Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Pray for those called to ministry

In this ember day Forward Today, Scott offers a prayer for clergy and a reflection on the call to ministry.


Dear friends in Christ,

Today our church keeps the first of the spring ember days. Four times each year, we set aside Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday to pray and fast for those to be ordained and for those in the ordination process. More lately, it has become common to pray for clergy and for all people in their vocations.
 

 

I encourage you to pray, especially for those discerning calls to ordained ministry and those in the ordination process. While every member of the church matters, because each of us has a place in the body of Christ, the task of identifying and training clergy is an especially important one. Pray for those involved in the ordination process, for bishops and Commissions on Ministry. Pray for seminaries. Pray for the church, that we might see the Holy Spirit at work in those who are called. 

 

The process leading to ordination is often challenging. And too often, our imperfect church allows human sexism or racism to blind us to the work of God in those who are called to ministry. Pray – and work for a church that is just and a church that listens carefully for the still, small voice of God wherever it speaks.

 

O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every
place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word
and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the
extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd
and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

 

Pray that God will bless every lay person and every ordained person with an inquiring and discerning heart.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Wednesday sale resource is The Path—just $16.50, today only!

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Forward Today: We are marked as Christ’s

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on Ash Wednesday, writing that this day “reminds us that life is a gift from God.”


Dear friends in Christ,

When I was a parish priest, I loved imposing ashes. People of all sorts and conditions would present themselves at the altar rail. They would kneel. And as I put the ashes on their foreheads, I would say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Some people would have specially arranged their hair to make it easier to apply the cross. Some people looked bored, while others seemed to be struggling to take in the solemn warning. Young and old, long-time members and strangers all gathered to receive the ashes.

 

 

 

There is one cross I remember more than others. A whole family was preparing for baptism, including three children, the youngest of which was an infant. They all knelt, babe in arms. And there, I made an ash cross on the baby’s forehead. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
 
It was a breathtaking reminder that all of us, even babies, are marching toward death. But there is good news. You see, Ash Wednesday reminds us that life is a gift from God. We don’t have much time in our earthly journey, so we should use this time well. We should do everything in our power to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ. We should love as much as we can. We should be as merciful as we can be. We should work for justice with our whole heart. Ash Wednesday reminds us, graphically, that it’s not all about us.
 
We are marked as Christ’s. Everything we do is about Jesus Christ. The Lenten season offers us an annual opportunity to reorient ourselves, to reject those things that remove us from Jesus and take on those things that draw us closer to him.
 
The first time I went to Ash Wednesday, I was an adult. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The priest told me I’m going to die. And I was grateful for the reminder, and for the invitation to repent.
 
I hope you will gather with your church on Ash Wednesday and recommit to savoring this precious gift of life and using it well.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: We can make time for Lent

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on how even Lent is something we often find ourselves trying to fit into our schedule, and asks: How will you use the gift of this season?


Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport. Someone near me is talking loudly on a mobile phone, and I’m having trouble thinking anything other than “Would you please quiet down, so I can draft this important email?” Of course, that’s ridiculous. I can move. I can do a better job of focusing here. I can be more generous.

 

 

It’s actually not a bad parable for Lent. “Can’t my work just stop a bit, so I can focus on the importance of Lent?” We try to fit Lent in around other things, and we blame the other things when we don’t enter fully into the season of Lent. But of course, that’s ridiculous. Perhaps we can make choices about what we do during this season. We can make time for Lent. We can be more generous.
 
Lent starts in exactly a week. How will you use the gift of this season, this time of year devoted to helping us repent and return to the Lord? How will you make sure that a distraction does not become the thing. Lent – in fact, our repentance – is the thing. It’s easier said than done.
 
As for me, I managed to focus a bit. I looked up and enjoyed the view out the airport window. I took a deep breath, and I even gave thanks for my fellow travelers. It’s a lesson I could learn from, again and again.
 
Good thing Lent is just around the corner. I need it.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s sale item is our new book of daily Lenten devotionals, Are We There Yet? Pilgrimage in the Season of Lent.

