Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Finding grace in ashes

Dear friends in Christ,

Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the most solemn days of the church year. For it is on this day that we confess all the ways we have failed God and one another, and we promise to do better. On this day, we also remember that God’s desire is to save us. The ash cross that we receive on this day is a sign of all that.

Several years ago, I was in the main public square of Cincinnati imposing ashes. Now I know not everyone loves “Ashes to Go”, and I have complicated thoughts about it myself. But I want to share one story.

A man walked up, seeing us standing there in vestments. We had a signboard that said something like, “Get your ashes today—It’s Ash Wednesday.” This man said, “I always wondered what this is about.” I explained that the ashes are a reminder that we’re going to die, but they are also a reminder that life is a gift. We should use this short, precious life well. The cross reminds us to turn back to God, to follow Jesus.

He said, “That sounds like exactly what I need.” He closed his eyes and looked completely at peace as I imposed the ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” He walked away, in silence. I don’t know what this meant to him, or why it was just what he needed.

I do know this: I need this reminder today, and maybe you do, too. Our prayer is that of the church, “Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.”

Ashes are signs of our mortality, but they are also signs of grace. Our world needs more signs of grace.

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
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Forward Today: Healing in a time of division

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Sunday, our Gospel reading reminded us that we are judged not only for our actions, but also for what’s in our hearts. It’s not enough to get through the week without killing someone (though we surely must avoid murder!). If we are filled with anger, we are liable to judgement (Mt 5:21-22).

If you spend much time watching cable news or surveying social media, it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of anger in our society. In some ways, it’s understandable. We are more aware of divisions than we might have been a few years ago. And some divisions are widening. It’s easy to blame others, to become angry in our grief, or to resent it when people point out the ways we might benefit from our own position. There are lots of reasons to be angry.

What are we to do? Separating ourselves from those who are different will neither keep us safe nor will it lead to reconciliation. If we’re going to reconcile, we’ll need to sort out how to be in relationship. To that end, Forward Movement has just released, in partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and the Faith Formation department, an online ChurchNext course called “Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse”. It’s a free, five-part course covering civil discourse in context, tenets for civil discourse, values-based conversations, the complexities of policy, and sacred space for debate. The course is available for individuals or groups.

I hope you’ll check it out. We also offer the free resource No Longer Strangers: Exploring Immigration Issues.

Now, I should note that the Bible makes it pretty clear that there is a place for righteous anger. Sometimes when people call for “civility” it is a way to keep the marginalized at the margins. Righteous anger speaks the truth in love, and it comes from a place of concern for others. When I speak of keeping our hearts free of anger, we’re talking about the anger that wells up in us and prevents us from loving God and loving our neighbors.

As Lent approaches, I encourage us all to look in our own hearts. Are we leaving room for adoration of God, or are we filled with anger? Are we ready to practice reconciliation? Are we ready to speak the truth in love as we love our neighbors?

Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, give us peace in our time.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations


Today’s Flash Sale: 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. Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book features “Holy Habits of Prayer,” devotions to accompany Holy Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, and Stations of the Resurrection, and a wide range of litanies, collects, and prayers for all occasions. The newly revised edition includes the treasured liturgies and prayers of the original while offering some important updates in language and content. Revised and edited by well-regarded scholars David Cobb and Derek Olsen, the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a wonderful gift as well as a handsome addition to your own prayer book collection. Comes leather-bound (black) with two ribbons in a gift box.

Regular: $28
Today: $21

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Forward Today: Choose life

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, one of our readings comes from Deuteronomy. Moses is speaking to God’s people, telling them they have two choices. They can choose to follow God’s commandments, then they will know life and prosperity. Or they can choose to turn away from God, in which case they will know death and adversity.

My experience is that we tend not to like to think about following God’s commandments this way. We don’t much like to think about consequences for turning away, or blessings for turning to God. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting anything remotely like the so-called prosperity gospel peddled by hucksters posing as TV preachers. I do think that the abundant life that Jesus promises—full of an awareness of all that God has done and will do for us—waits for us, if we but repent and turn toward God.

Moses urges the people to “Choose life!” I’ve no doubt that if he miraculously appeared among us today, he’d say the same thing to us.

Our world seems more and more chaotic. Busyness overwhelms us. The news attempts to terrify us. Violence and degradation proliferate. What are we to do?

I think if we turn our hearts and our lives toward God, patterning our lives according to God’s commandments and purposes for us, we will see some changes in our lives. Some of those tasks that seemed urgent will recede in importance. We will remember that fear has no grip on us. Perhaps we will be emboldened by the Gospel to resist degradation and to seek peace. The world might seem more beautiful and less chaotic.

