Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Inspired and empowered

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve just finished attending a meeting of Forward Movement’s board of directors. It’s a great team of people, leaders who are committed both to their own discipleship and to reinvigorating the life of the church.

Everyone always reports they are refreshed and renewed as we wrap up our meetings. It’s been that way consistently for the whole time I’ve been serving at Forward Movement. Why? Because we anchor our meetings in prayer, scripture study, relational connections, and a sharp focus on our organizational mission. In other words, we keep the main thing the main thing.

We try really hard to practice what we preach at Forward Movement, both with our staff and our board. We’re not perfect, but when we manage to get it right, it keeps us… moving forward.

At this moment in the life of the church, we are seeing a smaller but potentially stronger church. Our hope is to go even deeper as disciples so that we can all be empowered to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. We are working hard to determine what the church most needs so that we can offer the resources and support that will help our church live out the Great Commission. If you have suggestions for the work of Forward Movement, please let me know!

We met at St. Philip’s in the Hills in Tucson, AZ. They are thriving—vibrant with new members, thriving ministries, deepening formation, and expanding service to those in need. They keep the main thing the main thing. That is, they are all in on Jesus.

This board meeting we just finished was an especially rich one, because we stayed focused. It really made a difference. I see what happens when I get distracted, and you might have noticed the same thing in your life.

I hope you’ll receive my happy report not as bragging, but as letting Christ’s light shine before others. We are not so amazing, but God is totally amazing. If we can all remember that, our whole church will be stronger and our Gospel witness will be more credible.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Keep the main thing the main thing with research-based tips: Signs of Life

A daily chance to get back to basics: Subscribe to Forward Day by Day

A spiritual renewal program for lay leaders: Revive

Forward Today: Can we understand the Trinity? Does it matter?

Andrei Rublev, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear friends in Christ: While Scott is traveling this week, please enjoy this throwback post he wrote for Trinity Sunday in 2021.

I love Trinity Sunday, but I often despair at going to church on this glorious feast day. You might ask, what’s not to love? We get to sing some fantastic hymns! We get one last dose of white vestments before the long, green season coming along. We get to offer our praise of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And therein lies the rub. Too many preachers decide this is the day to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity in eight minutes or less. It usually doesn’t go well, especially if the preacher decides to use metaphors for the Holy Trinity. This hilarious video explains the problem nicely.

Today is a day to bask in the glory of God. To use this day to delve into theological teaching would be a bit like going to your wedding and then offering a scientific explanation of what might be happening in our brains when we experience love. You see? It’s not a bad activity, but it’s the wrong activity for a moment that should be a celebration.

Can we understand the Holy Trinity? At a basic level, yes. The creeds do a pretty good job of summarizing things. Basic theological teaching, or a study of scripture, can unpack how God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s also not the most complicated. I mean, plenty of people enjoy watching a good cricket match without understanding all the rules! Or, to use a scriptural example, we don’t have to understand where the wind comes from to know that we need to pay attention to the weather forecast (John 3).

On Trinity Sunday, I hope we can simply enjoy the glory and majesty of God. Rather than get out our flowcharts, we do well to belt out the hymns.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Explore Episcopal beliefs and practices: Walk in Love

Making it easy to study scripture each day: The Bible Challenge series

Start your day with praise to God: A Morning at the Office podcast

Come pray with us on retreat this July in Cincinnati. Register today!

Forward Today: It starts with showing up

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter Day, completing our celebration of Eastertide. The events of this most astounding day are told for us in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

Here’s the beginning of the account: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2).

Why were the disciples gathered in the first place? They were keeping the feast of Pentecost, exactly fifty days after Passover. Jews today still keep this feast fifty days after Passover, and it’s called Shavuot. The point is that the disciples of Jesus were doing what people of faith do: keeping a cycle of fasts and feasts.

There’s no particular reason to think that the disciples knew that the Holy Spirit would descend on the church on this particular day. Jesus had promised the arrival of the Spirit, but he wasn’t specific about the timeline. So when that amazing Day of Pentecost dawned, the disciples—perhaps still reeling from the sorrow and awe of Holy Week seven weeks before—had to make a choice. They chose to show up, to keep the feast.

In other words, they didn’t leave their homes because they were expecting fireworks, but rather for the “routine” work of keeping their faith. But God blessed them on this occasion with dazzling fireworks of sorts, tongues of fire in this case.

