Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Christmastide is just starting

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy Christmas! I hope your Christmas is off to a wonderful start. Of course, today is the second day of Christmas. If you’re going along with the famous Twelve Days of Christmas song, you’ll be thinking of two turtledoves today. We still have ten more days of Christmas festivity ahead.

I love celebrating Christmas as the world has moved on. Perhaps Valentine’s Day items will be up for sale before we finish Christmas. And that’s just fine. You see, when we celebrate Christmas for the full twelve days, one of the gifts is that there’s no peer pressure. The Muzak and the mall aren’t forcing you into faux cheer. If you’re filled with Christmas cheer today, it’s because you want to be keeping the full feast.

Keep singing Christmas carols. Today, tomorrow, and right up through January 5th. It’s wonderfully countercultural. Spend time in these coming days in the silence—which is easier to find now than in the days leading up to Christmas—giving thanks for the great depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

As for me, I’m giving thanks for refreshment. I’m starting a three-month sabbatical next week. That’s a pretty great Christmas gift! I’ll be doing some travel, some reading, some praying, and maybe a bit of writing. Over the next three months, my colleagues at Forward Movement and some of our board members will be writing these weekly reflections. I hope you’ll enjoy the variety of voices and perspectives.

Today, I am filled with gratitude for Forward Movement, for our provision of sabbatical rest, and for the gift of the wonderful Episcopal Church I am privileged to serve. I am also grateful for Christmastide and carols for days on end. Mostly, I am grateful for Jesus our Emmanuel.

Pray for me over the next three months of sabbatical, and know that I am praying for you. We all have so much for which to give thanks to God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Xavier Romero-Frias, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]


Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift—the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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Forward Today: Full church, full hearts

Dear friends in Christ,

Christmas is just around the corner. After all the Muzak, the crowded malls, the holiday parties, and the delicious treats, we get to the real deal. Most readers of this email will, I suspect, find themselves in a church this Christmas Eve. And most likely, that church will be crowded.

I’ve heard people make disparaging remarks about “Christmas and Easter Christians.” I wish that would stop. You see, no one gets bonus points for daily church as opposed to twice a year. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you have high status in the Frequent Church Loyalty Program.

Now I do believe there’s great value in regular worship attendance for those of us who are committed to following Jesus. But making unkind remarks about infrequent guests won’t win hearts.

Christmas EveI’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. As a parish priest, one of my favorite moments every Christmas Eve happened in silence. I’d head over to the church before the first Christmas Eve service. Unless a musician was practicing, the church would be silent and empty. But the decorations were always set up. It was the height of Christmas anticipation. Everything was ready except for the crowds of worshipers who would soon come.

In the silence of that empty church, I would spend a few moments in prayer. Among other things, I would pray for everyone who was about to come to church. First time in church, infrequent guests, sporadic members, regular members, staff…everyone got some prayer time. My prayer would simply be that the message of Christmas would touch every life, every heart.

The Christmas story is mind-blowingly awesome, if you think about it. God loves us SO MUCH that Jesus Christ was willing to enter our world in the most humble way. God is no distant, remote deity. No, God is in our neighborhood. And God still is there.

So this Christmas Eve, I hope you’ll be in church. When you’re there, in that full church, I pray that your heart is full of love — of God’s love for you and your love of God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: St. James Church, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]


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.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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Forward Today: Bountiful grace

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s Gospel brings harsh words from John the Baptist. You brood of vipers! Give up your material possessions! Stop cheating! In other words, if we’re going to try to repent, we have to…well…repent. Change. We have to change.

John the Baptist clears up the idea that we can be comfortable Christians. This life of faith, he says, must surely involve some tough changes. Dying daily to sin is not easy, after all.

So how are we to manage this? The collect for this Sunday has a lovely phrase, “because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us.”John the Baptist

Got that? We can’t do right on our own. We won’t repent on our own. We will fail at tough changes on our own. But thanks be to God, we have God’s bountiful grace and mercy. As we say in our baptismal promises, “I will, with God’s help.”

We’re around halfway through Advent. There’s still plenty of time to savor this season of repentance, preparation, and yearning. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside a few moments to think about how bountiful grace and mercy might make a difference.

