Join Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry in reading the Gospel of John

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry calls upon followers of Jesus to join with him in the Good Book Club, reading the Gospel of John each day during the Epiphany season.

The Good Book offers an array of resources developed by partners from across the Episcopal Church, making it easy for people to read, learn, and wrestle with the Gospel of John, said Bishop Curry. The church-wide Bible initiative starts January 6, 2020.

“John’s Gospel is a marvelous gospel,” said Bishop Curry. In John, “we get some of the most powerful and pregnant moments of Jesus teaching about love and the Way of Love.”


Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading! In addition, Episcopal and Anglican partners have come together and prepared resources to support the journey, including print and online Bible studies, webinars, reflections, blogs, and social media posts. New this year is a set of downloadable bulletin inserts with the daily readings and cartoons drawn by well-known artist Jay Sidebotham. ChurchNext is offering a free online live Bible study, led by scholar Vicki Garvey. Both the Episcopal Migration Ministries and the United Thank Offering have prepared excellent group studies, available for free download. And for those interested in daily reflections on the readings, check out A Journey with John, one of the Bible Challenge series books available from Forward Movement.

This is the third year for the initiative to encourage scripture engagement, led by Forward Movement. Other partners include the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, the Episcopal Asset Map, Building Faith, Episcopal Church Foundation, The Living Church, Forma, GrowChristians.org, ChurchNext, Missional Voices, the Episcopal Church’s communication and evangelism ministries, RenewalWorks, and the dioceses of the Central Gulf Coast and Pennsylvania.

“I look forward to reading John’s Gospel with you,” said Bishop Curry. “May this coming year, this Epiphany—as we celebrate the coming of the wise men—be the coming of new wisdom, new life, and new love as we read John’s Gospel together.”


The Good Book Club website lists the daily readings and partners as well as a variety of resources and formation tools. Spanish resources and information are available here. You can also sign up for a weekly email that previews the coming readings and highlights participants and partners. Organizations, including dioceses, that would like to partner and develop resources for the wider church should contact Richelle Thompson at rthompson@forwardmovement.org.

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church that inspires disciples and empowers evangelists. With offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Forward Movement offers online resources, digital products, books, pamphlets, and Forward Day by Day. Learn more at www.forwardmovement.org.

For more information, contact Richelle Thompson at rthompson@forwardmovement.org or 513-721-6659, ext. 315.

Forward Today: Good news of great joy for all the people

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is in its final days, and Christmas approaches. Every year, in these last days before Christmas, I get impatient for Christmas to come. Can’t wait to belt out “O come, all ye faithful” on Christmas Eve.

A couple of days ago, I read a sad op-ed by a priest bemoaning the burden of preaching the “old, old stories” at Christmas. He added that the people “didn’t want you messing around with them.” Well, of course the people don’t want us to mess around with the story of Christmas. It is part of the most amazing story ever!

I hope we will not take the advice of those who want us to ignore the deep truth in the Christmas story as it is told in the Gospels. Some in the church are embarrassed by the claims. Some outside the church are distracted by how the story of Christ’s birth stands in stark opposition to the consumerism and violence of our time.

By all means, I hope we all remember and retell the old, old stories at Christmas. I hope every preacher tells the wondrous story of Christ’s birth in their sermons, for many who come to church may not know them. I hope every one of us who claim to follow Jesus will remember and retell how his life on earth began. If you are opening gifts around the tree, maybe you’ll take a few moments to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 just before ripping off all the paper. (And I say this without condemnation. No one loves ripping the paper off packages more than me, except for maybe my dog.)

Christmas offers each one of us a gift. In the Christmas story, we remember that God the Father cared about us enough to send his son into our world. In the Christmas Gospels, we remember that God-among-us entered our story not in a palace but in a manger. The glad news of Christmas was told first to shepherds, not princes. Jesus Christ ruled with mercy and love, not with power and might. Christmas reminds us that God’s grace is the real deal, and it finds us where we are.

Tell the Christmas story. Tell it to your children and grandchildren. Tell it to strangers. Tell it again to yourself. And then savor the gift of God’s great love for us.