Amidst all the miraculous and strange events of that Day of Pentecost, one lesson I take away is that sometimes our work begins with the simple and steadfast task of showing up. When Sunday morning rolls around, it’s not helpful for me to say to myself, “Do I think I will enjoy church and sense God’s presence?” Rather, I do well to say, “This morning I will show up. Perhaps God will bless me with his presence there.”

If those first disciples had decided not to show up, they might have missed the fireworks, missing out on the manifestation of God’s presence. Thanks be to God, they showed up.

We Christians have a cycle of feasts and fasts. We have appointed work in the world. We have the need for times of prayer and study. Whether it’s traveling to a place or making time on our calendars, the first job is showing up.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Tomorrow: Hear Scott’s hopes for the church’s future in this VTS webinar

Show up for prayer wherever you are with our mobile app and podcasts

Action steps for spiritual growth in the church: Signs of Life

Forward Today: Jesus loves you, this I know

The central dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (Scott Gunn)

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow the church celebrates one of our most important feasts, Ascension Day. We commemorate Jesus’ ascension into heaven to sit at his Father’s right hand. The story is told in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:6-11.

This feast day is not just about Jesus doing another supernatural thing that defies our understanding of reality, the way he also walked out of a tomb after having been killed. While it is about that, there is a deeper meaning that we do well to ponder.

Our celebration of Ascension Day completes our celebration of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ in recalling and giving thanks for his suffering, death, resurrection, and yes, ascension. His glorification and presence at his Father’s right hand shows us the triumph of God’s grace and mercy over the powers of evil, sin, and death.

In the Ascension, we also see that Jesus has entrusted and commissioned his followers to carry on his reconciling ministry. And not wanting to leave us alone, Jesus promised the presence of the Holy Spirit. That’s a lot of amazing news to pack into one celebration!

It’s all because Jesus loves us. Not past tense. Jesus is not merely a moral teacher who showed us how to live. He is those things, but he is also the means of grace and the hope of glory.

Right now, when you need him, you can call on Jesus. He is ready to offer us his grace, mercy, and healing when we need it. He is ready to intercede for us with his Father. He knows our struggles and our joys. He is alive, ruling from heaven.

So don’t be distracted by the mechanics of Ascension Day. Focus instead on how this event is part of God’s saving love for us and for all people.

I hope you are able to find your way to a church this evening for Ascension Eve or tomorrow for Ascension Day. We have a lot for which to offer our thanks and praise.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Follow the story of redemption from start to finish: The Path

Prayer and inspiration that fit in your pocket: Forward Day by Day

Devotions that focus on each Person of the Trinity: A Generous Beckoning

Next week: Hear Scott’s hopes for the church’s future in this VTS webinar

Forward Today: Fearless faith

Rooted and Growing Evangelism workshop at the Fearless Faith Revival. (Photo: The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California on Facebook)

Dear friends in Christ,

Last weekend, I visited the Diocese of Northern California to speak about evangelism at their revival, Fearless Faith. The name of the revival got me thinking.

Fearless faith could suggest that we practice our faith without fear. It’s tempting to find ourselves limiting how we practice our faith, as individuals or congregations, out of fear. We might worry about money, or what people will think of us, or whether some new ministry will succeed or fail.

What if we practiced our faith boldly? There’s no reason not to invite people to our churches. There’s often more money available than we think. Even if some new ministry doesn’t take off, we will learn something—so there’s rarely a total failure. Fearless faith is closer to the adventure that the Gospels suggest when we choose to follow Jesus.

But there’s another way to read that title, Fearless Faith. As we just heard last Sunday in the epistle, perfect love casts out fear. Our culture is bombarded by messages peddling fear. “Be afraid of those people.” “Be afraid of that place.” “Be afraid that you might not have enough money.” “Be afraid that your appearance is not sufficiently beautiful.” It’s nonsense, and it’s antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In faith, we will realize we don’t need to be afraid of anyone or any place. We will realize there is enough. We will realize that we don’t need to “look more beautiful” because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and nothing could be more beautiful than that!

So if we fill our hearts in faith with the love of Jesus Christ, we will immunize ourselves against the bombardment of fear.

I am always working on practicing and believing a fearless faith. I hope you are, too. Be not afraid!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Fearless evangelism in your congregation: Signs of Life

Practical guidance for ministry: Vestry Resource Guide

Revive your faith with daily prayer: Forward Day by Day

Read through the Gospels one passage at a time: The Bible Challenge series

Forward Today: And immediately…

From the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy.