In other words, we might find that we have chosen life.

We know that these decisions are not one-time affairs. Every day we have multiple opportunities to choose life…or not.

Have you chosen life? What is that like? Have you turned away from God? What was that like? What might help you choose life, today and always?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Unsplash


Today’s Flash Sale: The Path

The PathWalk in the footsteps of faithful men and women who have done their best to follow God’s call. The Path is the story of the Bible, excerpted from the New Revised Standard Version so that it is clear and easy to read. Follow the path of God’s love all the way from the beginning to the end, from Adam’s creation to John’s revelation.

With informative trail signs to help you see how each piece of the narrative fits together, The Path is an experience unlike any other: an amazing 360-degree overview of the vast, sweeping story of God’s extraordinary love for ordinary people. Join us on this epic adventure, a journey through the Bible to grow closer to God.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

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Forward Today: Getting ready for the gift of Lent

Dear friends in Christ,

The season of Lent begins just three weeks from today. I don’t know about you, but it’s early February and I’m already exhausted from 2020. Lent can’t come soon enough. I can’t wait to answer the invitation of this season to repent and return to the Lord, to focus on what matters.

Lent isn’t about making ourselves better. It is about remembering God’s love for us. In fact, Lent is a good time to remind ourselves of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, who offers salvation for us, despite the fact that we’re all pretty messed up. So this season isn’t about self-improvement so much as remembering the gift of God’s grace.

I’m planning to spend some time over the next few weeks to ponder how I might use this Lenten season. What habits do I want to cultivate? What habits do I want to shed? What am I called to embrace? What am I called to reject?

The good news is that Lent isn’t something to add to your to-do list. In fact, Lent might be inviting you to take some things off your to-do list. You don’t have to spend any money or sign up for any programs to make good use of Lent. But you might find yourself looking for books or resources to help you along the way. Your church or your priest or a wise spiritual friend can help you think and pray about how to use Lent.

Of course, we at Forward Movement have lots of resources. This year’s new Lenten devotional is a set of daily meditations by Frank and Victoria Logue. You can buy A Spring in the Desert as a paper book or an ebook. If you want something a bit more fun for your church and your family, a set of 25 Join the Journey colorable Lenten calendars is just a few dollars. And we have lots of other Lenten resources on our website. So do other publishers.

But however you approach Lent, I hope you’ll see this season as a gift. Each year, the church offers us this precious time to return to Jesus Christ, to focus on what matters. How will you accept this gift?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: By Rev. Neil Willard, Palmer Memorial Church, Houston, TX via Wikimedia


Today’s Flash Sale: Lent is Not Rocket Science

The season of Lent prompts us to ask questions, big and small, about the nature of our being and about our role in the world. In these daily Lenten reflections, astronomer, physicist, and Episcopal Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely explores the intersection of faith and science, creation and the cosmos.

Regular: $5
Today: $3.75

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Forward Today: Finding grace on a sidewalk

Dear friends in Christ,

A couple of days ago, I happened to glance down while I was walking my dog. There, on the sidewalk, was a message of grace. “I forgive you.”

I don’t know who wrote this or why. Was someone hoping another person would see the message? Was it a written declaration by someone hoping that their intentions to forgive another would be more real if only the words were written out? Was it intended for a passer-by like me? Whatever the reason or the circumstance, there’s something tender about this declaration.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel. God forgives us our many sins, and we are meant to pass on that forgiveness to those around us. “Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s about mercy and grace, something that’s in short supply in this world of ours. Scorekeeping and gotchas are the currency of our age, so to forgive another is a subversive act.

Forgiving does not make the call for justice vanish. And of course, forgiving is not forgetting. Those tender words of forgiveness on a sidewalk do not imply that something has been forgotten, but rather that it has been forgiven. If someone hurts me, the sting of whatever has been done may not vanish quickly and it may never heal completely. But I have a choice of whether or not to hang on to my anger. Forgiveness is a gift to another, but it also frees us. Being merciful is itself an act of grace that makes real God’s gracious love in and for us. We humans are made to be generous, and when we live that way, we see glimpses of God’s gracious love for us and for all people.

I’m so glad someone wrote those three words on a sidewalk. I’m glad for their sake that one person has forgiven another. And I’m glad for my sake that I was given a small opportunity to contemplate the wonder of God’s great mercy and love for me and my call to be merciful and gracious to others.

