Tag Archives: scott gunn

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.

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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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Forward Today: Inspiring and empowering

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on a recent retreat with the Forward Movement leadership team–and inspiring projects to come.


Dear friends in Christ,

This week’s Forward Today is a bit later than usual. Sometimes I work ahead, but this week I did not. In fact, I was away Monday and Tuesday on a retreat with the leadership team from Forward Movement. So here I am, just now writing my weekly message.

Perhaps it is because I just spent two days thinking about our work at Forward Movement, but I want to share with you a few thoughts about life on the staff of Forward Movement.

 

 1) I am blessed to serve with wonderfully gifted and faithful colleagues. When people compliment me on the work of Forward Movement, I always say that our good work is because we have a good team. If you read Forward Day by Day, enjoy Lent Madness, get inspired by reading our books, use our apps, or attend our conferences, you are the beneficiaries of extraordinary people doing extraordinary work.

2) Much of what we are doing relies on the support of our readers and friends. We surely do offer plenty of traditional products which have traditional revenue. But more and more of what we are doing to support the needs of today’s church is made possible by generous gifts and sustained prayers. Today’s church needs resources to be free online. Today’s church needs resources in Spanish. Today’s church needs to be able to serve people in prisons. Without traditional revenue, we have to look for creative funding. As a staff we are grateful for the support that makes possible our work.

3) Serving an evolving church in the evolving world of publishing is hard! Anyone who works in the church can tell you about the challenges of the church. Anyone who works in publishing can tell you about the challenges of today’s market. Church and publishing! Thanks be to God we all love a compelling challenge and we see the higher purpose of our work. We know that figuring out how to serve today’s church with today’s resources is important to draw people into a transformed life with Jesus.

4) We are the heirs of a wonderful legacy. For more than eighty years, Forward Day by Day and other vital resources from Forward Movement have enriched the church. Don’t worry friends, we’ll try not to mess up what is working well!

5) Our future will be better than our present. We have big plans for new resources to offer the church. Stay tuned.

Please do pray for us. And stay tuned for news and inspiration. We love doing what we’re doing, and we can’t wait to tell you about our next resources!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Give thanks for Christmas at the mall

In the new Forward Today, Scott finds himself outside the Disney Store—and is surprised to find he’s grateful for Christmas at the mall.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I had a surprising (to me) realization when I found myself at the mall a few days ago. If you know me at all, this may be shocking, so be warned. This is what I realized: I am grateful for early Christmas decorations and music at the mall.

 

 

Sure, it’s not even Advent yet. But it is not secular culture’s job to keep Christian feasts; that is what the church is for. And we might complain that “our” holiday has been hijacked by commerce. That is true, but there is also another way to look at it.
 
As I was walking past the Disney Store, I heard “Good King Wenceslas” coming from inside. It could have been a recording out of our hymnal, straight up. But there it was, in the mall. I wonder if anyone ever says, “Who was this Wenceslas, and what is this Stephen fellow doing in the snow?” Maybe someone wonders about the stars and the angels and the lambs that show up in the sort of carols you hear in the public square. Or what about Santa himself, as the modern projection of a bishop who once was famous for defending against heresy and being generous to the poor? How many conversations can we enter into, just based on the music alone?
 
Every year around this time, we Christians get a free boost from commerce. Our gift is that we have many opportunities to invite people to celebrate Christmas at church, where it’s meant to be celebrated. We can tell the amazing story of Christmas over and over. We can bask in the “Christmas spirit,” which isn’t all that different from the “Christian spirit.”
 
Now, don’t get me wrong. I hope that we who are committed disciples of Jesus Christ will savor every minute of Advent in our homes and our churches. I hope that we will not neglect an invitation to repent and to prepare our hearts to adore Jesus. But that is our work, not the work of others. There is no need to scold a shopkeeper for failing to honor Advent. Instead, let us rejoice that the joy of Christ’s birth finds its way into the public square.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

P.S. I do freely acknowledge that Christmas celebrations in public are the result of the privileged place of Christianity, and we should be generous to a fault with those who celebrate other religious holidays. And if we see the symbol of another religion or meet a person who struggles with public Christianity this time of year, we are given an opportunity to listen, to learn, and to practice generosity.


Today’s sale items are two pocket-sized, leatherbound prayerbooks: Prayers New and Old and Prayers for All Occasions. Both are great for taking on the go and make excellent gifts. Just $9 each, today only!

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Forward Today: A day for gratitude

In this Thanksgiving edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on gratitude, and how it connects to generosity. How will you be generous in this week of thanks?


Dear friends in Christ,

 

This week, those of us in the United States will probably be thinking about Thanksgiving Day. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a day set aside to give thanks for our many blessings, even in a culture which often seems reluctant to slow down the consumer machine for anything?
 
There is, of course, a deep connection between gratitude and generosity. One leads to the other. Generous people are more grateful, and grateful people are more generous. I encourage you to read the assigned epistle for Thanksgiving Day from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. It includes this line, “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

Jesus also taught us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our treasure leads our hearts. How we spend or save or give away our money forms our hearts. If we want our hearts to be generous, we will practice generosity.
 
As we gather for Thanksgiving, I commend a deep sense of gratitude for all the blessings God has given us. But I also urge you to practice generosity. Generosity and gratitude are two sides of the same coin. How can you be generous this Thanksgiving? Maybe there’s a neighbor or a friend who would be eating alone; invite them for Thanksgiving with your family. Maybe there’s a family you know who struggles to make ends meet; give them a gift card to get an early start on their Christmas gifts or maybe a boost for their Thanksgiving meal. A local charity probably could use your gift. Your church is a place where people gather to meet Jesus Christ for transformation and renewal; what might your church need?
 
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Forward Movement also welcomes your gifts so that we can provide words of hope and Good News to prisoners, hospital patients, the armed forces, and nursing home residents. But I encourage you to make a local gift where you can build up a relationship, if you are able. Whatever you give, your generosity today will magnify your gratitude tomorrow.
 
I wish you every blessing of grace, gratitude, and generosity.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


Today’s sale item is I Will, With God’s Help, a collection of meditations by Bo Cox–just $9 until midnight.

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