Forward Today: The peace of Christ

Dear friends in Christ,

It’s been a difficult few weeks for the world and for the United States. We’ve seen earthquakes, gun violence, political upheaval, wars, and the ongoing global pandemic. It wouldn’t be difficult to lose hope at a time like this.

How can we stay hopeful? What are we to do?

Image from the catacomb of Domitilla shows one of the oldest known images of Jesus Christ as the good shepherd / Wikimedia Commons

I find the Gospels helpful in difficult times. There I am reminded that even Christ’s disciples—people who knew Jesus and saw his works—didn’t have the answers and sometimes lost their way. Jesus again and again had to redirect his followers. Sometimes he cajoled them. Sometimes he taught them. Sometimes he showed them signs and wonders. Always, he loved them.

If we lose our way, we are never alone. The Spirit abides with us. But what about all those times we can’t even see the Spirit at work in the world and in our own hearts?

Thanks be to God we have the church. Christ’s body, the church, is our haven and our sustenance. We can be nourished as we hear God’s word spoken to us. We can be sustained as we receive the sacraments. We can inspired as we listen to others bear witness to the grace and mercy of God at work in their lives.

I am not suggesting that we should flee the world and hide out inside our stained glass windows. I am not suggesting that the Gospel magically remedies the injustice and violence of the world. But the fact is that we who follow Jesus need to be reminded that he is the way, the truth, and the life. We need to remember that we are beloved of God, and that we are called to love others as he first loved us.

You and I don’t have to save the world. Jesus has done that. Our task is to give thanks for God’s love for us and to manifest that love in word and deed. I can’t say that we will make everything right in this world, but I can say with every fiber of my being that, in the end, love wins. Easter shows us that.

So what shall we do now?

We can offer compassion. Console those who suffer. Speak up for the voiceless. Give of our substance to those who have less. Name evil when we see it. Love our enemies. Pray for the needs of the world. And above all bear witness to God’s grace and mercy.

I might also add that righteous anger is holy, as the scriptures remind us. Righteous anger is not anger at our own suffering, but rather rage on behalf of the poor, the vulnerable, the widow, the orphan, and all those in great need. God sides with the meek not the mighty, and it’s just fine for God’s people to remind everyone of that.

In these times, I beseech you to spend time with other Christians. Worship on the Lord’s Day. Go to a Bible study. Pray with a friend. That’s how we keep our compass when the world seems to spin out of control.

We can’t make peace, but we can find Christ’s peace even in the midst of the storm.

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Pray with us every day at prayer.forwardmovement.org

Episcopal Church street signage now part of Forward Movement

Forward Movement has announced it is the new official home of Episcopal Church street signs, having acquired the business from Faith Goods, part of Day1, in late 2021.
For more than a half century, the “Episcopal Church Welcomes You” street sign has been used as a highly visible community invitation for churches. Visitors and inquirers may search the internet for directions to local churches, but they also recognize a familiar sign when they see it. Local signage is a valuable strategy for churches to maintain visibility and a distinct brand identity for continued growth and development.
“Street signs are evangelism, plain and simple, but with huge potential impact. They help with community visibility for all churches, especially those located on side streets and outside city centers,” said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. “We’re excited to help churches refresh their signage to help them reach more disciples.”
Churches can request estimates and place orders for new signage at signs.forwardmovement.org.

About Forward Movement

Forward Movement inspires disciples and empowers evangelists. We offer devotions, Bible studies, formation courses, and other resources to equip and support people in their walk with Jesus Christ. Visit www.forwardmovement.org or www.venadelante.org to learn more.


Forward Today: Giving generously

Dear friends in Christ: We’re pleased to welcome Lindsay Barrett-Adler, our Development Associate, as our guest author this week.

Widow’s Mite – Ancient Roman Bronze Coins

“For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”Mark 12:44

Like Miriam wrote last week, we fundraisers love to tell stories. We recently shared my story of an addition to our Easter dinner – sharing physical and spiritual sustenance with a friend experiencing homelessness. When I first shared this story with the Forward Movement team, I did not realize that it was just the story’s beginning.

In the months since Easter Monday, we have continued to welcome our new neighbor. My husband has fallen into a bit of a routine with hot water for her instant coffee (she insists a new pot is completely unnecessary), prayer, and sometimes a breakfast of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as per her request. Sometimes she charges her cell phone. We still know very little about her; we have no clue how she came to sleep on our church’s bench or if she has a team of social supports beneath her. We don’t even know her name.

But we know one thing—she, out of her poverty, has become a regular donor to our little church in Philadelphia. One morning my husband heard the clink of the sacristy door mail slot and spotted a dollar bill on the ground. Since then, he has seen our friend deposit a dollar each day she visits. Sometimes she donates $5 a week; sometimes, she only visits twice. But she always gives generously out of her poverty.

