Tag Archives: Forward Today

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

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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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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
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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.

Forward Today: Good Book Club is coming!

Dear friends in Christ,

The last couple of years, we have had tremendous success offering the Good Book Club to the Episcopal Church. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet, the Good Book Club invites the whole church to read a book of the Bible together. In 2018, we read Luke and then Acts during Lent and Easter. In 2019, we read Romans during the Epiphany season.

Starting January 6, 2020, Forward Movement and many other organizations are inviting you to read the Gospel of John during the Epiphany season, ending the day before Lent starts. If you’ve never read a book of the Bible straight through, you’ll love doing this on your own and with others far and near.
Many organizations, including The Episcopal Church, Episcopal Relief & Development, Episcopal Church Foundation, Missional Voices, Forma, Grow Christians, and Episcopal Migration Ministries (among others!) are offering free resources for individual or group study. You’ll find podcasts, lesson plans, blogs, graphics, and more. It’s all on the Good Book Club website. Be sure to check out the Club Bíblico Facebook page to stay up to date on Spanish offerings.

You can certainly read John on your own. I hope you’ll think about inviting your whole congregation to join in. You can meet on Sundays to talk about the readings. You can read together and comment on the parish Facebook page. You can keep a local blog. There are as many ways to take part in the Good Book Club as there are people.

The reason to do this is simple: reading scripture changes us. When we step back and see the big picture—reading a whole book—we see God’s love for us a bit differently than we might if our usual encounter is tiny snippets of scripture when we come to church. Reading the whole Bible changed my life, and it started for me one book at a time. I think it might change you, too.

Have you read the Gospel of John? Are you planning on reading it this January?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


Today’s Flash Sale: Dog in a Manger

With laugh-out-loud humor anchored by spiritual truths, author Tim Schenck helps us maintain our spiritual sanity through the often-frenetic chaos of Advent and Christmas. Illustrated by popular cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, Dog in the Manger also explores the major characters of the season in new ways, including John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph and of course, Jesus. Thoughtful questions following each section make Dog in the Manger ideal for personal or group use.

Regular: $10
Today: $7.50

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Forward Today: Making disciples in your congregation

Dear friends in Christ,

Lately, it seems that all I do is talk about discipleship. This is a good thing. Jesus himself said that making disciples was the main job for his followers. Just this week, I wrote a blog post called “What is a disciple, and why does it matter?” If you want to read about discipleship, have a look over there.

At Forward Movement, we have research data from RenewalWorks that tells us that congregations which prioritize disciple-making are healthier and they’re more likely to be growing. Lots of others have studied this question, too. We have to move our churches, ensuring that we’re not running museums of the status quo or preservation societies. Sure, we can and should guard our traditions and our faith. But we also have to be ready to change. After all, the Gospel itself is all about transformation.

Rooted in Jesus - January 21-24, 2019 in AtlantaIf you’re not sure how to be a disciple—or if you’re not sure how to get your church to move in this direction—I have some good news. Forward Movement is offering a Discipleship Intensive two-day event this January. It’s a pre-conference gathering before the Rooted in Jesus conference in Atlanta. Our pre-conference is January 21-22, and the Rooted in Jesus conference is January 22-24. It promises to be a major conference, and the speaker line-up is exciting.

I hope to see you there. You can register online, and the early bird discount ends tomorrow, October 31.

If you can’t make it to the conference, there are plenty of ways to become a more committed disciple of Jesus Christ and to lead your congregation in this direction. This is our work at Forward Movement, and we’ll keep sharing stories and resources. Above all, we’ll keep sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Meet the Saints

Meet the Saints: Family Storybook is part of the Living Discipleships series of offerings, an all-ages curriculum to encourage each of us to follow Jesus more fully in the company of fellow disciples. Using this printed, full-color version of the Meet the Saints: Family Storybook families can together unveil how Christ’s light has shone brightly in the lives of men and women through centuries. Join a journey with the saints and your family, learning more about the monks, missionaries, prophets, doctors, evangelists, and more who have led us on our way.

The Meet the Saints: Family Storybook provides twenty-four stories of saints for families to read together, colorful child-friendly illustrations, thoughtful questions for family conversations, prayers to pray together, and coloring pages for children to enjoy.