All good wishes to you for a blessed conclusion of Advent and then a happy Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Pixabay


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
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Women & Angels of the Bible: Mary and Gabriel

Managing Editor Richelle Thompson recently chatted with Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of the popular book Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter, and Kate Moorehead, author of the newly released Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning. You can also listen to this conversation in the December 6 episode of the Forward Day by Day podcast.

Listen on iTunes.
Listen on Spotify.
Listen on Stitcher.
…Or anywhere else you listen to podcasts!


Richelle: [00:00:43] Welcome to this conversation with two of our favorite Forward Movement authors. We have Kate Moorehead, author of Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning, which has just been released. Kate is the dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. And we welcome Lindsay Hardin-Freeman, author of the best-selling Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Lindsay serves as a priest at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Both women are here today to talk with us about the role of women and the role of angels in the Bible.

Richelle: [00:01:27] So, Kate, Lindsay, we wanted to bring the two of you together because of your passion for exploring the Word of God and for digging deep into different aspects. We’re especially interested in chatting with you about the role of angels and the role of women in the Bible and how they intersect. We thought we’d start with the best, perhaps best-known interaction of a woman and an angel when Gabriel visits Mary and delivers the news that she’ll bear the Son of God. I want to invite folks to imagine yourself standing with Mary, a peasant girl living in Bethlehem as she hears these famous words from history. We witness what many would call the greatest moment in Christianity–and for us as Christians, the greatest moment in world history.

Let’s hear the story from the Gospel of Luke, the first chapter, verses 26-38: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Richelle: [00:02:14] Kate, tell us about the angel Gabriel in this moment. Draw a picture for us.

Kate: [00:02:19] Well, as many of you know, angels are a great mystery to us, but we’re so blessed now with Quantum mechanics to be able to reconsider them as being possible, both physically and scientifically as well as mystically. So we’re thrilled to be able to come back to Gabriel in a way. The word Gabriel in Hebrew means the strength of God. We know that this  angel was probably quite something visually. We know that angels were not mortal, so they didn’t procreate, which probably means the same gender–or maybe the word is transcending gender–but probably not male or female. We know that Gabriel was an archangel. So along the  celestial hierarchy, he would have been rather low, believe it or not, and would have been visible to Mary and to human beings, whereas most of the angels in the hierarchy were not visible, at least not to the physical eye. Still I imagine he was something else to behold. I don’t think we can possibly fathom all of the appearance. There is great art depicting him in so many different ways. And I say him, because we’re used to that. But I could say her.

Richelle: [00:03:41] So Lindsay, Kate talked a bit about the angel Gabriel. Paint a picture for us of Mary. How do you imagine Mary is in this moment?

Lindsay: [00:03:50] Well, I imagine her as a girl of about 14, because that is just about when girls got married in that time. She was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter, and he was an older man. She’s betrothed, and I believe she was excited about that moment. She is ready to get married. She’s ready to lead a normal life.

Lindsay: [00:04:27] We don’t have any sense of her having much money. I picture her in a home in Bethlehem, perhaps a two-story home, like many of the rudimentary homes of the day. Perhaps Mary is sweeping a dirt floor when the angel comes to her. There is no record of anybody being with her. So we have the sense of her being overwhelmed, because being a good Jewish girl, she knows ancient history. She knows there are good angels–and ones who deliver terrible news. Maybe in the back of her mind, she’s wondering is this is like the angel of death. I mean, this is this is a lot of trepidation for a 14-year-old girl just ready to get married to this handsome carpenter husband of hers.

Richelle: [00:05:24] It’s easier for me to imagine Mary. It’s still harder, I think, for me to picture Gabriel. Kate, what do you think the angel Gabriel looked like?

Kate: [00:05:40] There’s no denying that angels consisted of a huge amount of light. In some artistic depictions of Gabriel, he’s nothing more than this huge beam of light that sort of looks like it’s about to move. So we know  he must have been blindingly bright. Most heavenly beings were filled with light. And we know that that he was different because he says, you know, don’t be afraid. You know that you’ve found favor with God. I’m not here to hurt you. So his presence must have been somewhat accosting initially. One of the first things angels often do is to reassure. That means that we as human beings are probably initially frightened by the what we call the apparition, the appearance of an angel.