The book is also available for $4.99 for for Kindle, Nook, or in the iTunes store. To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Confession is good for the soul

Have you tried confession in the Episcopal Church? How did it go? In the new Forward Today, Scott suggests giving it a try this Lent–and predicts you’ll be glad you did.


Dear friends in Christ,

Confession is good for the soul. Holding on to things is never good for us, and that applies all the more to our sins.
 
Lent is just around the corner. Here we have a whole season devoted to returning to God, recommitting to following Jesus. Sometimes we take on new practices such as prayer or service. Sometimes people give up things that might be barriers to following Jesus. The point of giving up TV isn’t to punish ourselves, but to free up time for relationships with God and others.
 
In some quarters, Lent has been a traditional time for confession. I don’t mean casual conversation with others, where I own up to what we’ve done wrong. And I don’t mean a focus on the general confession that we say in Holy Eucharist. No, this is harder. The sacrament of reconciliation, often called confession, calls us to name all those things we have done wrong. And then, in a moment of amazing grace, our forgiveness is announced. The slate is wiped clean.

Lots of people resist confession for lots of reasons. Saying our sins can be embarrassing. But not saying them is worse. What if the priest doesn’t keep confidence? Don’t worry about that; the priest will guard your words until death. Why should we depend on a person to hear our sins, can’t we just say them to God? You’re not depending on a person any more than Holy Eucharist depends on wheat farmers. The bread in Eucharist is a vehicle of grace, and the priest in confession is also a vehicle of grace. No more, no less.
 
If you haven’t tried making a confession yet, give it a try. Any priest would be happy to talk with you about this. Though it’s not yet Lent, I’m writing about confession, because if it’s your first one, it takes some preparation. I promise that if you make confession this Lent, you’ll be glad you did. Forward Movement has a wonderful new book to teach us about confession and how to prepare for it. You can also talk with others. But whatever you do, consider the sacrament of reconciliation. Confession is good for the soul.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


If you’re curious about confession, Joy in Confession by Hillary D. Raining is a great place to start. It combines art therapy, scholarship, theology, and worship to create a powerful experience for learning about confession in the Episcopal Church.

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Forward Today: My formation as a Christian

In the new Forward Today, Scott weighs in from the Forma conference in Charleston, reflecting on Christian formation and how our sense of it has evolved.


Dear friends in Christ,

I am writing this from the Forma conference in Charleston, SC. Forma is an association for people who work in Christian formation or who are passionate about it. Really, we should all be passionate about formation, where it’s our own formation as Christians or the formation of those in our churches.

 

In times past, we understood this work to be very similar to traditional education. We had Sunday School, and the model was filling heads with information. This is not outdated, but we now understand Christian formation to be larger than the facts in our heads. (Though facts and theology and history do matter, and we should learn them!)
 
My formation as a Christian is not only the information I might learn in a class. My formation also includes my prayer life, my worship life, my life of service, and so much more. Christian formation is closely related with discipleship. We are formed to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and being disciples of Jesus Christ makes us ready for further formation. 
 
Here at this conference, I am inspired by what people are doing to form themselves and those around them. I am excited by what is happening in many churches. If you would like to learn more about Forma, visit their website.
 
What are you doing to continue your formation as a Christian? How can you support the work of formation in your church?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Our featured sale product today is Meeting Jesus on the Margins. This book of meditations for Lent is just $3.75, today only!

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Forward Today: I can change my heart

“Is it easier to repent,” asks Scott in the new Forward Today, “or to point the finger at someone else’s need to repent? What practices will you take on when Lent starts in a month?”


Dear friends in Christ,

Everyone loves to talk about the sins of other people. This is not a new problem for Christians. But it’s a big problem, since it’s not what the Gospel asks us to do.
 
Jesus is pretty clear. We are to confess our sins. We are to keep humble. We are to love others. We are not supposed to judge others. It all goes together.
I think Jesus taught this, again and again, because he knew that focusing on the sins of others is a serious temptation. And 2,000 years later, we humans haven’t evolved on this front. We still love to focus on the sins of others rather than think about our own.

