Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Thinking about freedom

Dear friends in Christ,

For readers living in the USA, tomorrow is Independence Day. Mostly the holiday seems to be about a day off from work, some outdoor food, and dazzling fireworks displays. If we look a bit deeper, Independence Day celebrates the founding of this nation—and a broad vision of freedom.

Of course, we can’t think about freedom and the founding of the United States without remembering that freedoms were really only for white male property owners. There is tragic irony in the presence of slavery and the poor treatment of Native Americans while leaders talked about “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”Fireworks

Still, one can see a broad vision of freedom that was—though immensely flawed—ahead of its time. The founders thought a lot about the common good, seeking to fashion a kind of freedom that would benefit all people. Today when we celebrate Independence Day, we tend to focus on freedom as a projection of power and rights. We celebrate the idea that we can do whatever we want, both as people and as a nation.

Christians have a different view of freedom, and we were reminded of this just last Sunday in the epistle, taken from Galatians 5. I like the RSV translation, “For you were called to freedom…only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” That is, we who follow Jesus can do whatever we want, but our faith compels us to use our freedom to care for others. Galatians reminds us that, in fact, we Christians do have laws: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So this Independence Day, whether you are a resident of the USA or not, perhaps it would be good to reflect on how we—as individuals and as a nation—use our freedom. Do we use our freedom for the good of all? Or do we use our freedom for a privileged few? Are we loyal to Jesus first, or to nationalism? How can we build up a land in which all people are able to flourish as the people God has made them to be?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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

Forward Today: Are we seeing new life?

Dear friends in Christ,

I spent a couple of days this week catching up with a friend in Rhode Island. One day we went to the sea shore, and I went walking on rocks along the ocean. I love these massive, ancient rocks. As I scrambled up and down the rocks, I was thinking of the great hymn, “I bind unto myself today,” that many of us sang on Trinity Sunday, in which we sing about the “deep salt sea” and “the old, eternal rocks.”

That’s not all I noticed. At first, it looks like the ocean and the grassy shore are teeming with life, while the rocks are barren. But a closer look reveals something amazing.

There is life in between the rocks, and sometimes even in the rocks themselves. Plants shoot forth with verdant energy. Among the harsh gray rocks is the promise of new growth.

I wonder how many other places in our lives look barren at first, but upon closer scrutiny might reveal life and growth? These resilient plants are a living parable of God’s love and life. There is no place where God cannot work in our world and in our lives. So often, it could look like God’s presence is absent from our world. If we keep looking—beyond the harsh rocks and to the cracks and gaps—we might see God’s love and life at work.

Would our world look different if we peered beyond the rocks to see the plants? How might our lives change if we searched for life and growth?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo by Scott Gunn


Today’s Flash Sale: Table Graces AND Family Graces

Table Graces
Praying before meals opens our hearts to an awareness of God, who is the giver of all good things and sustains us in all of our lives. When we pray before meals, we follow the example of Jesus, who prayed with his disciples during The Last Supper.

This booklet contains thirty prayers. It is designed to stand on a tabletop or counter, with the same prayer viewed on both sides to encourage praying together at meals. The prayers can be read together, said quietly, or can be sung.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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

Family Graces
This booklet contains thirty prayers. It is designed to stand on a tabletop or counter, with the same prayer viewed on both sides to encourage praying together at meals. The prayers can be read together, said quietly, or can be sung.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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

Table Grace and Family Graces

Forward Today: Be witnesses

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Saturday, it was my great honor to preach at the ordination of Susan Brown Snook as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. She chose Luke 24:44-49a as the Gospel reading, and that reading includes this teaching from Jesus, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

ordination

In my sermon, I talked about how we need to take Jesus at his word, and we need to be witnesses.

We need to get serious about evangelism. We need to get serious about not just inviting people into our churches but rather about inviting people to transformed lives. We need to get serious about not just being nice but rather about preaching the forgiveness of sins. We need to get over our reticence to proclaim God’s love in the public square, because when we stay silent, the voices of greed and fear go unchallenged and unanswered.

Evangelism is not the solution to the declining prestige of our church. Indeed, those who would lose their church for the sake of Gospel will save it. Evangelism is not the way to get more members for our committees or to shore up shrinking budgets.

