Tag Archives: Forward Today

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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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.

advent-wreath-558410_1280

“Waiting, but not waiting around.” Amen.