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow the church celebrates the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. As with the other evangelists, we give thanks for their witness in the gospels and we hope to draw inspiration so that we too might proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Mark is the shortest of the four gospels. The story moves quickly, almost breathlessly. A seminary classmate of mine memorized the entire Gospel, and he used to travel and recite the entire Gospel of St. Mark from memory. It took just over an hour, and though everyone knew what was going to happen, the audience would be on the edge of their seats. “And immediately…” keeps the reader going at a brisk pace.

The urgency of St. Mark’s witness is palpable. We modern Christians might learn something from this and make haste to share the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is in this Gospel that Jesus commands his followers to preach the Gospel to the whole creation.

Some years ago, I traveled to Venice. There you can visit St. Mark’s basilica, where tradition says that the body of St. Mark is kept. I find it very inspiring to visit the sites of veneration of biblical figures; somehow this connects for me the ancient and the modern, the heavenly and the earthly. To venerate the relics of St. Mark is to profess faith that the evangelists were living, breathing people with a living story to proclaim.

How will you celebrate tomorrow’s feast day? You can read the whole of St. Mark’s Gospel in one sitting. Perhaps you’ll do that! Or maybe you will consider how his witness might inspire you to be an evangelist in your community.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Challenge yourself to read this Gospel: A Journey with Mark Bible Challenge

Meditate on the Easter season each Sunday at 50days.org

Follow the story of scripture from beginning to end: The Path

Free curriculum to learn about scripture: Exploring the Bible

Forward Today: Shepherded by scripture

Dear friends in Christ: While Scott is traveling this week, we bring you an excerpt from his book of meditations for Eastertide, Easter Triumph, Easter Joy. In this meditation, Scott reflects on the scripture texts for this coming Sunday, the Fourth Week of Easter.


Image from the catacomb of Domitilla shows one of the oldest known images of Jesus Christ as the good shepherd / Wikimedia Commons

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
—Psalm 23 (Authorized or King James Version)

I have strong memories from several funerals I led during my time as a parish priest. Most of my memories are of families gathered in the church to say goodbye to their loved ones and to hear a word of Easter hope.

One of these memories is from a service held at the funeral home. The family was barely connected to the church, but for whatever reason, they asked me to lead the service. They made it pretty clear they weren’t looking for anything “too churchy.”

I didn’t print out leaflets. When it was time for the service, I mostly read the burial office from our prayer book. Those ancient words offer, I think, just the right measure of sorrow and hope. Anyway, when it came time for the scriptures, I read a lesson and then said something like, “I’m going to read Psalm 23 aloud now. If you know the words, you are most welcome to join me.” Much to my surprise, when I started, nearly everyone in the room said this beloved psalm from memory.

I have had similar experiences at the bedsides of those near the end of life. Sometimes a person who is beyond the point of conversation will be silent in our prayers until I begin the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23. Then their lips move, praying along. Generation upon generation have been steeped in these words of liturgy and scripture that go all the way to the core.

But why Psalm 23? I think it is profoundly reassuring. God is our shepherd. When we need companionship, or protection, or guidance, God is there with us. When we face danger, God is there with us. Even at the end of our days, God is there with us.

I worry that in today’s church, we don’t do enough to encourage people to memorize scripture and prayer so deeply that it gets to our core. When people are in grave crisis or facing their own imminent mortality, how will they be equipped to meet these moments?

In our prayer and study, we prize novelty but at the cost of perseverance and immersion. I hope we can do a better job of balancing the two tensions. In my own life, I hope there are prayers and scriptures that go all the way to my core. I hope that’s true for you, too.

The Lord is truly our shepherd. But perhaps the Lord seeks to accompany us at times in the words of scripture. Let us all commit to loving scripture so much it shapes our hearts and our lives.


More from our ministry:

Pray the psalms and reflect on scripture each day: Forward Day by Day app

Embed scripture in everything to nurture spiritual growth: RenewalWorks

Read through the Bible through a new lens: The Way of Love Bible Challenge

Carry prayer with you wherever you go: Hour by Hour

 

Forward Today: My Lord and my God!

Thomas the Apostle. Detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale. Ravena, Italy. Photo by Richard Mortel.

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy Easter! I hope your Easter season has begun with raucous joy. I don’t think it’s possible to have too much Easter joy.