Lindsay: [00:06:41] Kate, a minute ago in your wonderful description, you said that we can know about angels metaphysically and physically. Is there more evidence these days of what they might be?

Kate: [00:07:03] Well, we know now that there are so many dimensions that exceed our perception. So the reality that there could be beings that we can’t see is very true to science now. We exist in three dimensions and have time as a fourth\. But there are many more dimensions than angels can exist. So how angels integrate into our dimension and appear to Mary is one of those mystical questions. I don’t know the answer to that. Even when we  describe the angel, it’s hard to find words that are adequate because we’re talking about such a mystical experience. So the only thing we can do is is to keep our minds and hearts open and be looking around for something that transcends language.

Lindsay: [00:07:50] So I guess that when we hear the phrase “the heavenly host,” we’re talking about these beings. I have a sense–and this is not biblical– that perhaps there was a little music there when Gabriel appeared to Mary.

Kate: [00:08:05] Oh, yes. I mean, primarily angels sing. Music is one of those things that transcends language as well and is able to affect our emotions in a more direct way than the spoken word or written word. So pure love, pure music, probably become one in some fashion. And what’s so interesting to me, Lindsay, is here we are talking about women and angels who have both been rather sidelined throughout much of history. And yet without this particular interaction of both an angel and a woman, we wouldn’t have Christianity. I think we can both come to an agreement that women and angels are quite important

Lindsay: [00:09:11] Yes, at both the beginning of Jesus’s life with great incarnation and also at the end with Mary Magdalene. That’s kind of an amazing bridge, when you think about it.

Kate: [00:09:32] It sure is. And the interaction between the two of them is so fascinating to me as well, because it’s not sexual. And you would think it would be because she’s being impregnated by the,  by God. And yet at the same time, there’s no language of God overtaking her or anything like that. There’s a sense of God overshadowing, which is the same verb that’s used in the transfiguration when the cloud overshadows the mountain. But there’s a sense that God somehow empowers Mary or imbues Mary with the Holy Spirit in such a way that she becomes both God and human, both male and female somehow. But not that the angel takes her in any kind of a sexual way, but is more of a presence with her, which is gentler, which I like.

Richelle: [00:10:22] Lindsay, talk about this a bit from Mary’s perspective. I’ve not thought about that moment being a moment of conception or the idea of being with child of that very moment. What are your thoughts when Kate is talking about that?

Lindsay: [00:10:49] Kate and I tend to disagree on this question a little bit. I think that Mary had a choice in whether or not to accept this commission from God. Let me just say that that scholars over the ages have disagreed on this. One classic way of looking at it would be that Mary didn’t have a choice. But I think she did a choice. When I look over the great stories in our faith, starting with Eve leaving the garden, human beings have always had a choice of whether to do what they want or what God wants. Look at Jonah, when he went to the ocean to escape because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. If you look at Eve leaving the garden, God certainly preferred that she not leave. But she did, and she encouraged Adam to do the same. When we look at all the great stories throughout the history of our people, the Judeo-Christian community, they have always had choices. So it seems to me that when Mary says, “God, let it be to me, according to your will,” that in that moment, there is a choice for her to say, “No. I don’t want it. I don’t want to do this, God.” Because if she had said that, I doubt God would have gone ahead.

Kate: [00:12:14] I agree with that. Very much so. I don’t know if it’s a yes or no question for her, but I do think that Mary actually absolutely agrees. And she absolutely echoes Isaiah when she says, “Here I am, a servant of the Lord.” And that’s the greatest response that we can have to God, which is “I’m here to do whatever it is that you want me to do.” When I say that God overshadowed her, I don’t mean to say overpowered her or didn’t give her a choice. But yet I think that in that presence that came over her, she was made more fully herself and was able to accept and able to be empowered in a sense. This was the absolute empowerment of a single woman to be able to agree to the greatest love in the world. So yes, in every way she was given choice but also given the capacity to answer. Does that make sense? Because of her young self, she might not have had the strength. She was overshadowed with a sense of strength and purpose.

