Category Archives: Lent

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: 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

Q&A: Amanda Perkins McGriff, author of Will You?

Amanda Perkins McGriff is an Episcopal priest who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband Wil, their son Darwin, and their retired greyhound, Goose. She currently serves as a chaplain at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and as curate at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

A graduate of Bexley Seabury Seminary in Chicago, she is the recipient of a 2021 Episcopal Evangelism Society grant to create a curriculum exploring connections between baptism, eucharist, and evangelism. This project is available now as Will You? a five-week Lenten study on the Book of Common Prayer’s baptismal promises. Learn more about Amanda and her work in this author Q&A.


Where did the idea for this book come from?

Will You? began as a project  for a Bexley Seabury Seminary class called Reimagining Congregations in Mission. The assignment was to design a five-session formation offering specific to my context that invited participants to think about mission in new ways, and I had the idea to build my curriculum around the five “will you” questions of the Baptismal Covenant. These promises that we agree to, or that are agreed to on our behalf, in our baptisms are supposed to guide our individual and corporate lives. It should not be a surprise that they can guide us into a fresh understanding of evangelism as well. After graduation, I received an Episcopal Evangelism Society grant which allowed me to expand that initial project, through two piloting phases, into Will You? and the accompanying Group Leader Guide.

What is your hope for this book?

My hope is that Will You? will help Episcopalians come together during Lent to engage in lively and fruitful discussion about where our Baptismal Covenant is calling us. I hope that the book leads people to think deeply about the connections between evangelism and these promises we make in our baptisms.

Your book examines the five baptismal promises from the Book of Common Prayer. Which promise resonates the most with you? Are there any of the promises you struggle with?

I struggle with all of the promises, but the promise that I think about the most as I go about my day is to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” I am a hospital chaplain, and my prayer every day is that the love of God will shine through me, that I will see and treat all those I encounter as the beloved children of God that they are. The promise that was the most difficult for me to write about was “proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” This is the most obviously evangelistic baptismal promise, and it is also what I am called to do as a priest. But I struggled because there are so many different ways to interpret “proclaiming the Good News.” I wanted to be careful because some of our past interpretations of this mandate have led to some of our worst corporate sins, but I also wanted to invite readers to think boldly and creatively.

What does evangelism mean to you?

I think that the cover art for Will You? is a perfect illustration of my definition of evangelism. I am so grateful to artist Jason Sierra, who created it. He was able to really encapsulate the concept of the book, which is that the “will you” questions of the Baptismal Covenant follow an arc, from a gathering in to a sending out. The art on the cover is inviting readers to go out of their church doors, but it is an invitation issued from inside the church. And that is what I think we miss about evangelism and why it is so helpful to look at it through the lens of the Baptismal Covenant. It is indeed going out of our church doors and participating in God’s healing work in the world, the essence of those last three “will you” questions. But those actions need to be grounded in our beliefs, in prayer and discernment in community, and in self-examination of our past mistakes and repentance of sin. These are the elements that make up the first part of our Baptismal Covenant, and we get into trouble when we leave these important pieces out of our definition of evangelism.

Do you have a favorite prayer?

My favorite prayer from the Book of Common Prayer is Thanksgiving Over the Water. It is part of the service for Holy Baptism and is found on page 306 in the BCP. I love the imagery and the balancing of the phrasing in it. And I love that it conveys our story so succinctly yet so beautifully.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I first want to highlight that there is a comprehensive free Group Leader Guide available. As someone who has led small groups in the past, it was very important to me to give group leaders the tools they would need to facilitate weekly discussions that follow along with the book and delve deeper into the Baptismal Covenant questions. Find the Group Leader Guide here or on the Will You? page on Forward Movement’s website.

I also want to share my sincere gratitude to all of those who are considering making Will You? part of their Lenten practice, whether individually or in a small group. I am so humbled and honored to be on this journey with you.

A new devotional and small group study: Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal Promises

Book cover of Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal PromisesCincinnati, OH – Forward Movement, in collaboration with Episcopal Evangelism Society, invites Episcopalians to reflect on their baptismal promises during Lent through a new small group study and corresponding book, Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal Promises.

This five-week Lenten small group study offers daily reflections, examples of evangelism in action, and an invitation to think in new ways about the promises we make to God, each other, and ourselves in baptism.

A free downloadable group leader guide helps facilitators plan and guide six group meetings to discuss the book.

When we are initiated into the church with the water of baptism, we (or our sponsors) answer a series of questions called the Baptismal Covenant. The first three questions echo the words of our creeds, our beliefs about God and the church. The last five questions focus on action. They each begin with the words: “Will You?”

These “Will You” questions articulate how we are to animate our baptism, to follow Christ’s example in our relationships with others, our communities, and the world. These questions move from a “gathering in” to a “sending out”—they are a call to embrace and practice evangelism by proclaiming the Good News of Christ in all we do and say.

The study was written by Amanda Perkins McGriff, who received a 2021 Episcopal Evangelism Society grant to create a curriculum exploring connections between baptism, eucharist, and evangelism.

“This resource will inspire meaningful conversations about evangelism, as it relates to our Baptismal promises, for congregations at any stage of engaging Episcopal evangelism. It was transformative in my own congregation,” said Day Smith Pritchartt, Executive Director of the Episcopal Evangelism Society.

Will You? is available in print from Forward Movement directly, with affordable bulk rates for churches and groups. The print edition is also available through online sellers such as Amazon; please note that when you buy the print version directly from Forward Movement most of your money reaches us and is reinvested in our ministry.

The book is also available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle and Apple Books, and audiobook on Audible and Apple Books.

Order directly from Forward Movement at forwardmovement.org/willyou or by phone at 800-543-1813.

 

 


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.