This Sunday, we hear the story of St. Thomas the Apostle asking to see Jesus’ wounds. Sometimes we pejoratively call him Doubting Thomas, but I wish we’d call him Courageous Thomas or Good Question Thomas. After all, he had the courage to ask what others surely wondered.

It’s clear from the scriptures that those around Jesus had trouble making sense of the new reality in which Jesus was raised from the dead. And who can blame them? If I saw someone dead and buried and then ran into them on the street a couple days later, I’d question my sanity! Even though Jesus had been saying he would be raised on the third day, perhaps Jesus’s disciples quite understandably had trouble getting that idea into their minds.

To St. Thomas’s great credit, he moved from doubt to belief. Jesus did not condemn him, but rather showed him signs. And belief followed quickly: “My Lord and my God!”

If we ponder Easter for more than a few seconds, we might also find ourselves doubting. Can this really have happened? Did our Father raise his Son to new life? Are sin and evil really vanquished? If we doubt, we could follow St. Thomas’s example and ask questions. We might ask fellow members of the church, or we might go to God in prayer. And when we receive assurance that grace and mercy have triumphed, let us be quick to proclaim this glad news.

Easter is not for the faint of heart. It’s OK to admit that. But let us not stay in a place of murky doubt. For God has triumphed, and our world surely needs to hear this message.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Read Scott’s Easter meditations in ebook format: Kindle | Apple Books

Celebrate the whole season of Easter at 50days.org

Explore St. Thomas’s story in the Gospel of John: A Journey with John

Meet Jesus in the scriptures each day: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: Encountering Jesus

Light shines down on the edicule, the building holding Christ’s Tomb at Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Photo: Scott Gunn)

Dear friends in Christ,

Starting tomorrow, the church observes the Triduum Sacrum, or the Three Holy Days. We gather to observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve. In these liturgies, we enter into the heart of the Christian story—into the heart of God’s love for us.

I sincerely hope you’ll make time to be in church all three days. It’s a big commitment, but it’s well worth it. If you’ve never tried it, this could be the year. I don’t think I’ve yet met a person who came to the whole set of liturgies with any regrets over their time.

In these observances, we see the whole picture. We see Jesus’ deep love of his friends. We see the desolation and betrayal as Jesus’ friends turn on him. We see agony and death. We see mystery and sorrow. Finally, we see ultimate joy as God’s love triumphs over sin, evil, and even death.

These are not just reminders of things that took place long ago, though that’s certainly part of what we do. These liturgies are promises of the depth of God’s love for us in this life and in the life to come.

If you know someone —Christian or not—who has not experienced these Three Holy Days, consider inviting them along for our holy pilgrimage into the heart of our faith.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Easter is coming! If you are looking for a way to celebrate the fullness of Easter joy for the whole 50 day season, check out my latest book, Easter Triumph, Easter Joy.


More from our ministry:

Vote for this year’s Golden Halo winner at lentmadness.org

Keep vigil with this free download from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Pray with us each day: prayer.forwardmovement.org

Forward Today: The world, or your life?

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday’s Gospel brings a challenging message from Jesus. Among other things, Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

Wow. That’s rough. But it makes total sense. If all I worry about is protecting myself, I end up closing myself off from opportunities for God’s grace to work in my life and, through me, in the world. It makes everything about me. But if I can make everything about God’s grace and mercy, I begin to live a life that is steeped in gratitude and overflowing with love.

Jesus says we have to choose whether riches are more important to us than living an abundant, joyful life. If I spend my life chasing earthly things, I will almost certainly miss out an knowing heavenly things. Focusing on stuff leads me to lose my soul for the sake of… not much, really.

But when we make God’s grace and mercy the core of our being, we discover gratitude beyond our imagining. And we cannot help but spill over with mercy and grace for the world around us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly astounding.

This season of Lent offers us the gift of a time to focus on what’s important. Perhaps we first need a reminder so we notice what’s important! And then we can try to live the life to which Jesus calls us—rooted in gratitude, grace, and mercy.

I hope you’ll join me in asking the big question. What’s most important? Chasing worldly things? Or seeking heavenly things?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Explore this gospel text: A Journey with Mark

Hear from churches focusing on what’s important: Signs of Life

Reset your approach to money and faith: The Unjust Steward

Start your day with scripture and prayer: Forward Day by Day