What might John the Baptist say to you, if you met him on the street? Are you ready for his challenging message? Are you ready to turn away from evil and toward Christ’s light? Are you ready to accept the gift of God’s bountiful grace and mercy?

I don’t know about you, but I have some repenting to do!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Bible Challenge

The Bible ChallengeTake a great journey through the Bible, a year-long reading adventure, with The Bible Challenge. Each day you will be accompanied by a meditation written by a church leader or biblical scholar. More than one hundred archbishops, bishops, deans, priests, and scholars have contributed essays. The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie, founder of The Bible Challenge and editor of this volume, believes that our lives of faith will be enlivened and expanded by a sustained encounter with God’s Word. If you never thought you could read the whole Bible, The Bible Challenge is a wonderful way to embark on a holy pilgrimage joined by others from around the world! Visit The Center for Biblical Studies for more information.

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

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Forward Today: Advent invites preparation, hope, and repentance

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent has begun. For me, it could not have come soon enough. Yes, I see the irony there.

I love the quiet of Advent, with its insistence that we make space to listen to the voice who cries in the wilderness. I love the hope of Advent, with its invitation to prepare our hearts and our lives to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas and when he comes in glory. I love the challenge of Advent, with its call to repent.

Sometimes we focus so much on the hope and yearning part of Advent, that we miss the other parts. Talk to anyone preparing for the birth of a child, and you’ll certainly hear about hope and yearning. But you’ll also hear a lot about preparation and work! From where I sit, Advent is penitential in that it invites us to change our lives to reorient us to look toward the dawning light of Jesus Christ coming among us. Advent challenges us to change.

It’s not that I think we over-scheduled people need one more to-do list. That’s the last thing any church needs to be doing, making people become busier than we already are. Quite the opposite.

What would it be like to unplug for a while? What would it be like to step off the treadmill of endless work and interruptions and just…be? What would it be like to treasure the joy of prayer, whether it’s us offering up fervent prayer or just spending time in silence, listening?

We’re still very early in the season. For those of you who keep Advent wreaths, we’ve only lit 25% of the candles! There’s still plenty of time to savor this season.

Looking for some help? Try the Advent Word on social media. Try Forward Movement’s newest Advent meditation book with meditations on the name of Jesus (get it as an ebook right now!). Try the Journey Through Advent app (iOS or Android) from Forward Movement with daily scripture and an Advent calendar you can color in! Try reading the Gospel of Luke in your Bible or online. Or just try daily silence.

However you use this gift, may Advent be a blessing to you as you seek and worship Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: Walk in Love

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests – Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Regular: $22
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Forward Today: Are You Ready for Jesus?

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is nearly upon us. I love this season and its invitation to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus. Mostly, Advent is about getting ready for our celebration of Christmas. That’s certainly one way we meet Jesus. But Advent is also about preparing to meet Jesus when he comes again in glory.

The scriptures offer us dire warnings. The Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent tells us to “Be on guard” and to “Be alert at all times.” The idea is that we’re meant to be ready for Jesus, who might come to judge us at a moment’s notice. What will he find us doing on that judgement day?

When desktop computers were new, some games used to have a built-on “the boss is here” feature. You could be playing a game, press a few keys, and something that looks like a spreadsheet would pop up on the screen. You wouldn’t want the boss to catch you playing a game at work!

I’m not sure that Advent is meant to put us in a “the boss is here” mode. We don’t need fake screens, because Jesus already knows what’s in our hearts. The spreadsheet wouldn’t fool him. I think Advent is meant to invite us to prepare for Jesus by looking for him and by serving him. Surely, we ought to be concerned about the day of judgement, but we can be just as concerned about today.

On my way to work, I pass people on the street who have no homes. How do I serve Christ in them? The scriptures testify to God’s love, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Am I looking for Christ in the scriptures? The church offers the sacraments, and its members are the body of Christ. Am I tuned to be attentive to Christ in the church and to honor him in the sacraments?

There are lots of ways to make our hearts ready for Jesus Christ this Advent. Use this season well.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Featuring 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.

Regular: $15
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Forward Today: Extravagant gratitude

Dear friends,

Tomorrow in the USA, it’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s rather remarkable that this day devoted to gratitude survives. We could have a fruitful exploration of the history of this day, or we could talk about the irony of people getting stressed out to cook massive meals on a day meant for giving thanks. But let us instead savor a day focused on gratitude.