 

 

It’s easy to pretend that racism or sexism or any other kind of bias is a problem that other people have. It’s easy to pretend that when Jesus challenges the rich, he’s not talking about us, despite how our income might compare with the global standard. It’s easy to pretend that other people fail to forgive, because we convince ourselves that we will forgive when the other person deserves it. It’s easy to point at the contradictions in someone else’s political views, but it’s harder to admit our own. It’s easy to think that repentance is something that other people need to do. You get the idea.
 
Lent is coming. It’s a whole season devoted to repentance. Usually, around this time of year I think about what practices I might take on during Lent. But maybe there is a prior step. Maybe I need to think about my sins, so that I know how I need to focus this season.
 
What about you? Is it easier to repent, or to point the finger at someone else’s need to repent? What practices will you take on when Lent starts in a month?
 
I can’t change the whole world, but I can change my heart. That’s where I’m looking these days.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Our featured sale product today is Ashes and the Phoenix. This book of meditations for Lent is just $3.75, today only!

And I reminder that the For the Beauty of the Earth Wall Calendar is now just $5. It’s not too late to start enjoying this beautiful liturgical calendar—a companion to the daily devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, featuring the watercolors of Kathrin Burleson.

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Shine Forth in Our Lives

“It’s easy to be demoralized about the state of the world,” writes Scott in the new Forward Today. “Maybe we can’t fix much at all. But we can change ourselves, and we can show forth Christ’s light in our lives.”


Dear friends in Christ,

Is your life radiant? I’ve been thinking about this question lately. On the First Sunday after Christmas Day, we pray this collect:
 
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

Isn’t that a lovely prayer? It reminds us that God has poured life and light into the world in Jesus Christ. And if this light takes hold in our hearts, it will be visible in our lives. So I ask again, are you radiant with Christ’s light? I ask myself this question too.
 
It’s easy to be demoralized about the state of the world. There is plenty of work to do as we grow toward God’s peace, justice, mercy, and righteousness. We can’t fix everything now, and maybe we can’t fix much at all. But we can change ourselves, and we can show forth Christ’s light in our lives. This is not empty piety. Christian love is fierce. It speaks truth in the face of falsehood. It feeds the hungry. It loves the unlovable. It welcomes the stranger. It prays amid cacophony.
 
This is the time of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you are going strong, or maybe you’ve failed. Maybe you never got around to making them. Or think of Lent. We’re coming up on a whole season focused on repentance. Now is the time. How can you be radiant? How can you shine forth with Christ’s love?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Our featured sale product today is Dust Bunnies in the Basket, a humorous and useful Lent and Easter resource from Tim Schenck and Jay Sidebotham.

And I reminder that the For the Beauty of the Earth Wall Calendar is now just $5. It’s not too late to start enjoying this beautiful liturgical calendar—a companion to the daily devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, featuring the watercolors of Kathrin Burleson.

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Merry New Year and Happy Christmas!

In the new Forward Today, Scott offers a message for the Christmas season and this new year: “Celebrate whenever you can, repent when you are able, and keep Jesus in the center of it all.”


Dear friends in Christ,

This is a funny time of year. By now, all the stores will be on to Valentine’s Day. They’re always ready to sell you the next thing for the next occasion!
 
But for Christians, it’s still Christmas. We keep this feast for twelve days, and our count just started on December 25. So while everyone was celebrating Christmas and shouting Christmas greetings for much of December, we were keeping Advent, preparing ourselves for the party. So let’s have the party. It’s not too late!

 

 

Today is the tenth day of Christmas. Wish someone a Merry Christmas today, and see what strange look you get in return. Have a conversation about how we celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth for a while, especially when we’re not distracted by gift-buying and gift-receiving.
 
Of course, it’s also the new year. We celebrate…using a new calendar. OK, really what we are responding to is the human desire to start over…again and again. New year’s resolutions are the secular equivalent of repentance, and repentance is always a good thing. So why not add that?
 
Meanwhile, people who work in churches will be thinking about…Lent! It’s just over a month until we move into a season of preparation of Easter. It hardly seems possible, but there it is. So while the stores want us to buy things for Valentine’s Day on February 14, we will be thinking of February 14 as Ash Wednesday. Not exactly a gift occasion!
 
