Category Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: The world, or your life?

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday’s Gospel brings a challenging message from Jesus. Among other things, Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

Wow. That’s rough. But it makes total sense. If all I worry about is protecting myself, I end up closing myself off from opportunities for God’s grace to work in my life and, through me, in the world. It makes everything about me. But if I can make everything about God’s grace and mercy, I begin to live a life that is steeped in gratitude and overflowing with love.

Jesus says we have to choose whether riches are more important to us than living an abundant, joyful life. If I spend my life chasing earthly things, I will almost certainly miss out an knowing heavenly things. Focusing on stuff leads me to lose my soul for the sake of… not much, really.

But when we make God’s grace and mercy the core of our being, we discover gratitude beyond our imagining. And we cannot help but spill over with mercy and grace for the world around us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly astounding.

This season of Lent offers us the gift of a time to focus on what’s important. Perhaps we first need a reminder so we notice what’s important! And then we can try to live the life to which Jesus calls us—rooted in gratitude, grace, and mercy.

I hope you’ll join me in asking the big question. What’s most important? Chasing worldly things? Or seeking heavenly things?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Explore this gospel text: A Journey with Mark

Hear from churches focusing on what’s important: Signs of Life

Reset your approach to money and faith: The Unjust Steward

Start your day with scripture and prayer: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: Giving thanks for the Book of Common Prayer

Dear friends in Christ,

Years ago, when I served as a parish priest, I spoke with quite a few folks who found their way to the Episcopal Church. Our church was growing, and new members came from other church backgrounds and from no church background. I loved listening to what God was doing in their lives.

A common thread in those stories was gratitude for Episcopal liturgy, especially for the prayer book. People said they loved the sense of connection to the church in all times and places, liturgies that were hundreds of years old yet still compelling in today’s world. They spoke highly of the poetic and theologically rich language.

If you’ve read Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices, you’ll know how much I love our liturgy. The Anglican liturgical tradition certainly not the only way to rightly and beautifully worship God! But the prayer book is certainly a treasure to enjoy.

Forward Movement publishes a beautiful edition of the Book of Common Prayer (1979). We want you to have a book that is as beautiful as the liturgy. The edition we publish has a leather cover, gilt-edge pages, and a ribbon. Perhaps most exciting to me personally, the book also offers red rubrics. The word “rubric” literally means red, after all. So the red-letter days are actually red! It looks lovely.

So if you need a prayer book, or if you’re looking for a gift for someone on a spiritual journey, check it out. (There are bulk discounts if you’re buying several at once.)

But that’s not all. Today I also want to share a new PDF of the prayer book. As we prepared this edition, we realized that some of the PDFs floating around have quite a few errors. And they don’t show rubrics in red. As a gift to the church, Forward Movement is glad to share a PDF of the whole prayer book. By canon, the Book of Common Prayer (1979) is not copyrighted, and neither is our PDF. You are welcome to share it or post it on your church website, or whatever you like.

Whatever book or digital resource you use, I commend the richness of the prayer book to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. We also offer the complete BCP in Braille.


More from our ministry:

Listen to this year’s Lent devotional on Audible or Apple Books

Explore the spirituality of the BCP: Inwardly Digest

Another beautiful, portable prayer book: Hour by Hour

Pray from the Book of Common Prayer each day: prayer.forwardmovement.org

Forward Today: Savoring Lent

Dear friends in Christ,

It’s hard to believe, but Lent begins two weeks from today. From many conversations over years, I know that some people really look forward to this season and others dread it. A long time ago, I didn’t love the subdued season of Lent, but I grew to love it.

Lent can be a joyful time. Shocking? It shouldn’t be—even the Book of Common Prayer speaks of this season as a time to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” With joy!

How can this be? Lent is a time to turn back toward God’s ways, to repent. Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus. Lent is a time to live the life that God intends for us. What could be more joyful than that?

In its wisdom, the church suggests several ways to use the season of Lent for our good. We are encouraged to practice fasting and self-denial, to realize that our health and happiness doesn’t come from things, but only from God’s grace and mercy. We are urged to spend time in prayer and in studying the scriptures. We are commended in giving alms.

