides a welcoming environment for anyone in the black Episcopal community and those who work in it.

UBE was fuel for my family and became our vacation each summer. As a black girl growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I loved going to UBE. The other regular attendees became family—some, quite literally. David and I met 37 years ago at Chatham College in Pittsburgh when I was 14, and married twelve years later. Mentors, teachers, and spiritual guides surrounded me as I grew from an awkward, shy teenager into an awkward, shy adult. I carry their lessons with me today and impart them to others. Honestly, I owe my life as I know it to UBE.

Photos from UBE, including Miriam McKenney, the Presiding Bishop Curry

 

This 50th-anniversary conference was my first conference in many years, and I’m happy to say that the spirit of UBE is unchanged. I saw lots of new faces and many old family friends. At the Forward Movement exhibit table, I met new clergy and seminarians, longtime readers of Forward Day by Day, and several aspiring writers. You may have heard about the worship service last Monday evening at Christ Church Cathedral with Bishop Curry—it was phenomenal. I felt so uplifted and refueled—just like when I attended as a youth years ago.

The church is better when all of our voices are heard, and I’m proud to be an Episcopalian at a time when we care very seriously about diversity in The Episcopal Church. But even if we realize true ethnic equality, there will be a need and a place for UBE. Thanks be to God for all of the leaders of UBE past and present. Congratulations, Union of Black Episcopalians, for 50 years of ministry! We’re proud to be your partner as you enter your next 50 years.

Peace,
Miriam

Miriam McKenney serves as Development Director of Forward Movement.

Photos: Junkanoo welcome; Miriam at UBE, age 12; Miriam, David, and the Atlantic; The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop; The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry; Rev. K. Coleman, Rev. S. Mcvean-Brown, Dr. S. Montes


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist: A 30-Day Journey into Christian Yoga

Faith with a Twist cover

Faith with a Twist: A 30-Day Journey into Christian Yoga 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: Rest and renewal

Dear friends in Christ,

Maybe you’re not like me, and your summer has seemed long and luxurious, with plenty of time for rest and renewal. But I’m guessing most of you feel the same way as I do: bewildered by the rapid turn of the calendar, with the beginning of school and the church’s program year just around the corner.

Like many folks, the staff at Forward Movement spent the spring and early summer vigorously preparing for General Convention. We wanted to share several new resources with you, the leaders of the church. And, by the grace of God and lots of hard work, we were able to showcase a slew of new resources, from ChurchNext to Mary Parmer’s book about the fabulous ministry of Invite Welcome Connect. But one of our new resources offered an important lesson to us.

Woman doing yoga

A week before General Convention, Forward Movement held a “day of refreshment.” We began with a lovely breakfast and conversation. After our daily prayer time, some stayed in their chairs while others rolled out yoga mats in the hallway. For twenty minutes, we followed the prayers and reflections from one of our new books, Faith with a Twist: A 30-Day Journey into Christian Yoga written by Episcopal priest Hillary D. Raining and yoga instructor Amy Nobles Dolan. I’m not a regular at yoga classes, but this brief respite of quiet reflection and gentle stretches reminded me of the importance of rest and renewal.

God calls us to times of rest-mandates it, actually, in the Ten Commandments, and we see its significance throughout scripture, from the story of creation to the number of times Jesus withdraws to the wilderness to pray. As we move into August, I pray that you find (or make) time for rest. The ancient wisdom of Christianity and the ancient spiritual practice of yoga teaches that Sabbath-keeping helps us maintain balance in the midst of competing demands and more importantly, draws us closer to God.
The divine in me honors the divine in you.
Namaste.

Richelle

Richelle Thompson serves as deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement. 


Today’s Flash Sale: The Spy on Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's LadderHave you ever wondered what stories stones might tell or whether a fishing boat can be friends with a faithful sailor? In the kingdom of God, every single thing has a story to tell and a song to sing-donkeys, sewing needles, secret caves, and water jugs! From the author who introduced you to The Spy on Noah’s Ark, this collection of stories, told from the inside out, are sure to stir up your heart and mind as you read along, meeting old friends and making new ones. You are invited to be a spy too at some of the most beloved stories of the Bible, placing yourself as participant and witness to God’s unfolding and unfailing grace and love.

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Forward Today: Living the way of love

Dear friends in Christ,

Like many other church leaders, I have just returned from General Convention full of memories, knowledge, and inspiration. Each person will have a unique experience, with favorite moments from the convention. Mine came during the opening worship service, when our Presiding Bishop preached a fiery sermon about God’s love. That’s not new, of course. But there was something new.

Bishop Curry has invited us all to take on spiritual practices so that we are spiritually vital followers of Jesus who have some Good News to share with others. Since he became Presiding Bishop, Bishop Curry has been calling us to be evangelists. To be effective evangelists, we have to live transformed lives, and that’s where the Way of Love comes in.

Bishop Curry preaching

[At the end of Eucharist of the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas,
 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry blesses the hundreds of participants.
Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service]

We are called to seven practices:
TURN: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
LEARN: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings
PRAY: Dwell intentionally with God daily
WORSHIP: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God
BLESS: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve
GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus
REST: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration

You can learn more at episcopalchurch.org/wayoflove. If you are looking for resources to support your journey, Forward Movement is one of many partners with a set of resources to help you. You can see what Forward Movement offers at our website, forwardmovement.org/wayoflove.

I plan to work on these myself, and I hope you’ll join me in answering the call of our Presiding Bishop. Of course, Bishop Curry is really reminding us of the call from our Savior and Lord, as Jesus invites us to a new life abounding in grace.

Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


Today’s Flash Sale: Note to Self: Creating Your Guide to a More Spiritual Life

Note to SelfDiscover what God has written onto your heart. What do you want for your life? Who do you want to be in your life, and how do you want to live? We humans need reminders, and when it comes to making a consistent effort to be better people, it’s important to have constant reminders. A “Rule of Life” is an ancient method for building soul memory, and offering reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be-it is a practice of training your mind and soul to be kind and good.

Creating your own rule of life is grace that only you can offer to yourself, helping remind you to live the life you desire, and the life God wishes for you. Join author and Episcopal priest Charles LaFond as he guides you through the wisdom, creation, and application of your own Rule of Life.

Normal: $18 | Today: $13.50