Lindsay: [00:13:35] When we look at the concept of free will, we could say that God would not have known her answer, but that would from a linear, human perspective. I’m sure God picked somebody who God thought would say yes. But it’s important to me when I look at this passage to think of that choice: of whether or not to accept God’s Holy Spirit and of the tribulations that would certainly come with it. In a little while, of course, we’ll hear her hear that oft-repeated phrase: “She pondered these things in her heart.” All through her life, she was pondering. But just think of the grief that this poor woman went through.

Kate: [00:14:25] And the angel is very clear with her. I love how he tells the truth. He says that “a sword will pierce your soul too.” She’s going to experience pain and the angel is very clear with her about that. And she still agrees, which is marvelous.

Lindsay: [00:14:38] And isn’t it wonderful that this greatest challenge, perhaps in the history of biblical history and in human history, comes down to this young girl? I mean, you think about the world changing, and it’s all in the hands of a 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girl.

Kate: [00:14:57] Yeah, it is amazing. There’s a wonderful legend that I had heard about that—this is obviously totally extra-biblical, just a legend—but it says the angel Gabriel had actually been wandering the earth, asking who will bring the Christ child into the world. And Mary was the first one who said yes. So that’s another theory, which is that this had happened before. We don’t know.

Lindsay: [00:15:21] That would be a sign perhaps to understanding why God sent Gabriel to ask. I mean, would God be turned down by all these people? That is an interesting legend. I hope that’s not the case. But it’s an interesting story.

Kate: [00:15:39] Well, in a way, God is always asking. God asks all of us: “Will we bring Christ into the world in some fashion?” I think we all have to come up with our answers, don’t we? I mean all of us as Christians have to decide whether our purpose in life is to be his hands and feet and bring him into the world or not.

Lindsay: [00:16:00] It’s an interesting thought that spins the whole thing on its head, looking at David and everything that points toward Jesus’ birth and all those lines that go through in both Mary and Joseph’s biological background. It’s interesting to think about Gabriel wandering the earth with different cultures. That’s why it’s extra-biblical, I guess. It’s certainly interesting to consider.

Richelle: [00:16:32] This brings up the question for me. Lindsay alluded to it. Why doesn’t God just directly come to Mary? God speaks to other people directly and doesn’t use angels as kind of an emissary. And here is this pivotal moment in the history of humankind, and it’s Gabriel who is delivering the message.

Kate: [00:17:05] It’s true that God speaks to people. We know that in the story of the exodus, Moses very much wanted to see God but couldn’t see God. So God showed Moses his backside or in the Hebrew, “where he just was.” There’s a sense in which the human being can’t perceive God’s fullness. So the angel is meant to be something that we can see, something that is physical. Even if it’s just light, there is a being there for Mary to interact with. I think that in the mystery of God, God is always looking for ways to reach us. And for whatever reason, Mary needed this celestial interpreter or messenger to become accessible. It’s sort of like with my dog: I can’t explain the Pythagorean theorem to him, but I can get down on his level and telling him he’s a good boy and pat him on the head. I think God has to get down on our level in some way. God lifts us up through the celestial being, reducing the divine self into something that we can understand. I think Gabriel was something that Mary could see and understand.

Lindsay: [00:18:32] I wonder: maybe Gabriel was her guardian angel ever since birth. Perhaps Gabriel was assigned to the earth. You think of God being the God of the universes. And perhaps Gabriel’s assignment was right here.

Kate: [00:18:49] There have been associations of angels with stars and planets and perhaps different celestial beings that look over us. Maybe Gabriel just became visible to her in this moment but had been there from the beginning. So much of this is so far beyond our human brains and what we can fathom. But I do think that for this important of a conversation, Mary needed someone to look at.

Richelle: [00:19:32] Often in scripture when we encounter angels, one of the first things they say is “Don’t be afraid.” And here we are. Gabriel tells Mary, “You’re favored by the Lord, the Lord is with you. And, don’t be afraid.” So how do we hear that message today and why do you imagine Gabriel says this to Mary?