This woman is hardly the first widow and mite I have encountered and certainly not the first in my role at Forward Movement. We receive small gifts from Forward Day by Day readers who are incarcerated, residents in elder care facilities, and military personnel. Each gift is usually accompanied by a handwritten note, sharing how much comfort and love they feel with each edition’s arrival. For some, Forward Day by Day is the only mail they receive.

When someone asks for nourishment like my new neighbor, we can send them materials free of charge, thanks to the generosity of our donors. In the fundraising world, we often talk about major donors, but Jesus reminds us that each of us is a beloved child of God and every gift, even the change that rattles through a sacristy mail slot, is a major gift. Thanks be to God.

Lindsay Barrett-Adler serves as Development Associate at Forward Movement and delights in sharing the story of its mission and impact, made possible by generous donors. In her free time, Lindsay is an often-disappointed Philadelphia sports fan, curious chef, and mom of three, always in need of more coffee.


More from our ministry:

Make these stories of faith possible: Donate to our ministry

Pre-order The Unjust Steward: Wealth, Poverty, and the Church Today

New from ChurchNext: Developing Christian Patience

Forward Today: Our faith roots itself in story

Dear friends in Christ: We’re pleased to welcome Miriam McKenney, our Director of Development and Mission Engagement, as our guest author this week.

Our faith roots itself in story. As director of development and mission engagement, I love to connect givers and receivers through our stories because we are both. I hope the stories remind us that we are made in God’s image and are beloved of God and each other.

Colossians 4:2: "Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving."Last week, I attended a conference for non-profit fundraisers called Stories Worth Sharing. Listening to the presentations caused me to question my work and role at Forward Movement. Seeing and hearing the presenters’ passion for their work made me wonder if I was doing mine as well as I could. Jesus took time to himself to pray and discern; I thought, it’s probably time for me to do the same.

Then Lindsay, development associate, sent me this note a donor wrote on the envelope that included her gift:

Hello—
Earlier this year, I made a small donation to Forward Movement. Shortly thereafter, I received a wonderful thank you letter from Miriam McKenney. The thoughtfulness of Miriam’s letter inspired me to donate more. Please keep up the great work!
Sincerely, Holly

What I needed right then showed up! My prayer practice offers lots of space to listen to God’s voice as Spirit. I’m thankful God answered my prayer through Holly. Her note witnessed our ministry sharing the good news of God’s love and gave me an enormous rush of peace and comfort.

When we invite you to donate to our ministry, we do so with the understanding that the call to give is personal between you and God. Only God knows God’s timing. As we seek God’s love and counsel in our lives, we can listen to the Spirit to know when and how to act. I do that best at a specific spot in Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati. I wonder where you hear God.

We at Forward Movement sincerely appreciate all the gifts we receive in all amounts. Many of you round up when you order on our website. Each offering added with the others affirms our faith and that we must share the good news with all who seek it.

Holly, thank you for reaffirming my role in our ministry. Thank you, God, for answering my prayer when I cried out to you. May you all know your place in the story today and every day.

Miriam G. Willard McKenney serves as Forward Movement’s development director and is on the Way of Love working group. She was a children’s librarian and school media specialist for twenty years before joining Forward Movement’s staff in 2010. Miriam loves to evangelize picture books for all ages and her love of outdoor fitness, even in extreme temperatures — as there’s no bad weather, just incorrect clothing choices. She finds joy in parenting her three adult daughters, Nia, Kaia, and Jaiya, with her husband, David.


More from our ministry:

Discover your practice of prayer: Seek and You Will Find

Forward Today: We are never alone

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, our annual opportunity to celebrate the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s tempting to try and use this day to explain the Trinity, but perhaps it’s better to use this day to sing rousing hymns in praise of the Trinity.

Image of the Holy Trinity from Church of Debra Berhan Selassie, Gondar, Ethiopia / Wikimedia Commons

With all the violence, division, fear, and chaos of our time, it might be easy for us to conclude that delving into the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is irrelevant. Sometimes people say things such as, “people are more important than doctrine.” But this is an impoverished view of both the task of theology and the work of loving others.

Doctrine helps us know who God is and how God wants us to live. Doctrine helps me understand our fallen world and the need for a Redeemer. Doctrine challenges me to love those whom I might prefer to ignore.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity shows us that God has loved us from the beginning of all things, having made this universe in which we live. Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of his Father’s very being, showing us everything we need to see about how God loves us and calls us to transformation. The Holy Spirit is the Father’s gift to us, as promised by Jesus Christ, and that same Spirit is our guide, our companion, and our teacher.

