Forward Today: Advent invites preparation, hope, and repentance

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent has begun. For me, it could not have come soon enough. Yes, I see the irony there.

I love the quiet of Advent, with its insistence that we make space to listen to the voice who cries in the wilderness. I love the hope of Advent, with its invitation to prepare our hearts and our lives to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas and when he comes in glory. I love the challenge of Advent, with its call to repent.

Sometimes we focus so much on the hope and yearning part of Advent, that we miss the other parts. Talk to anyone preparing for the birth of a child, and you’ll certainly hear about hope and yearning. But you’ll also hear a lot about preparation and work! From where I sit, Advent is penitential in that it invites us to change our lives to reorient us to look toward the dawning light of Jesus Christ coming among us. Advent challenges us to change.

It’s not that I think we over-scheduled people need one more to-do list. That’s the last thing any church needs to be doing, making people become busier than we already are. Quite the opposite.

What would it be like to unplug for a while? What would it be like to step off the treadmill of endless work and interruptions and just…be? What would it be like to treasure the joy of prayer, whether it’s us offering up fervent prayer or just spending time in silence, listening?

We’re still very early in the season. For those of you who keep Advent wreaths, we’ve only lit 25% of the candles! There’s still plenty of time to savor this season.

Looking for some help? Try the Advent Word on social media. Try Forward Movement’s newest Advent meditation book with meditations on the name of Jesus (get it as an ebook right now!). Try the Journey Through Advent app (iOS or Android) from Forward Movement with daily scripture and an Advent calendar you can color in! Try reading the Gospel of Luke in your Bible or online. Or just try daily silence.

However you use this gift, may Advent be a blessing to you as you seek and worship Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


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

 

New shareable Advent infographic

In a world that starts hawking Christmas just after Labor Day, it can be hard to explain that for Christians, something else comes first: the season of Advent.

Dr. Christopher Corbin, in partnership with Forward Movement, offers a wonderful solution: an easy-to-share (and understand) infographic about Advent. The infographic is designed to be both shared on your social media platforms as well as printed in sizes up to 11×14 inches. Download a PDF or JPEG

Corbin, missioner for transition and leadership with the Diocese of South Dakota, sees infographics as “an incredibly efficient and memory enhancing way of presenting information. We as a species are exceptionally well suited to interpreting and storing visual data. Somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of the human brain is dedicated to visual processing. As a result, information presented in a graphically relevant form can increase retention by up to 650% over a simple text presentation.”

Plus, he says, “They look really cool!” And we agree!

This infographic is our gift to you as we move into the season of Advent, a sacred time of waiting and preparing for the Christ child. We wish you every blessing this Advent.

Download the Advent Infographic: PDF or JPEG

If you’re interested in seeing more infographics or have ideas for topics, send us an email at rthompson@forwardmovement.org. We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Forward Today: Are You Ready for Jesus?

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is nearly upon us. I love this season and its invitation to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus. Mostly, Advent is about getting ready for our celebration of Christmas. That’s certainly one way we meet Jesus. But Advent is also about preparing to meet Jesus when he comes again in glory.

The scriptures offer us dire warnings. The Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent tells us to “Be on guard” and to “Be alert at all times.” The idea is that we’re meant to be ready for Jesus, who might come to judge us at a moment’s notice. What will he find us doing on that judgement day?

When desktop computers were new, some games used to have a built-on “the boss is here” feature. You could be playing a game, press a few keys, and something that looks like a spreadsheet would pop up on the screen. You wouldn’t want the boss to catch you playing a game at work!

I’m not sure that Advent is meant to put us in a “the boss is here” mode. We don’t need fake screens, because Jesus already knows what’s in our hearts. The spreadsheet wouldn’t fool him. I think Advent is meant to invite us to prepare for Jesus by looking for him and by serving him. Surely, we ought to be concerned about the day of judgement, but we can be just as concerned about today.