We have so much for which to be thankful. Indeed, lots of scripture tells us to give thanks. The whole of the Christian faith is about grace, the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and grace begets gratitude. It’s really that simple. Every blessing in this life and in the life to come are gifts from God. How can we help but be grateful?

If that all weren’t enough, we know that people who are grateful are happier. It makes perfect sense: if my fundamental disposition is toward gratitude, I’m less likely to become aggrieved when something doesn’t go just the way I want it to go.

One wise friend of mine devotes time every morning to thanksgiving. He names things – maybe 25, maybe 50 – that he’s grateful for. It’s a spiritual practice that builds up his ability to be grateful more often, I’m sure.

So I’d like to challenge us all to practice extravagant gratitude. Find some way this week – do not put it off – to express your gratitude. I was inspired by a story in the Washington Post about a man who invites strangers to Thanksgiving dinner. Do you know someone who needs a place to eat? Invite someone to join your family and friends for the day.

Or maybe you’ll thank someone in your life who it might be easy to take for granted. Thank a co-worker or a shop keeper or a service worker. And don’t just say “thanks.” Express your gratitude tangibly, extravagantly. Write a note. Give a gift.

Perhaps at your Thanksgiving Day meal, if you share it with friends, you’ll set aside a few minutes to express gratitude. It’s easy enough to go once around the circle and say the obvious things. Go around a couple more times and reach deeper for even more ways to express thanks.

Best of all, spend part of Thanksgiving Day in church, giving thanks to God for all that God has done for us.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a few minutes each week reflecting on life as I write these Forward Today emails. I hope they’re helpful, at least occasionally, in your journey. Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Forward Today: Find Patience and Comfort

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday brings one of my favorite collects in the Book of Common Prayer. The Rite I version is a bit better, and it goes like this:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There’s a lot in this prayer to savor. At the most basic level, I’m grateful for the reminder that through the scriptures we can more fully know Jesus Christ and the hope he gives us. I love the call to really, really dig into the scriptures. Don’t just read the scriptures. Write in your Bible! Make notes! Take in the scriptures—take them all the way in.

Of course, this all requires us to open our Bibles. It doesn’t really matter where you start or how you read. You can read the lessons each day as you say the daily office. You can use one of many scripture resources from Forward Movement. You can read your favorite Gospel. You can start at the beginning of 1 Samuel and discover a page-turner story that’s full of intrigue — and inspiration. You can pray the psalms. You can start wherever you want.

I invite you to engage anew with God’s word in the scriptures. It’s an invitation I issue regularly, because it’s one of the most important ways for we Christians to know the one whom we follow.

If you’ve never really read the Bible much before, I invite you to read just one chapter. Try it on for size. Grab a Bible, and look in one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Pick any chapter at random and read the whole chapter once or twice. It won’t take more than a few minutes. But it might change your life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist

Faith with a TwistFaith with a Twist 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.

Regular: $16
Today: $12

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Forward Today: Campaign ends, work begins

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I do not know any results for the midterm elections here in the United States. I do know it has been a very expensive and divisive campaign. I also know that important issues have been up for debate. I know that, whatever the result, some will feel the joy of victory and others the sting of defeat.

But there is another fact about the election. And it’s the most important one. Whoever wins, whoever loses, there is work to do. Whichever party has power, there is work to do.

As a follower of Christ, my hope is not that we establish a Christian nation, whatever that means. But as a Christian, I think participation in politics is essential to my faith. You see, as a Christian, I am commanded to love my neighbors. One important way to love my neighbors is to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive as the people God has made them to be. Everyone deserves to have basic human needs met, security, and freedom.

Voting Stickers
We love our neighbors by supporting efforts to care for the most vulnerable members of society. We love our neighbors by working for a time when our government and our society are free of oppression, violence, and degradation. In a democratic society, we love our neighbors by voting.

In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that we will be judged by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable. I believe that means that we citizens will be held accountable for how our nations treat the most vulnerable.

No political party is aligned perfectly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So whichever party is in power, our task as Christians is always to hold our leaders accountable to the high standards of our faith. Those high standards are clear: we care for the hungry, the widows, the orphans, and those whom society has rejected.