Though I love a good flowchart, the Holy Trinity is best perhaps understood has God’s eternal love for creation and for each one of us. Sure, there is a lifetime of wisdom and inspiration to be gained by studying the relationship among the persons of the Holy Trinity. But while we study and learn, we can also bask in the glory of God and delight in the astounding, unearned gift of God’s love for us.

You see, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not irrelevant to the challenges of our world and of our lives. When I begin to grasp the wondrous mystery of the Holy Trinity, I begin to grasp that God never abandons us, never leaves us alone. And we see that God’s desire is for a world that is filled with justice, mercy, hope, and grace. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to proclaim God’s grace and mercy in a world that yearns for a word of hope.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

From the Grow Christians archives: Celebrating God Being All Things
Explore Episcopal doctrines: Walk In Love

Forward Today: Come, Holy Spirit

We hope you enjoy this reprise of Scott’s Forward Today reflection on the Day of Pentecost from 2018.

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we will celebrate the awe-full (as in full of awe) Day of Pentecost. Consider what it might have been like for those disciples. They saw tongues of fire. They heard people from other nations speaking in their own languages. It’s no wonder some bystanders wondered if people had been drinking too much.

By Хомелка [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
I worry that in our zeal to make Pentecost the capstone of the Easter season – to turn it into a big party – we have missed the awe of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against parties, and I’m grateful for our realization that Easter is a season of 50 days. But I wonder, on this feast of the Holy Spirit’s descent, if we pay enough attention to the Holy Spirit.

Too often, I hear people saying, “The Holy Spirit was here” when things have gone their way or when an experience was delightful. And perhaps the Spirit was there. But a cursory glance at the scriptures suggests the Holy Spirit’s arrival is not always about warm, fuzzy feelings.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit pushes people to act boldly for the cause of the Gospel. I mean, to do things that risk life and limb. Sometimes the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sins, and the fruit of an encounter with the Spirit is repentance. The whole book of Acts is filled with stories of the Spirit’s power leading the church to open itself to the world around.

What do you think would happen if the Holy Spirit descended afresh on our church? Would we hear new things from those who are different from us? Would we be pushed in new, astonishing directions?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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ChurchNext’s top recommended course: Understanding Systemic Racism
Pre-order the new book on the life of the spirit: Vital Signs of Faith

Three new titles available for pre-order

Forward Movement announces three new titles available for pre-order

Three new highly anticipated titles are now available for pre-order from Forward Movement. All three will be released in September 2022. Pre-orders will ship in late August.


Cover art for The Unjust StewardThe Unjust Steward: Wealth, Poverty, and the Church Today, by Miguel Escobar, explores the challenges of wealth and poverty, from the beginnings of Christianity to the church today.

$25 each
ON SALE: $22 direct from Forward Movement
Bulk: $16 each for 5-9 copies  |  $14 each for 10+ copies

Pre-Order Now!

 

 


Cover art for Vital Signs of FaithVital Signs of Faith: Finding Health In Your Spiritual Life, by Kate Moorehead Carroll, helps disciples cultivate and nourish their faith through four vital signs: God, Give, Grow, and Group.

$18 each
Bulk: $15 each for 5+ copies

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Cover art for The Book of Common PrayerThe Book of Common Prayer: Gift Edition is a new deluxe edition of The Book of Common Prayer, featuring a leather cover, gilded edges, and six satin ribbons. This edition includes the Revised Common Lectionary, and red text for all rubrics, principal feasts, and holy days, make this a unique edition.

$55 each

Pre-Order Now!

 

 


About Forward Movement

Inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists around the globe every day, Forward Movement has been producing excellent, innovative resources to encourage spiritual growth in individuals and congregations for more than eighty years.

Forward Today: Rogation and creation

Dear friends in Christ: Before today’s message, please join us in prayer for those affected by yesterday’s shooting in Uvalde, TX. May God’s love enfold all those who were shot and all those who grieve. May all who turn to violence be brought to repentance. May we all be stirred to pray and work for peace with justice. ~Scott Gunn

Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray, with all who mourn; that, casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


We welcome back Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator, as our guest author this week.

Today is the last Rogation Day of this Easter season. The celebration of Rogation Days is an old custom usually associated with farming and fishing – time set aside to ask for God’s blessing as the planting season begins. On Rogation Days in medieval Europe, the priest and people would walk in procession around their community, praying for the fields and the upcoming harvest.

Of course, these days we have Google Maps to show us where our town boundaries lie (which don’t always line up with our church communities anymore) and most of us are not farmers. I know I’m not. Even the hard-to-kill herbs and flowers I plant in my suburban garden are often wilted before summer even begins.

But that doesn’t mean this observance has nothing to say to me today.