Instead, evangelism happens when we all accept our vocation as followers of Jesus Christ — not just the vocation of priests and deacons and not just the vocation of bishops — but the vocation of all of us whose ministry began in the waters of baptism. Our mandate is to make disciples of all nations — to proclaim the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to invite everyone to know God’s love in forgiveness and repentance and mercy and grace.

We talk about evangelism quite a bit these days. I hope it’s never reduced to the latest buzzword, but that we’re always witnessing to God’s great love for us and for all people. Jesus is everything. I hope we will always be bold in inviting others to know the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: The Spy on Noah’s Ark AND The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder

The Spy on Noah’s Ark
Bible stories take on new life with this collection of eyewitness accounts from surprise sources: a dove, a lion, a stallion, and more. Using the ancient and imaginative art of storytelling, this book will delight children of all ages and begs to be read aloud. Adults will also enjoy these stories, and can use them to enrich personal and group Bible study. Discussion questions for children and adults are included at the end of each story, making it the perfect book for a church “On the Same Page” reading group or other intergenerational program. Ages 7-12—Perfect for emerging readers as well as for adults and children to read along together.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

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

The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder
The spy at Jacob's LadderHave you ever wondered what stories stones might tell or whether a fishing boat can be friends with a faithful sailor? In the kingdom of God, every single thing has a story to tell and a song to sing—donkeys, sewing needles, secret caves, and water jugs! From the author who introduced you to The Spy on Noah’s Ark, this collection of stories, told from the inside out, are sure to stir up your heart and mind as you read along, meeting old friends and making new ones. You are invited to be a spy too at some of the most beloved stories of the Bible, placing yourself as participant and witness to God’s unfolding and unfailing grace and love. Ages 7-12—Perfect for emerging readers as well as for adults and children to read along together.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

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

Forward Today: Celebrate the depth and breadth of God’s love for us

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. My hope is that preachers will mostly let the hymns and anthems do the heavy lifting of celebrating the Holy Trinity. Too often when we try to explain something complex in a few minutes, we reduce it in unhelpfully simplistic ways. But there is some glorious poetry that the church has offered over the centuries to praise and to celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The lessons this year include a very brief reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

It hits many of the high points of God’s Trinitarian salvation of humanity. We read of the Father’s love, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the abiding Spirit. Is that the entirety of the Trinity? Of course not! But it’s not a bad start – and we don’t have to get into weighty metaphysical matters to see the Triune God’s love at work here.

So, this Sunday, celebrate the depth and breadth of God’s love for us – the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Slaying Your Goliaths

Slaying Your GoalithsHow can God help you, like David, to overcome seemingly impossible odds? The David and Goliath story offers us spiritual guidance on how to overcome obstacles. Rather than offering “self-help,” the story offers “God-help,” rooted in its history as a story told by people of faith to people of faith. The ancient story of David and Goliath speaks to modern people facing modern problems, offering spiritual guidance and reassurance that God is with us always, even and especially when we face and slay our giants.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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Forward Today: Summer Reading, Summer Inspiration

Dear friends in Christ,

Regardless of official astronomical arrival, I always shift into summer mode once June arrives. The pace slows down a bit, and the office is quieter as most of our staff enjoys some vacation time here and there.

Long before I served in a ministry that publishes books, I became a fan of summer reading plans. Perhaps in some relaxing spot on vacation, it’s nice to curl up with a book and read for the pleasure of it.Gifts of God book

Of course, we have lots of books—including a few new ones—at Forward Movement. But you can find books from other publishers, too. Or maybe you’ll choose a portion of scripture to read. Whatever you do, I encourage you to read something that might inspire you in this more relaxed time of year.

I’ve got a few books to read myself, including Gifts of God for the People of God, new from Forward Movement. And I’m hoping to read my way through the entire New Testament in a translation that’s fresh for me. What are you reading this summer?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Forward Today: In Faith, a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Dear friends,

The advertising world gave us the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and variations of the same. Early in the twentieth century, advertisers were encouraging the use of visuals to create the desired image rather than paragraphs of text. Just over 100 years after the first known usage, and the saying is still true.