Lindsay: [00:20:07] I think whenever we hear the phrase, “The Lord is with you,” especially if you know your biblical history, that it’s a scary thing to think about it. Like, what the heck does that mean? And it’s not going to be what I had in mind, chances are. You think about all that biblical history when God was with somebody. And it’s pretty scary. So I think that that’s why Gabriel says several times, “Do not be afraid.” The world is going to turn on its head. But don’t be afraid; I’ve got you.

Kate: [00:20:42] Also, I think that to be in a relationship with God is to engage in life and change and growth. And fear is a natural response of the human being to any kind of change or growth because we are fallen creatures. We often want things to stay the same. We want comfort and safety. So it’s no surprise that any interaction with a celestial being that’s calling you into a higher form of living into change and growth is going to produce fear. So fear is a real part of the scripture in so many ways, and many of the great biblical characters are afraid almost all the time. Jesus himself was terrified in the Garden of Gethsemane. I think if we’re scared, it’s actually kind of a good sign—as long as it doesn’t derail us. And we certainly live in such a time of historic transformation with the Internet. I think people are scared all the time. We call it other words now: anxiety, stress. We’re scared. But that’s just a sign of life, of change and growth.

Richelle: [00:21:48] There are so many lessons in this story. The encounter between Mary and Gabriel and this whole moment is a hinge for humankind, a hinge for our Christian faith. What are some lessons that you take in your own life when you hear this story? How does it help shape your faith in your understanding of Christ?

Kate: [00:22:19] Well, I find it moving that, as Lindsay said, God would call a young girl. It reminds us that there is nothing about our reputation or our resumé that matters to God: Instead it has to do with the heart and the criteria that God has are so different from our human criteria. I also love that the angel points out Elizabeth to her and tells Mary to go see her cousin Elizabeth. God wants us to live in community. I remember having babies. There was nothing like being with another woman who was pregnant. I think God wants us to find support from one another. We may be afraid, but we’re not supposed to do this alone.

Lindsay: [00:23:01] I grew up thinking about Mary but the story didn’t really register with me until I became a mother. And then all of a sudden I started understanding Mary, who pondered things in her heart. She faced being scared—having to let her son go. Having to hear her son supposedly say, “Who is my mother? Who is my family?” She’s standing outside, wanting to get into to see Jesus, and he’s so preoccupied. And then at the very end, she watches him die just several feet from her. The way she accompanies her son through all these trials and tribulations and joy tells me the strength and power of this woman. These are powerful lessons for me as a mother.

Kate: [00:24:29] Any time a child is born to a woman, I think we sense the presence of an angel or God. I mean, the birth of a child is so mystical and so beyond our fathoming. It just blows you away. So it’s so marvelous that the incarnation begins in this manner of just talking with a woman and her having a baby. How much more divine can you get?

Lindsay: [00:24:59] Right, right. And sometimes Joseph’s role is underplayed, having this strong protective father, who listened to dreams. He responded and took care of his pregnant girlfriend. I mean, that’s pretty powerful, too.

Kate: [00:25:19] I’m grateful Joseph was willing to look bad. To be ashamed and to have people not like him. What a powerful, beautiful witness just to do the right thing!

Kate: [00:25:38] Yeah. The man never says a word, but he says a lot anyway.

Richelle: [00:25:48] A good lesson for all of us, right? Well, it’s been so wonderful to talk with both of you and to hear your stories and your insight. I know that this comes from a lot of years of research and prayer and deep devotion to spending time with God’s Word. Obviously, we did not cover the whole topic of Mary and Gabriel in this period of time, but is there something else that you want to add before we wrap up our conversation today?

Lindsay: [00:26:17] I think a great thing in this story of the Annunciation and in Mary’s life is just the whole sense of “Do not fear. I have wonderful things in mind for you.” And also the lesson to trust the young among us. They’ve got God’s world in their hands.

Kate: [00:26:39] And don’t be afraid if things hurt because sometimes the greatest things hurt on their way to accomplishing whatever God is doing. It’s a great perspective on our approach to pain, not to run away from it necessarily but to understand that just because you’re hurting doesn’t mean God isn’t working in your life.