I encourage you to take advantage of whatever opportunities your local church offers. It is good to spend this time in the company of others. Forward Movement also offers a wide array of resources to support your Lenten journey. We have published Lenten daily devotions. We have a website and an app with resources for daily prayer. We offer a joyful practice in Lent Madness—learning from the saints.

With just two weeks until Lent starts, now is the time to make a plan. How will you savor this season, this time to return to the Lord?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Your church might want to order copies of our colorable Lent and Easter calendar posters. These engaging posters are fun for all ages—to color in the pictures and to find ways to engage these seasons.


More from our ministry:

Follow along with Lent Madness with this 2024 Bracket Poster

Meet Amanda Perkins McGriff, the author of this year’s Lent devotional

Look ahead to Easter: Easter Triumph, Easter Joy

Savor God’s word with this bite-sized devotional: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: A new life in Christ

Spinello Aretino, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1391–92

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow the church celebrates the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. The story of Paul’s dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ is told in the ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In this moment, Paul had to reckon with his very identity. Instead of persecuting Christians, Paul would become one who built up the church.

Can you imagine how hard that must have been for Paul? The biblical narratives move too quickly to dwell on the details, but we can surmise some more of the story. Think about how humiliating it must have been for Paul to walk into rooms full of Christians, people who must have feared and mistrusted him at first. Consider how his fellow believers had to set aside their skepticism and make room for the possibility that God had worked in Paul’s life to change him completely.

It’s never easy to make big changes. It never has been, and it’s true to this day. Lord knows, I know it’s not easy to make big changes in my own life! But that is exactly what we are called to do.

We have to be ready to set aside the things and ways that are familiar to us. In the Bible, the heavenly messengers never appear and affirm the status quo. Jesus never encounters anyone and urges them to “keep on keepin’ on”. No, divine encounters always seem to lead to changes that would scarcely be possible without God’s intervention.

I pray that I am ready to change. And I pray that you are ready, too. Only God knows what adventures are in store for us, and we will find out only if we are willing to set aside our knowledge in favor of God’s wisdom.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Read through the book of Acts with this 50 Day Bible Challenge

Journey through Lent with this colorable calendar

Track your favorite saints through Lent Madness with the 2024 Bracket Poster

Hear from the author of our new Lent devotional: Will You?

Forward Today: A case for love

Dear friends in Christ,

I don’t think I’ve ever used my weekly message to encourage readers to go see a movie, but this is the week! Next Tuesday, January 23, you have the opportunity to see an extraordinary and inspiring film. On this one day only, you can visit local movie theaters to see A Case for Love.

There are a lot of reasons to see this movie. It features many prominent and even famous Episcopalians, such as Michael Curry, Pete Buttigieg, Sam Waterston, Becca Stevens, and Al Roker. But as fun as that is, it’s not the best reason to watch A Case for Love.

In a world that often seems to be dominated by fear, violence, greed, and hate, it might seem that love is a feeble or even inadequate response. Nothing could be further from the truth. This film highlights the stories and perspectives of people who are here to be witnesses of the power of love.

Love changes the world one life at a time.

We Christians ought to know this, but it’s easy to lose the plot. All around us, horrible things are happening. What can we do? What can Jesus do?

The answer is love.

If you are looking for inspiration, see the movie. If you’re looking for hope, see the movie. If you want to be reminded of the thing that matters more than anything else in this earthly life, see the movie.

(If you can’t make it to a theater on Tuesday, or if it’s not playing nearby, I believe the movie will be available on streaming platforms sometime in the future. Stay tuned.)

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. The people behind this movie are Episcopalians from California. This is a great example of living a vocation (filmmaking, in this case) to change the world. We can all do this, whatever our calling.


More from our ministry:

Explore the Way of Love in this Practical Guide

Share God’s love during Lent: Will You? devotional

Watch the first Monday Madness video of this Lent Madness year

Get your Join the Journey calendars before Lent begins

Forward Today: A much-needed season of light

Dear friends in Christ,

I love the liturgical time through which we are now moving. This Epiphany season gives us an opportunity to bask in the glow of Christ’s light and love. For the next few weeks on Sundays, we hear scenes from the Gospels focused on the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world. And, of course, we can give thanks for the bright light of the star that led the magi to worship Jesus.