We’re a visual culture, and so I hope the church is always looking for ways to connect with people using images of various kinds. Congregations can use Instagram to connect with local communities. Among other wonderful attributes of the Episcopal Church, our liturgy makes for great photo ops! By the way, if you’re not already following Forward Movement on Instagram, give us a follow.

A few months ago, our staff started thinking about how we might use infographics to offer teaching and inspiration. When we published a summary of what we had learned in RenewalWorks about the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, we made an infographic and published the paper. The infographic brilliantly shares much of what’s in the paper.

Then we started thinking more broadly. We worked with the Rev. Chris Corbin from the Diocese of South Dakota, who has a knack for making beautiful and informative infographics. So far, we’ve released two sets of these graphics. One set covers Easter and Holy Week liturgies, and the other does some teaching around basics of the Episcopal Church. You can buy the sets or individual graphics. (We have one coming in Spanish soon, too.) These graphics are designed to be used inside congregations for information and teaching, or as part of evangelism and community connection.

This is all part of our work at Forward Movement to meet the needs of today’s church while preparing for tomorrow’s church. Are you using graphics and photos in your church? Are you using images to share the story of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ?

Let us know on social media (Facebook or Twitter) how you are saying thousands of words with images. And tell us how we’re doing at providing the tools you need as disciples and evangelists of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: The Path

Winner of the bronze 2018 Illumination Book Award for Bible Study!
 

Walk 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: Wise and Daring Disciples

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, the Forward Movement board of directors is meeting in Cincinnati. I’m grateful for this faithful group of people who oversee Forward Movement’s ministry and mission. This remarkable group of leaders gives generously of their time to support the work of Forward Movement to inspire disciples and to empower evangelists.

I’m excited about sharing with our board the work we have been doing and that we will be doing in the near future. And I always enjoy the perspective of our board members as they guide and shape our work.

Please pray for our board meeting, our board members, and the staff of Forward Movement. We all love the work to which God has called us, and it is great privilege to serve God in this way.

There is a lovely prayer that dates back to the beginning of Forward Movement’s ministry, and I invite you to pray this, if you find it helpful. It would certainly bless us!

O God, we ask your guidance and blessing for the Forward Movement of your church. Use it, we pray, to open our eyes to your glory and to the opportunities that lie before the church to reach people everywhere with the good news of Christ. Grant that the leaders of Forward Movement may be both wise and daring disciples, and stir up in them the will to share joyfully in this work with our prayers and gifts. Let not their purpose grow slack, that the nations of this world may become one holy people under the kingship of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. This we ask in his name. Amen.

I especially love the prayer that we might be “wise and daring disciples.” That’s something for which all of us Christians might strive.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo from our November 2018 meeting at St. James’ Church, New York, NY.


Today’s Flash Sale: Note to Self

Note to SelfWinner of a 2019 Illumination Book Award for Spirituality!

Discover what God has written onto your heart. What do you want for your life? Who do you want to be in your life, and how do you want to live? We humans need reminders, and when it comes to making a consistent effort to be better people, it’s important to have constant reminders. A “Rule of Life” is 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.

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

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Forward Today: To Scroll or to Type, That is the Question

Dear friends in Christ,

Most of the time, I’m grateful for social media. Facebook allows me to keep up with lots of people that I would otherwise lose touch with. Twitter is a fun way to have conversations with people I might not otherwise talk with. And Instagram is just fun…and fun to look at.

There’s a downside to social media too, of course. Some people suffer from the pressure to present themselves in a certain way. Others feel bad because it looks like everyone else has it all figured out. Social media can expose deep differences, and we don’t always use our opportunities to find deep connection. In other words, it’s fraught. When it comes to political or moral issues, it’s easy to degenerate into either a yelling chamber or an echo chamber. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Computer key pad

What if we used social media as a way to learn about those with whom we differ? What if we focused on forming connections? What if we proclaimed the Good News a bit more often?

Not too long ago, I had a conversation online about when to wade into difficult conversations or debates — and when to step away. It’s not always easy, is it? Sometimes it’s worth entering a conversation for learning from others or to educate others. But often enmity will be the only result of a comment.