Richelle: [00:27:00] Kate, Lindsay, thank you so much for your time today. I look forward to our next conversation as we explore the encounter of Eve with the cherub in the Garden of Eden. If you have questions for Lindsey or Kate or have a topic to suggest, please email us at editorial@forwardmovement.org. And we’ll pass them along.

Richelle: [00:27:19] Thanks for being with us today.

December Staff Picks

We invite you to check out our December Staff Picks. These books make great gifts AND great companions to the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. These titles are 10% off today only (December 5th, est).


Broken coverBroken helped my teenage daughters and me through some dark times. I’m grateful for Ryan Casey Waller’s willingness to share story after story of his brokenness and the brokenness of others in his life—proving that by sharing our wounds, we are all healed. Broken reminds me that even when I feel most insecure and damaged, I’m never alone.”


 

“I really enjoyed thinking about angels in new ways—and it was fascinating to learn about how art reflects different understandings of angels. I love having the paintings and drawings in the book!”


“What better way to start the new year with the first words of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning…” This resource is an excellent companion for the Good Book Club, which invites Episcopalians across the church to read the Gospel of John, from Epiphany through Shrove Tuesday.”

Gift Ideas for a Blessed Christmas & a Holy New Year

A few Forward Movement gift ideas to support and inspire your loved ones in 2020. For standard shipping, please order by December 11th.


Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book
Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a book of prayer and practice —with disciplines, habits, and patterns for building a Christian spiritual life. It will help you to develop strong habits of prayer, to prepare for and participate in public liturgy thoughtfully, and to nurture a mind and soul ready to work and give and pray for the spread of the kingdom. Comes leather-bound (black) with two ribbons in a gift box.


The Way of Love Bible Challenge
Way of Love Bible ChallengeWith seven core spiritual practices, the Way of Love offers an intentional, Spirit-led path to following Jesus. And what better guidebook for the journey than the Bible? The Way of Love Bible Challenge pairs each practice with a passage of scripture as well as reflections, questions, and prayers written by a variety of faith leaders. Come and see what God has to say about the spiritual practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest.


 

Sing to the Lord
A great gift for the music lover in your life! Richard H. Schmidt’s meditations on forty classic hymns remind us of a shared faith—by generations before and with generations to come. Though the words and tunes may be entrenched in memory, Schmidt sheds new light on these hymns, inviting us to think about the texts through various lenses of scripture, faith, and personal experience. His reflections are painstakingly honest about how and when he has come up short as a follower of Christ—as well as how each time, he finds notes of forgiveness, love, and hope in these familiar songs.


Angels of the Bible
Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us into a more dynamic understanding of the realm of the angels. Her devotions recount fifty key appearances of angels in the Old and New Testaments as she shares stirring theological reflections on the presence of angels and our life of faith.

In addition, the book features 56 full-color pages with depictions of angels throughout history. Art professor and scholar P. Scott Brown offers historical and theological context for these paintings of pivotal angelic appearances, including the Annunciation, the Celestial Hierarchy, and the Final Battle from Revelation.


Faith and Courage
In this powerful and poignant memoir, Archbishop Makgoba explores how the struggles of his ancestors shape his life today, how growing up in apartheid South Africa fuels his desire for justice, and how faith compels him to champion the difficult work of reconciliation. These lessons of faith and courage provide insight for audiences around the world, for all people who care about Jesus’ commandment to love one another.


Note to Self
Note to SelfThis 2019 Illumination Book Award Winner focuses on creating a “Rule of Life”—an ancient method for building soul memory, and offering reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be—it is a practice of training your mind and soul to be kind and good.

Creating your own rule of life is grace that only you can offer to yourself, helping remind you to live the life you desire, and the life God wishes for you. Join author and Episcopal priest Charles LaFond as he guides you through the wisdom, creation, and application of your own Rule of Life.


Gifts of God
Gifts of God bookEpiscopal priest Furman L. Buchanan explores and reflects on each element of Holy Eucharist, the service most often held on Sunday mornings. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

Buchanan also shares his own stories, connecting pivotal life experiences with the words and actions of Holy Eucharist. Thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to reflect on their own stories and how they connect with God’s story of love and life.


And finally…stocking stuffers for the Lent Madness fan in your life!