For a quick summary of what this season is all about, we can read the proper preface for Epiphany, which the Book of Common Prayer suggests as a possibility every Sunday in this season:

Because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has given us, in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the gift of his light and life. And in thanksgiving for that gift, we should share it with the world around us.

Reading the news these days, it would be understandable if we were overcome by the gloom and weight of it all. Sometimes it seems like the world is once again ruled by Herods. This Epiphany season invites us to see that the world is in fact ruled by grace and mercy. And we can be light-bearers in the world, offering deeds and words of hope, grace, and mercy.

So this season, if you need to, just warm your heart by the glow of Jesus Christ’s love. If you glimpse this glory, I invite you to share it with others.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Reflect on how baptism calls us to share the Gospel in our new Lent devotional

Get your copy today: Join the Journey through Lent calendar

Read scripture during Epiphany with the Good Book Club

Begin at the beginning: A Journey through Genesis Bible Challenge

Getting the new year off to a good start

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy New Year! I hope 2024 brings you much joy.

Many people treat the change of calendar as a time to try to begin new habits or end old ones. This is a deeply Christian practice, actually. You see, forming new habits that are good for us is nothing less than a form of repentance—heading in a new direction. Lent is a traditional time for repentance, but so is Advent. And there’s no reason to miss the opportunity given by a new year.

When I listen to people tell me about their changes for the new year, folks are often looking to make changes related to health. They want to eat better, or sleep more, or exercise more regularly. These may be just what we need. But I also hope we will look at habits that help our souls.

The new year is a good time to begin or deepen a practice of daily prayer. Forward Movement offers lots of support for you in daily prayer, and I encourage you to check out our (free!) prayer website.

This is also a good time to renew our engagement with scripture. To that end, Forward Movement offers the Good Book Club, which starts on the feast of the Epiphany this year, January 6. This year, people across the country will read Genesis together. You can join with a group in your local community, or you can take part online with Episcopalians and others from around the world. You can learn more at the Good Book Club website.

There are plenty of other good habits that disciples can work on, too. I encourage you to reflect on how you can use the gift of a new year to grow closer to Jesus.

Don’t worry that it’s January 3. With Jesus Christ, it’s never too late. Every day is a chance to live a new life in Christ Jesus. So, happy new year and happy new life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Reflect on baptism this Lent with our new devotional: Will You?

Go deeper into a key book of the Bible: A Journey through Genesis

Pray on the go with devotional and Daily Office podcasts

A beautiful, portable way to pray: Hour by Hour

Forward Today: Full of grace and truth

Saint John’s Bible exhibit, St. Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Randy Greves (CC BY 2.0)

Dear friends in Christ,

Ready or not, Christmas is almost here! An occupational hazard for those of us who “work” at church— as clergy, altar guild, choir, lectors, staff, whatever — is that we get so busy with the details that we miss the mystery and awe of Christmas. I suppose that same hazard exists for all of us, between gift-giving, meal preparation, decorations, parties, and all the traditions of the season.

Consider this message your invitation to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of the awe and wonder of Christmas. And then if you can manage that awe again at church in a few days, so much the better!

I encourage you to find a quiet spot. Grab a Bible or a connected device. Read Luke 2:1-20 and John 1:1-14. It might be helpful to read them in a couple of different translations, perhaps a familiar one and a less familiar one. Read them several times.

What is God doing? How is the birth of Jesus like any other, and how is his birth different from all others? What does the way his birth unfolds teach us about God? How might we be inspired to live more faithfully because God loves us so much that he was willing to live as God-with-us, fully enfleshed?

I love Christmas carols and festive traditions. But what gets me every year, if I make time for it, is the fresh realization of God’s great love for us all, both in its simplicity and in its majesty.

Have a joyous AND contemplative Christmas, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Spend the last days of the season with AdventWord

A guide to “good news of great joy” in the Bible: The Path

Explore these gospels with the Bible Challenge series

Pray every day with us: prayer.forwardmovement.org

Forward Today: Advent confessions of a clergy spouse

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

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

Last Sunday, I heard my parish priest (and husband) say the following words to begin A Service of Advent Lessons and Carols: “Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent, let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in a manger.”