The Episcopal Book of Occasional Services contains prayers for a contemporary Rogation procession. This liturgy assumes a procession might pass by gardens and parks, government buildings and hospitals, places to work and places to eat. The prayers may be less farm-focused but they still highlight the original themes: to give thanks for God’s gifts and to ask God’s blessing on the work of the community.

What would it look like, I wonder, to pray for God’s providence here in my city – not just for the fields and the water and the air, but for the neighborhood playground and the drive-thru diner? What would it look like to pray for God to “hallow our labor” at my place of work, my writing desk? At the bus stop? At the compost bin?

We’ve been talking a lot about creation care here in this Easter season. The way we talk about creation can be sweeping and general – and honestly a bit intimidating. What can I do, as just one individual, to steward God’s creation well?

As this blog so often reminds us, though, prayer is itself an action. Asking (Latin: rogatio) for God’s blessing and provision is an action in and of itself: it makes us mindful of our community and its needs, and guides us into trust in God’s abundant love.

Care for creation is not just general – it can be specific too. As you walk through your community today, whether in formal procession or just as you go about your own daily work, I hope you notice the people, plants, and animals with whom you share this community. I hope you can bring those community members in prayer before the One who satisfies the needs of every living creature.


More from our ministry:

Pray through scripture with The Creation Care Bible Challenge

New from ChurchNext: Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben

From Grow Christians: Down in the gullies, you make springs to rise

Forward Today: Of sunshine and rain

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I’m sitting in the back yard under the shade of an umbrella on a sunny day. The birds are singing. Bees are buzzing about. Our dog is surveying his realm. It’s one of those glorious days that makes me grateful to be alive.

The heavens are telling the glory of God, the psalmist writes. And so too do the bees, the flowers, the grass, the birds, and the whole of creation. But it’s not just on sunny days.

Some years ago, I was in Jerusalem for the first time. I’ve told the story before: I was excited to be in this most holy place. My little group drove around the city getting an orientation tour. Instead of the sunshine I expected, it was a gray, rainy day. The windows on the bus kept fogging up. My view of the city was spoiled, I thought.

We stopped to get out of the bus at a scenic overlook. In the drizzle. I was grumpy. Then I saw the faces of the local people. They were all abeam in sheer joy. “Isn’t it wonderful,” one of them asked me, “that we’re getting this beautiful rain today?”

Of course! In a very dry climate, rain is seen as a blessing. I suddenly felt very humbled. And I realized afresh that God’s glory is revealed not just in sunshine and in things that happen to please me personally. God’s glory is revealed in the whole of creation – sun and rain, warm and cool, forest and desert. And God’s glory is revealed in the joy of God’s people.

The photo here is from that same trip to the Holy Land. I took this photo in the Golan Heights, near Mount Hermon. My time in the Holy Land helped me understand Psalm 133 in a new way:

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

Let us all give thanks to God for dew and wind, for sun and rain, for joy and sorrow, for noise and silence. Blessed be our God, who gives us every blessing.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

From the Grow Christians archives: God grows me as I tend my place in Creation

Explore scriptures about God’s creation: The Creation Care Bible Challenge

New from ChurchNext: Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben

Forward Today: Caring for God’s creation

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Friday was Earth Day. An annual reminder of the need to protect this beautiful world in which we live is a good thing. We do even better to keep a constant focus on our environment and our attitudes toward God’s creation.

Surely there can be little debate that human activity has sometimes harmed our world. Forests are shrinking. Pollution increases. Garbage litters our oceans. The climate is changing.

What are we to do?

  • We can always begin and end in prayer. Prayer helps our relationship with God, and that may in turn teach us to be more grateful for all the gifts God has given, including our amazing planet.
  • Advocate for public policies that protect the environment and discourage polluters.
  • Support businesses and organizations that are friendly to the environment.
  • Reduce our own consumption of goods and energy.

As a church, there are several steps we can take:

  • Choose green energy providers and reduce energy consumption in our churches.
  • Build carbon offsets into budgets.
  • Provide electric vehicle chargers and bike racks.
  • Pray for and teach about our relationship with creation regularly.
  • Study the scriptures. Forward Movement has just published the Creation Care Bible Challenge, which is ideal for individual devotion or group study.

At Forward Movement, we have switched to recycled paper where possible. We are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. My personal hope is that we can become carbon neutral in a short time.

Let us give thanks for this amazing world and for all the plants and creatures who live with us. And let us seek to leave the world in better shape than when we inherited it.

What can you do to protect God’s creation? What is your church doing?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

From Grow Christians: The Challenge of Earth Day

From the archives: Easter in the Compost Bin

Pray with the Earth for “daily bread” in Bold to Say