Forward Today: Taking an Advent journey

Dear friends in Christ,

We’re now a few days into Advent. I always look forward to this season, and this year is no exception. Our world seems ever more chaotic, divided, and violent. There’s danger that the cacophony drowns out the voices of peace and hope that I long to hear. In this way, perhaps this Advent isn’t so different from the time some 2,000 years ago when the world longed for a savior.

Advent is surely a time to prepare for our annual celebration of Christ’s birth. But it is also a time to express our yearning for Christ’s return in glory, a time when justice and mercy will be made manifest throughout the world.

To observe Advent is countercultural, to say the least. The stores cry out, “Buy things!” The news cries out, “Be afraid!” Everyone cries out, it seems. But Advent invites us to be quiet, to pray, to dwell in hope as we seek the peace that passes all understanding.

Advent has started, but it’s not too late to find your way in the season. So if you don’t have an Advent discipline or plan, do not despair. You might simply spend a few moments in quiet each day. Perhaps you’ll light some candles at home when it’s meal time, and pray for the light of Christ to come among us. You might take advantage of Advent programs at church. Or perhaps this is a good time to check out our podcasts of morning prayer (Apple or Spotify) or Forward Day by Day (listen here).

But you don’t need to do anything complicated. It is enough in this season to turn toward Jesus–to repent. A few moments of quiet or prayer is all we need. God’s grace can work in our hearts if we but open ourselves to God’s abiding presence. The Triune God stands ready to renew our hearts, to renew the whole creation.

How will you move through Advent?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

Photo: Flickr: grassrootsgroundswell


It’s not too late to give for Giving Tuesday!
Help us increase our ministry to those who are incarcerated with your donation today.

Forward Today: Let us all give thanks

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day for our readers in the USA. The days around this annual feast of giving thanks have almost become a season of gratitude. For that I am, of course, grateful.

I love the appointed prayer for this feast day:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I hope you will take some time, whatever your Thanksgiving Day customs, to give thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings of this life. Of course, there is no shortage of challenges, and needs, and problems in our world. But we also have much for which to be grateful. May our gratitude spill over into action as we share what we have and work for justice so that those who are in need know abundance, too.

Today, as I sit in my office at Forward Movement, I am grateful for God’s call to serve in this ministry. I am grateful to work with passionate and gifted colleagues to create resources to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. I am grateful for the prayers and support of so many people to make possible all that we do.

Almost every day, we receive letters of thanksgiving from those who are in prison, thanking us for the provision of free books and copies of Forward Day by Day. It’s all made possible by generous donors. If you are grateful for Forward Movement and our work, I hope you will offer prayers of thanks. And I hope you might consider a financial gift so that we can continue to share hope and grace with a world in need. You can mail us a check or make an online gift any time.

Let us all give thanks, and let us act on our awareness of God’s blessings. For what are you grateful? How can you share the blessings God has given you with others?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Gifts of God for the People of God

Worship can be a powerful way to encounter the living God. Our stories intersect with God’s story as the gifts of God are celebrated and shared by the people of God. Episcopal priest Furman L. Buchanan explores and reflects on each element of Holy Eucharist, the service most often held on Sunday mornings. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

Buchanan also shares his own stories, connecting pivotal life experiences with the words and actions of Holy Eucharist. Thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to reflect on their own stories and how they connect with God’s story of love and life.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

When can I start Revive?

You can start Revive right now!

Our suggested start-up for your Revive small group is October, with the three, six-week modules rolled out over the program year: one in the fall, one during Epiphany and the final after Easter. Generally, this works well with the yearly momentum of the liturgical cycle. However, this ideal timing might have passed, and you might be worried you have to wait a whole year to begin.

Never fear! Start Revive whenever you can. The important thing is to just get started.

You will quickly realize the significant privilege of helping to revive the spiritual connection within you, between your people, and with God.

Here are some other scheduling options for Revive:

January Start-up Schedule

  • Invite Participants: End of November-early January
  • Start with opening retreat and Module 1: early-mid January
  • Module 2: possibly during Lent or after Easter
  • Module 3: possibly after Easter, over the summer or in the fall
  • Considerations:
    • If you live in the northern hemisphere you will likely have to contend with inclement weather. You might think about adding one or two extra “snow day” sessions.
    • Depending on when Lent occurs in the calendar, you might have to start the small group sessions early January in order to fit them all in.