I have been preparing many things lately—decorations, presents, school break babysitters, cookie exchanges, and all kinds of Christmas fun for my family. And that’s in addition to my paid ministry here at Forward Movement. Sitting with our two-year-old in the church soft space, I continued to reflect on Paul’s (the husband’s) invitation to prepare my heart and mind for Christmas, now only a few weeks away. Did he just add one more task to my ever-expanding list?

And this can easily become the refrain of my Advent as a clergy spouse. More services, more meetings, more parties, more commitments, and the ever-present pressure to deliver a picture-perfect Christmas morning at the end of it all. If anything, church can sometimes feel like an extra burden at an already frenzied time of the year. I could get so much done in that hour on Sunday morning!

Putting the third dozen batch of cookies into the freezer, I imagine how Martha must have felt when she and Mary welcomed Christ into their home. I have been so busy and so stressed, so worried about all the things on that to-do list. Would Jesus look at my priorities and say I am giving value to the most important things? In the brief time left in Advent, will I choose “the better part,” or will I continue to cling to stress as a status symbol and conversation starter, letting that to-do list monopolize my heart and mind?

I choose to let it be my care and delight to prepare myself for the remainder of Advent and hope you will too. Beloved in Christ, let us go to Bethlehem, letting fall by the wayside those things that distract us from the journey ahead. We each have the opportunity, with each new day, to do as Baruch invites: “Put on the robe of the righteousness from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting.” There are so many ways to prepare in the time left, from taking up a habit of prayer to fasting and spending time with God in scripture. Whatever my new Advent practice ends up being, it will be done not with obligation and guilt, but with care and delight.

Yours faithfully,

Lindsay Barrett-Adler
Director of Development

P.S. We hope you enjoy Forward Today, one of the many free ministries offered by Forward Movement. You can make a special, year-end gift to inspire disciples and empower evangelists by clicking here.


More from our ministry:

Pray on the go with our podcasts or mobile app

Pray with Mary and Martha: Bible Women

Explore our flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day

A visual devotional for the season: AdventWord

Forward Today: Most affecting and majestic manner

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent offers us an invitation to renew our study of scripture and our life of prayer. As an Episcopalian, I naturally think of the Book of Common Prayer in this season of repentance and growth. Given that this is a time of year when I buy Christmas gifts, I find myself wondering who I know who might enjoy the gift of the Book of Common Prayer at Christmas.

In the larger sense, the prayer book is a gift for all of us. The preface to the 1789 edition, which is reprinted in our current 1979 book, ends with this flourish:

And now, this important work being brought to a conclusion, it is hoped the whole [book] will be received and examined by every true member of our Church, and every sincere Christian, with a meek, candid, and charitable frame of mind; without prejudice or prepossessions; seriously considering what Christianity is, and what the truths of the Gospel are; and earnestly beseeching Almighty God to accompany with his blessing every endeavor for promulgating them to mankind in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior.

Isn’t that lovely? I’ve always loved the Book of Common Prayer since I first encountered it, but thinking of it as a means of transmitting our faith “in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ” really hits home.

Forward Movement publishes the finest personal edition of the Book of Common Prayer you can buy. The rubrics are, as the name would suggest, printed in red ink. This edition features a leather cover and gilt-edged pages with a ribbon. It’s an ideal size for holding. You’ll love it. And I’m happy to say it’s on sale this week for just $39.95, discounted from the usual retail price of $55.

You might like this lovely book for your own use, or it makes an excellent gift. It has a gift plate inside the front cover. What better Christmas gift than the gift of prayer? If a prayer book isn’t right for your recipient, Forward Movement also publishes Hour by Hour and Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, both also with leather covers and gilt pages.

Of course, you don’t have to buy books to have a rich life of prayer. However you choose to pray in this Advent season, I encourage you to talk to God and to listen for God’s still, small voice in this noisy world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Pray each day of the season with words of scripture: AdventWord

Explore the spirituality of the Prayer Book: Inwardly Digest

New this year: Calendars for the Twelve Days of Christmas

See more gift items: Devotionals, prayer books and more