On my way to work, I pass people on the street who have no homes. How do I serve Christ in them? The scriptures testify to God’s love, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Am I looking for Christ in the scriptures? The church offers the sacraments, and its members are the body of Christ. Am I tuned to be attentive to Christ in the church and to honor him in the sacraments?

There are lots of ways to make our hearts ready for Jesus Christ this Advent. Use this season well.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Featuring forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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

Forward Today: Extravagant gratitude

Dear friends,

Tomorrow in the USA, it’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s rather remarkable that this day devoted to gratitude survives. We could have a fruitful exploration of the history of this day, or we could talk about the irony of people getting stressed out to cook massive meals on a day meant for giving thanks. But let us instead savor a day focused on gratitude.

We have so much for which to be thankful. Indeed, lots of scripture tells us to give thanks. The whole of the Christian faith is about grace, the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and grace begets gratitude. It’s really that simple. Every blessing in this life and in the life to come are gifts from God. How can we help but be grateful?

If that all weren’t enough, we know that people who are grateful are happier. It makes perfect sense: if my fundamental disposition is toward gratitude, I’m less likely to become aggrieved when something doesn’t go just the way I want it to go.

One wise friend of mine devotes time every morning to thanksgiving. He names things – maybe 25, maybe 50 – that he’s grateful for. It’s a spiritual practice that builds up his ability to be grateful more often, I’m sure.

So I’d like to challenge us all to practice extravagant gratitude. Find some way this week – do not put it off – to express your gratitude. I was inspired by a story in the Washington Post about a man who invites strangers to Thanksgiving dinner. Do you know someone who needs a place to eat? Invite someone to join your family and friends for the day.

Or maybe you’ll thank someone in your life who it might be easy to take for granted. Thank a co-worker or a shop keeper or a service worker. And don’t just say “thanks.” Express your gratitude tangibly, extravagantly. Write a note. Give a gift.

Perhaps at your Thanksgiving Day meal, if you share it with friends, you’ll set aside a few minutes to express gratitude. It’s easy enough to go once around the circle and say the obvious things. Go around a couple more times and reach deeper for even more ways to express thanks.

Best of all, spend part of Thanksgiving Day in church, giving thanks to God for all that God has done for us.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a few minutes each week reflecting on life as I write these Forward Today emails. I hope they’re helpful, at least occasionally, in your journey. Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Forward Today: Find Patience and Comfort

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday brings one of my favorite collects in the Book of Common Prayer. The Rite I version is a bit better, and it goes like this:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There’s a lot in this prayer to savor. At the most basic level, I’m grateful for the reminder that through the scriptures we can more fully know Jesus Christ and the hope he gives us. I love the call to really, really dig into the scriptures. Don’t just read the scriptures. Write in your Bible! Make notes! Take in the scriptures—take them all the way in.

Of course, this all requires us to open our Bibles. It doesn’t really matter where you start or how you read. You can read the lessons each day as you say the daily office. You can use one of many scripture resources from Forward Movement. You can read your favorite Gospel. You can start at the beginning of 1 Samuel and discover a page-turner story that’s full of intrigue — and inspiration. You can pray the psalms. You can start wherever you want.

I invite you to engage anew with God’s word in the scriptures. It’s an invitation I issue regularly, because it’s one of the most important ways for we Christians to know the one whom we follow.

If you’ve never really read the Bible much before, I invite you to read just one chapter. Try it on for size. Grab a Bible, and look in one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Pick any chapter at random and read the whole chapter once or twice. It won’t take more than a few minutes. But it might change your life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist

Faith with a TwistFaith with a Twist seeks to bridge the gap between spiritual-but-not-religious by blending the ancient church’s wisdom and the spiritual practice of yoga. All too often attempts to blend yoga and Christianity have failed to do justice to both traditions —often sacrificing the wisdom of one tradition for the other. Faith with a Twist connects the traditional eight limbs of yoga with the church’s understanding and emphasis on living a holy life. This approach creates a unique blend of spiritual practices and religious wisdom that are perfect for the yoga novice and the experienced practitioner alike.