 

Lent Start-up Schedule

  • Invite Participants: during Epiphany
  • Start opening retreat and Module 1: during Lent
  • Module 2: after Easter
  • Module 3: possibly over the summer or in the fall
  • Considerations:
    • It might be a challenge scheduling the Opening Retreat and all six sessions into the five weeks of Lent. Possible solutions might be to modify the program down to five sessions or simply meet a week or two before Lent.
    • Module 2 and 3 will roll out over Eastertide or into the summer and fall.

 

Eastertide Start-up Schedule

        • Invite Participants: during Lent
        • Start opening retreat and Module 1: during Eastertide (6 weeks after Easter)
        • Module 2: during summer or fall
        • Module 3: possibly in the fall or winter
        • Considerations:
          • There will likely be a summer break between Module 1 and 2 which could give participants leisure time to rehearse the various prayer practices.

 


Read more guest posts from Revive here.

To learn more, visit the Revive website.

The downloadable program materials may be purchased here.

Pre-printed Participant Guides are available here.

Forward Today: Gladness and singleness of heart

Dear friends in Christ,

Yesterday, I brought my dog to work. This is not unusual. George the Dog comes to work with me two or three times a week. He is our unofficial mascot, and folks inevitably brighten when a relentlessly cheerful yellow lab comes around the office.

We were having a staff lunch, so I took George home at lunchtime. We didn’t need to worry about a begging dog at the table! Anyway, on the way to our apartment, we stopped by the urban dog park. When I let George off his leash, he immediately found a tennis ball. It made his day, if not his week. His interest was consumed for about three minutes until he began to consume the ball. That’s how it goes when he gets a tennis ball.

I was thinking about how George the Dog is totally focused on what’s in front of him. Of course, he’s a dog not a person (though if he could talk, I think he’d want to make the case for personhood). He just 100% enjoyed that ball with his whole being. Nothing else mattered.

When I find something I love—a warm waffle, an album I haven’t heard, a great book—I sometimes come short of full enjoyment. “It would be better if only ____.” Or “After I finish this, I’m going to need to ____.”

One of our postcommunion prayers reads: “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” I wonder what my life would be like if I managed to have a bit more gladness and singleness of heart?

Our culture doesn’t encourage this. We’re meant to be thinking about the next thing. We’re trained for inherent dissatisfaction. We’re programmed to try several things at once. But what if, in the name of Jesus, we tried to be more glad and more focused on what is before us?

Whether it’s prayer, a conversation, meals, corporate worship, reading, or playing with a tennis ball, what if we could say of ourselves that we were filled with gladness and singleness of heart? What if we followed Jesus with this same reckless abandon and pure joy?

Jesus is my savior and lord. And George the Dog can be my mentor for gladness and singleness of heart. Are you glad? Are you focused on what is before you? What could help you follow Jesus with joy and reckless abandon?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

P.S. If you want to keep up with George T. Dog’s adventures, you can follow him on Twitter @georgetdog.

November Staff Picks

Our November Staff Picks were selected especially to help guide your Advent journey! Order today—November 14th (EST)—for 10% off your purchase.

O Wisdom: Advent Devotions on the Names of Jesus 

“This book is such a lovely way to read through Advent. Anchored by KariAnn Lessner (Christ Church Cathedral, Houston) and Mark Bouzutti-Jones (Trinity Church, New York) and featuring voices from across the Church, meditations on the ancient themes of redemption and restoration sing across the season.

If you are looking for a way to spend five minutes a day in quiet reflection, this book will be a fantastic resource. Want to spend time with a friend who will tell you a good story, or hear a word from the pulpit? You’ll find those stories here too. Prepare your heart to welcome Jesus this advent. Rejoice!”


 

“A favorite Advent tradition of mine! I look forward to reading, reflecting, and coloring each day through Advent.”

 

 

 

 


Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos

“I enjoy the humor AND the illustrations! A great read for the Advent season.”