Anyway, in this conversation, someone half-jokingly said we needed a prayer for this. For some reason, the serenity prayer popped into my head. It would have worked as is, but I made a few edits. I want to try to live this way myself, and you might find it helpful, too.

God, grant me the serenity
to scroll past pointless arguments,
the courage to weigh in on rare occasions,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one post at a time;
accepting social media as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that you will make all things right
if I surrender to your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

(Adapted with apologies from the well-known and life-changing serenity prayer.)

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Pixabay


Today’s Flash Sale: Prayers New and Old AND Prayers for All Occasions

Prayers New and Old
Prayers New and OldEnrich your daily devotions with Prayers New and Old. It’s the perfect blend of all of your favorite psalms, intercessions, praises and thanksgivings from The Book of Common Prayer with new prayers to enhance your prayer collection. With prayers like “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Apostle’s Creed,” and “For Refreshment in Daily Life,” Prayers New and Old introduces young and old to experience the richness of prayer. The book is pocket-sized and indexed by topic so you can pray anywhere. Book is bound with a dark blue faux leather cover, with gold edges, and a ribbon.

 

Prayers for All Occasions
Prayers for all Occasions Find the right prayer for the right time in Prayers for All Occasions. This pocket-sized volume offers a diverse collection of prayers for family, life events, church work, and other unique occasions. Indexed by topic so you can find prayers quickly, Prayers for All Occasions is ideal for personal devotion or as a quick prayer reference tool for clergy. Fits easily in purse or pocket. With faux leather cover, gold edges, and ribbon.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

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

Forward Today: Stop and smell the flowers

Dear friends in Christ,

As I was trying to decide what to write about for this week’s Forward Today, I decided to take my dog out for a walk. George the Dog comes to work with me regularly, as he’s a good companion and sometimes a muse.

We walked over to a nearby park, and I realized when George stopped to smell the flowers that he had given me an object lesson. It is a stunningly beautiful day here in Cincinnati. The glory of God’s creation is all around, testifying to the splendor of God’s radiant glory. Were it not for my canine friend’s diligent nose, I might not have stopped to appreciate these entirely remarkable flowers.

Study after study shows that getting up and walking around is good for creative thinking. Study after study shows that gratitude is good for our health and our spirit. And we Christians know that giving thanks to God for the beauty of creation is good for our souls.

So this week’s Forward Today comes with a simple message. Look up, right now! Savor the world that is around you. Give thanks for God’s blessings.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

P.S. If you want some joy in your social media feed, George T. Dog is on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. New followers are like ear scratches for him.


Today’s Flash Sale: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Saint Augustine's Prayer BookSaint 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

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

Forward Today: We wish to see Jesus

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church celebrates the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James. We know almost nothing about James, and Philip shows up only a few times in the scriptures. One of the more well-known mentions comes in John 12:20-21:

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

These Greeks got right to the point. Perhaps they had heard about this famous teacher, and they wanted to meet him. “We wish to see Jesus.”

I spend a lot of time preaching across our church, and it turns out that quite a few pulpits have the words of these Greeks written on the pulpit where only the preacher will see it. In the language of the King James Bible, it’s “Sir, we would see Jesus.” In our NRSV translation, it’s “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” It’s a pretty powerful reminder to the one standing in the pulpit that people who show up in our churches really want to meet Jesus. Preachers might talk about other things, but sermons should always be about Jesus. And churches might offer plenty of things, but it should all be about Jesus.

It’s easy to lose sight of this. Churches always have lots going on, and once we are part of the group, we might be tempted to focus on relationships with others or on the work to run a church. But the fundamental point of everything in a church is always Jesus. In our day and age, when someone shows up for church the first time, it probably isn’t because of peer pressure or obligation or status. Our guests are very likely to echo what those Greeks said, “We wish to see Jesus.”

If someone shows up this Sunday in your church, will the preaching, the teaching, the activities, and everything else be about Jesus?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Image and inspiration: Tim Schenck

Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist

Faith with a TwistFaith with a Twist: A 30-Day Journey into Christian Yoga 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