Regular: $16
Today: $12

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

No Longer Strangers

     

Forward Movement invites individuals and congregations to explore the difficult but important issues of migration and immigration in a new, free resource, No Longer Strangers: Exploring Immigration Issues. The downloadable booklet encourages discussion of migration and immigration through the lens of scripture and shared Christian values, presents opposing viewpoints, and invites people to talk about the issues with civility and respect. The booklet includes biblical references on hospitality, examples of migrations as they appear in the scriptures, and thought-provoking questions that can be used for both personal study and group discussion.

No Longer Strangers was developed by Forward Movement in consultation with staff from Episcopal Migrations Ministries and the Office of Government Relations of the Episcopal Church. For a free download, visit www.VenAdelante.org/NoStrangers.

As Christians, we must not shy away from discussing immigration. We are called to think and talk about it, in our homes, with our friends, and in our churches. Adult forums or formation classes should be places where we can address difficult issues and exchange opinions with love and respect.

Advent Resources

As the days grow shorter and we’ve reset our clocks, we know Advent is right around the corner. Perhaps you’re already wondering where you stashed your Advent wreath. Do I have candles left over from last year?

Here are our featured Advent 2018 resources.

O WisdomO Wisdom
Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!


Advent CalendarSlow down. Quiet. It’s Advent!
Created by Susan Elliott with drawings and text by Jay Sidebotham, this 2018 calendar poster suggests ways to mark the days through the Advent season. The calendar offers ideas for prayer, helping others, and being thoughtful about the true meaning of Christmas. Take our advice to your hearts and to your walls: Slow down. Quiet. It’s Advent! Perfect for the whole congregation! Shrink wrapped in packs of 25, posters are 17″ x 22″, folded to 8.5″ x 11″.


I Witness: Living Inside the Stories of Advent & ChristmasI Witnes
Many of us have heard the story of Jesus’ birth, but have we lived inside it? Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us to enter the story of salvation with our hearts and minds wide open, experiencing the miracle of Jesus through the eyes of witnesses: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and others. And Moorehead encourages us to bear witness ourselves – both then and now – to the marvel and majesty of a babe born in a manger, of Christ our King. These daily devotionals offer a companion through the seasons of Advent and Christmas and urge us to keep reading, keep listening, keep learning. The story of Christ’s birth can be both familiar and new in each re-telling. Come and see.

See all of our Advent resources–including books and pamphlets–here.

Forward Today: Campaign ends, work begins

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I do not know any results for the midterm elections here in the United States. I do know it has been a very expensive and divisive campaign. I also know that important issues have been up for debate. I know that, whatever the result, some will feel the joy of victory and others the sting of defeat.

But there is another fact about the election. And it’s the most important one. Whoever wins, whoever loses, there is work to do. Whichever party has power, there is work to do.

As a follower of Christ, my hope is not that we establish a Christian nation, whatever that means. But as a Christian, I think participation in politics is essential to my faith. You see, as a Christian, I am commanded to love my neighbors. One important way to love my neighbors is to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive as the people God has made them to be. Everyone deserves to have basic human needs met, security, and freedom.

Voting Stickers
We love our neighbors by supporting efforts to care for the most vulnerable members of society. We love our neighbors by working for a time when our government and our society are free of oppression, violence, and degradation. In a democratic society, we love our neighbors by voting.

In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that we will be judged by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable. I believe that means that we citizens will be held accountable for how our nations treat the most vulnerable.

No political party is aligned perfectly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So whichever party is in power, our task as Christians is always to hold our leaders accountable to the high standards of our faith. Those high standards are clear: we care for the hungry, the widows, the orphans, and those whom society has rejected.