I know I have some work to do in my heart. Sometimes forgiving is much easier said than done. Who do you need to forgive?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Dust Bunnies in the Basket

Episcopal priest Tim Schenck offers good humor and spiritual direction for the journey through Lent and Easter. With keen observations and a clever wit, Schenck connects the mundane with the divine, from dust bunnies and egg hunts to foot washing and the Easter Vigil. Illustrated by popular cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, Dust Bunnies in the Basket challenges us to go deeper this Lent, to “kick up some dust every now and then, to roll up our sleeves and get involved with the world and the people around us.” This book is ideal for personal reflection or seasonal study groups and includes thoughtful questions at the end of each section.

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Today: $7.50

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Forward Today: Are we becoming a courageous church?

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing this week’s Forward Today from Atlanta, where I’ve come to the Rooted in Jesus conference. Our friends at ECF have organized a massive conference, with nearly 1,500 attendees. Even more impressive than the size is the way organizations have worked together to build a conference that is, well, rooted in Jesus Christ and in our lives as his disciples.

Forward Movement is hosting a pre-conference Discipleship Intensive. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations among participants about how we can be more effective in making disciples. Not surprisingly, it has a lot to do with leaders modeling lives transformed with discipleship. Disciples making disciples.

If you are in Atlanta, please stop by the Forward Movement table in the exhibit area. Several of us are here for the conference, and we’d love to meet you. If you’re not in Atlanta, you can follow the conference hashtag (#rooted2020) on social media. I’m sure there will be lots of coverage in church media, as well as blogs and posts about what’s happening here.

Beyond this conference, I’m excited about what’s happening in our church. In many places, people are choosing to leave the comfort and safety of Christendom with its model of parishes as preservation societies for the adventure of living the Gospel. To be disciples is to live in a way that chooses transformation, that embarks on journeys, that embraces change, and that takes risks.

What might our church be like if we could be more courageous – more willing to be adventurous? Imagine a courageous church. A church like that would be worth joining, worthy of sacrifice and devotion. A church like that will inevitably grow. A church like that will burst with love and witness. A church like that will be living only for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be that church.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Vestry Resource Guide & Guía de recursos

Whether you’re a new vestry member or a seasoned veteran, the newly revised (2015) Vestry Resource Guide is essential reading. With a deliberate focus on the importance of lay and clergy leadership teams, you’ll find comprehensive information and advice about the ministry of the vestry, leading faith communities, stewardship, and navigating clergy transitions.

 

Esta guía, en versión revisada, es una lectura esencial para toda persona que participa en una junta parroquial. La guía pone énfasis en la importancia de que la junta parroquial y el rector o rectora trabajen en equipo. Incluye información completa y consejos sobre el ministerio de la junta parroquial, cómo dirigir feligresías, mayordomía, y qué pasos tomar cuando cambia el clero.

 

 

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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Forward Today: Shine in our hearts

Dear friends in Christ,

Just two days ago, we celebrated the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which of course recalls the adoration of the magi. It bears repeating that this feast day reminds us, among other things, that Jesus is for the whole world. The magi came from far away–and they were not among the chosen people. Yes, Jesus is for those who are near and those who are far. Jesus is for those we expect and those we do not expect.

We are near the beginning of the Epiphany season, a whole season devoted to basking in the light of God’s love. Our prayer book’s Eucharistic preface, prayed to God the Father, says during this season, “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.”

This Epiphany season reminds us that the life and ministry of Jesus is not only an event in the past, but a reality that changes everything. Even our very hearts are changed, as Christ’s light shines brightly through us.

Sometimes the evil of this world seems so powerful, that we might worry it will extinguish God’s love. But we need not be afraid. I hope that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds us all that God’s love is stronger than fear, sin, and death. I hope that we will resist evil at every turn, confident in God’s love for us and for all creation.

During this Epiphany season, as war looms, my prayer is that Christians can be bearers of God’s love and light into the world. Against all the fearful, hate-filled noise in our world, let us proclaim the glad news of hope, redemption, mercy, and grace.

Do you see the light of Christ in your own heart? How might you share that light with a world in need?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Public Domain Pictures


Today’s Flash Sale: A Journey with John

The Gospel of John starts with poetry and moves through the great story of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection with literary flair and deeply theological underpinnings. John focuses on Jesus’ last years of life–his public ministry and “signs” –what this gospel calls miracles. Join A Journey with John with fifty days of scripture, meditations, and prayers written by dynamic spiritual leaders from across the United States and around the world. A Journey with John is part of the 50 Day Bible series, which includes Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with the Word of God.

Regular: $15
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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

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


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