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Valentine’s Day. Aside from the fact that he’s a possibly made-up saint and that the day can elevate unhelpful ideas of romantic love, it is also another opportunity to talk about love, and that’s always helpful. So why not celebrate Valentine’s Day too, if you like. (Just don’t bring chocolates to church when you go for your annual ashes.) Oh, and look up St. Cyril and St. Methodius. Those are the amazing saints the church celebrates on February 14, and they’re even more interesting than St. Valentine.
 
So, happy new year/Christmas/Lent/Valentine’s Day. Celebrate whenever you can, repent when you are able, and keep Jesus in the center of it all.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Our featured sale product is the For the Beauty of the Earth Wall Calendar—now just $5. It’s not too late to start enjoying this beautiful liturgical calendar—a companion to the daily devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, featuring the watercolors of Kathrin Burleson.

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: We have all received, grace upon grace

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on making time for grace this season—and “leaving space in this chaotic time for the still, small voice of God to speak or sing of the wonder of Christmas.”


Dear friends in Christ,

As we get closer to Christmas, the pace of life seems to quicken. Those last-minute gifts need to be purchased. Grand meals with family need to be planned and prepared. People who work in the church are readying for larger-than-usual attendance at splendid Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
 
Amid all that frenetic work, it would be easy to lose sight of the thing we are celebrating.

 

 

I invite you to do two things, right now. Read the Christmas story in Luke and then read John’s wonderfully poetic prologue, setting forth the meaning and the glory of Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation of God. Seriously, spend five or ten minutes and just bask in the radiance of what you have read. If you can manage it, find even more time. Enjoy 30 minutes or an hour of silence, leaving space in this chaotic time for the still, small voice of God to speak or sing of the wonder of Christmas.
 
Let us who follow Jesus not lose sight of what we celebrate at Christmas. Christmas is amazing: the lights, the gifts, the family traditions, the beloved songs. But if we allow commerce or family tradition to govern our celebration of Christ’s birth, we are missing out on the most amazing parts of this feast.
 
Two thousand years ago, God lived among us. That mystery takes some time to soak in. Luke says how, but John says why. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
 
Make time for grace. You need it. I need it. God knows, our world needs it.
 
Have a happy and grace-filled Christmas.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale product is Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, which makes a wonderful gift as well as a handsome addition to your own prayer book collection.

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Preparing the way

In the new Forward Today, Scott considers John the Baptist, noting that we’d be well served to follow his example this season (clothing choices excepted!).


Dear friends in Christ,

Last Sunday, and again this Sunday, we encounter John the Baptist in our Gospel readings. Every year, his voice comes to us from the wilderness, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and inviting repentance. Sometimes when I’m at the mall this time of year, I imagine what it would be like for John the Baptist to stand in the food court announcing the coming of Jesus.
 
It would be easy for us to miss the core of John the Baptist’s message amid all his eccentricities. The locusts and honey, the hair shirts, the exotic wilderness locale, the miraculous birth narrative, and the whole picture are extraordinary. But none of those things exactly defines him.

We would do well to hear his call for repentance. In the midst of this season, we are invited to turn away from evil and toward the good. We are invited to reject the temptations of Satan and turn toward the costly path of following Jesus. We need to hear this message in Advent, and we need to hear this message at a time in our world when some flourish beyond imagining while others starve for lack of resources. We need this message.
 
There is still a more basic reality of John the Baptist, one that we should emulate. John the Baptist always pointed toward Jesus. His message was not about him, but about Jesus. His deeds mattered, but Jesus’ deeds mattered more. His proclamation was compelling, but Jesus’ proclamation was all consuming.
 
Just as John told people about Jesus, so should we. I don’t think we need to put on hair shirts and move into the wilderness, but I do think we need to be bold in our proclamation. We are meant to invite people to follow Jesus, to tell people about the Good News of God in Christ, and to announce that our true joy comes in loving God and our neighbor.
 
Do you know someone who could use a word of Good News? Do you know someone looking for hope and purpose? There’s no better time than Advent to offer an invitation. “Come celebrate Christmas with me. Come feast in the radiant glory of God’s love for us, as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ.”

 
Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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