Dear friends, we’ve had an election. And now we have work to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: O Wisdom

Songs of thanks and praise, of lament and longing, of restoration and return have been on our lips for millennia. The verses of the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” explore and celebrate the many names of Jesus. Drawn from the book of Isaiah, the O Antiphons have been sung in churches and monastic communities since at least the eighth century. These beautiful and awe-inspiring phrases present a way for us to sing along with the story of God, to ponder and praise the many names of our Lord.

Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

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Forward Today: Being good neighbors

Dear friends in Christ,

The hate-fueled violence at Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday was, of course, horrifying. Eleven people died and others were wounded at the hands of a man driven by hatred and fear.

What are we Christians to do? Of course, we should pray. Our life begins, continues, and ends in prayer. But here we are called to do more. We must be good neighbors.

I have a friend who was rector of a parish with a decades-long friendship with a nearby synagogue. They had an annual pulpit exchange. They stayed in touch with one another. They shared some activities together. And once or twice each year, they prayed together. If either community had ever experienced a crisis, they had a long relationship on which to build a response and to provide support. I admire places with these enduring friendships.

Group of people
Sure, we can show up at rallies and prayer vigils. We should absolutely do that. But being a good neighbor is more than that. Is your church a good neighbor to others in your community? Too many of our congregations are inward-looking. Our world—and our Gospel—demand that we change our posture.

Get to know those who live near your church. Get to know Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths. Ask community leaders what your community’s needs are. Consider learning about and practicing asset-based community development.

Our world needs good neighbors. And we all need each other. Let’s all agree to respond to the crises we see, but let us also resolve to begin today on our journey of being better neighbors.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Morning Resolve

Morning ResolveThis unique devotional book for personal or small group discipleship and spiritual formation utilizes this daily prayer to guide readers as they examine and meditate on a portion of the prayer each week and examine and employ spiritual disciplines. Ultimately, the intentional crafting of a simple, sincere, and serene life is a spiritual discipline, too. Morning Resolve will guide readers into the spiritual practices that bear good fruit for a grace-filled life. Published by Cascade Books.

Regular: $23
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Forward Today: For an election, let us pray

Dear friends,

Most readers of this weekly email will be residents in the USA. This nation is preparing for an important midterm election in a few days. Even for readers in other countries, it’s an important moment, as the relationship of the USA to many other nations will be affected by the outcome.

I want to ask everyone to do three things as we head toward the election.

First, if you are eligible to vote, I very much hope you will vote. This is an important part of exercising our civic responsibility, and it is certainly one key way we Christians carry out our work of following Jesus in civil society. You can learn more about the issues, voting locations, and so on at vote.org.

Second, become engaged in the issues. There are plenty of ways in which reasonable and faithful Christians can disagree on politics and party. But there are other ways in which every Christian might find themselves united. Governments almost never care for the most vulnerable people in society. That’s true of any party, and it’s incumbent on us Christians to look out for, to speak up for, and to stand alongside those who might otherwise be forgotten.

Season of Prayer Graphic

Third, I urge you to pray. Sometimes people draw a distinction between prayer and action. I am here to tell you that prayer is action. Prayer changes hearts and lives. Prayer may result in changes that are scarcely imaginable. Prayer may prompt us to engage in other actions. Above all, prayer helps us attend to our relationship with Almighty God, and this reminds us of who we are.

Forward Movement is offering daily prayer suggestions on Facebook and Twitter. Follow us there. Perhaps you’ll offer the prayer we have suggested for each day up through the election. And maybe you’ll share those prayers with your friends on social media. Through prayer, all things are possible, because we know that with God, all things are possible. Let us pray.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: The Path

The PathWalk in the footsteps of faithful men and women who have done their best to follow God’s call. The Path is the story of the Bible, excerpted from the New Revised Standard Version so that it is clear and easy to read. Follow the path of God’s love all the way from the beginning to the end, from Adam’s creation to John’s revelation.

With informative trail signs to help you see how each piece of the narrative fits together, The Path is an experience unlike any other: an amazing 360-degree overview of the vast, sweeping story of God’s extraordinary love for ordinary people. Join us on this epic adventure, a journey through the Bible to grow closer to God.

Regular: $22
Today Only: $16.50*

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