Dear friends, we’ve had an election. And now we have work to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: O Wisdom

Songs of thanks and praise, of lament and longing, of restoration and return have been on our lips for millennia. The verses of the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” explore and celebrate the many names of Jesus. Drawn from the book of Isaiah, the O Antiphons have been sung in churches and monastic communities since at least the eighth century. These beautiful and awe-inspiring phrases present a way for us to sing along with the story of God, to ponder and praise the many names of our Lord.

Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

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

Update to Forward Day by Day online comment system

Since we began offering Forward Day by Day online several years ago, we have encouraged conversation among our readers and friends. For the last few years, we have been using a system from Facebook. This has offered an advantage in that most of our readers already use Facebook, so there’s no new password to use. It has also encouraged good online behavior, since all comments are coming from identifiable people.

We are proud of the quality of conversation we have hosted. Every day, a regular community engages with the daily meditations, and newcomers are warmly welcomed. The tone has consistently been gracious, even amid occasional disagreements about this or that issue. Above all, a spirit of prayer has pervaded the conversation. We are grateful to all who have participated and read the conversations.

Over the years, we’ve had some problems with the Facebook system. Every time, it is a struggle to address. We have little control over the setup, and we simply cannot get technical support. This is, after all, only a tiny speck of what Facebook does as a business. And we have heard from several folks that they cannot join the conversation because they do not want to have a Facebook account for one reason or another.

After considering various options, we have decided to switch to a new system for accommodating comments. Around the middle of November, we intend to switch to a system from a company called Disqus. You may be used to it already; it is perhaps the most popular commenting system now in use across thousands upon thousands of websites. We have already used it on several of our own websites.

We hope it will not be a big adjustment. It will have many similar features to our current system, and if you want to continue using your Facebook account, that will work. You can also use other social media accounts, and you will also be able to create an account to leave comments without being a Facebook or Twitter user. We are testing out the system now, and we hope the changeover will be free of undue disruption.

Here’s what will remain constant. We will continue to ask you to comment under your real name. We will continue to ask everyone to be respectful and gracious with others. We will continue to bar hateful rhetoric or falsehoods; this has rarely been a problem.

We hope you’ll enjoy the new system. And if there are problems, do let us know. We’ll do our best to host what has been inspiring and edifying conversation.

Thank you for your support of Forward Day by Day and Forward Movement’s ministries over these years.

Forward Today: Being good neighbors

Dear friends in Christ,

The hate-fueled violence at Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday was, of course, horrifying. Eleven people died and others were wounded at the hands of a man driven by hatred and fear.

What are we Christians to do? Of course, we should pray. Our life begins, continues, and ends in prayer. But here we are called to do more. We must be good neighbors.

I have a friend who was rector of a parish with a decades-long friendship with a nearby synagogue. They had an annual pulpit exchange. They stayed in touch with one another. They shared some activities together. And once or twice each year, they prayed together. If either community had ever experienced a crisis, they had a long relationship on which to build a response and to provide support. I admire places with these enduring friendships.

Group of people
Sure, we can show up at rallies and prayer vigils. We should absolutely do that. But being a good neighbor is more than that. Is your church a good neighbor to others in your community? Too many of our congregations are inward-looking. Our world—and our Gospel—demand that we change our posture.

Get to know those who live near your church. Get to know Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths. Ask community leaders what your community’s needs are. Consider learning about and practicing asset-based community development.

Our world needs good neighbors. And we all need each other. Let’s all agree to respond to the crises we see, but let us also resolve to begin today on our journey of being better neighbors.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Morning Resolve

Morning ResolveThis unique devotional book for personal or small group discipleship and spiritual formation utilizes this daily prayer to guide readers as they examine and meditate on a portion of the prayer each week and examine and employ spiritual disciplines. Ultimately, the intentional crafting of a simple, sincere, and serene life is a spiritual discipline, too. Morning Resolve will guide readers into the spiritual practices that bear good fruit for a grace-filled life. Published by Cascade Books.

Regular: $23
Today: $17.25*

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