Meet the Saints pairs well with other Celebrating the Saints curriculum, and can be used as a standalone study, or in conjunction with the other Living Discipleship series of offerings including Practicing our Faith and Exploring the Bible.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

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Forward Today: Being church in your community, social media style

Dear friends in Christ,

If you’ve been around young children much lately, you know about the “Baby Shark” global phenomenon, the song that has almost four billion views on YouTube. Charming circumstances led to “Baby Shark” becoming an unofficial anthem for the Washington Nationals baseball team and their postseason adventure.

Well, the Washington National Cathedral saw an opportunity. Or two or three. First, they outfitted some of their statues and grotesques in the home team colors. Then they released a now-viral video of the cathedral organists having a grand time with the massive national cathedral pipe organ and “Baby Shark.” People in DC are getting a fun reminder of the cathedral’s presence, and the sensation is spreading around the world.

Now, playing a popular song on a church organ is NOT evangelism. Sharing the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ is evangelism. But making connections with secular, popular culture can pave the way to evangelism. We can show that we take Jesus Christ very seriously, but we don’t need to take ourselves too seriously.

What I love about the Washington National Cathedral’s work here is that it doesn’t cheapen the core mission or value of the cathedral, but rather adds a bit of fun in ways that might attract interest from folks who otherwise wouldn’t pay much attention to church. And that’s worth something.

I know from eleven years of involvement with Lent Madness that humor can draw people into the church. Plenty of people have told Lent Madness creator Fr. Tim Schenck or me that they hadn’t really practiced a Lenten devotion until the whacky race for the Golden Halo drew them in. I wonder if people will Google the cathedral or even show up for services because of a bit of Washington Nationals fun?

We should never replace the proclamation of the Good News with a few laughs. But we in the church can show our fun side, perhaps helping people see that we Christians are fundamentally joyful people rather than the dour some people might believe. Has your church found fun ways to engage your community? Have you laughed at yourself lately?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo by the Washington National Cathedral


Today’s Flash Sale: Social Justice Bible Challenge

The Social Justice Bible ChallengeFeaturing 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.

Bridging the gap between knowing the Bible and living it, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is for those seeking to deeply engaged in scripture, and connect their compassion to God’s Word.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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Forward Today: Discipleship is the thing

Dear friends in Christ,

This is the time of year when I do a fair amount of traveling around the church. Sometimes the travel is exhausting, but the reward is a wonderful view of the life, health, and challenges of our beloved church.

A few days ago, I attended a conference for clergy from all over North America. While it wasn’t quite the official conference theme, I noticed a distinct pattern. Nearly everyone is interested in discipleship. Church leaders at all levels are looking for ways to equip followers of Jesus in their journey.

I find it very encouraging that there are no gimmicks here. Discipleship is about, among other things, studying God’s word in the Bible, cultivating a habit of daily prayer, serving those in need, attending worship regularly, and sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. These practices don’t require a big budget line or a fancy program. They just require commitment and focus.

Congregations where discipleship becomes the top priority are thriving. It’s true for small and large churches, in rural and urban areas, both high church and low church. It’s not surprising that when we do the thing that Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28, we thrive. Our primary task is to make disciples. And we have the Holy Spirit as our guide and companion.

Forward Movement’s purpose—from 1935 to the present—has been to make disciples. We offer plenty of resources, many of which are free of charge, to support you and your congregation in this work. There are lots of others out there providing resources, too. Ultimately though, we already have what we need: the liturgy of the church, the scriptures, God’s presence among us, and a mission to carry out.

What’s the main thing at your church? Is it discipleship? If not, what’s getting in the way? If we at Forward Movement can help, please do let us know. And pray for the renewal of our church as people discover the joy and the freedom of following Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Bible Women

Bible WomenWomen of the Bible have been trapped in dry and dusty literary caskets for centuries. While a few women, such as Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary Magdalene, are familiar, many of the women who speak in the Bible have long been ignored. Yet their words are part of God’s Word, the Bible, for a reason. Through these women, God spoke, intervened, changed, illustrated, and proclaimed the story of redemption.

In this groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards, Episcopal priest Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, and historical background. We learn which women speak the most (hint: it’s not Mary!) and which books of the Bible have the fewest words from women.

We hear the only conversation in the Bible between a mother and daughter (and it’s not pretty), the words of a woman who eats her own child, and the triumphant exclamation of a woman telling the world about the risen Christ.

Questions at the end of each chapter encourage individual or small-group reflection about what we might learn from each of these women and how God is speaking through them to us.

Step into God’s sacred circle of mothers, grandmothers, warriors, prophets, prostitutes, and murderers. You won’t come out the same.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

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