Discernment - Monday Musing, May 17, 2021
Discernment. The word discernment is defined as a wise way of judging between things, or a particularly perceptive way of seeing things. In the context of the church, discernment is done in such a way as to seek spiritual guidance and understanding. Discernment requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us.
In the Acts of the Apostles (1:15-17, 21-26), we see the early church using a combination of prayer and drawing lots to discern God’s will. The process of discernment in the church is intentionally designed to be slow and deliberate. In our context, discernment means operating on God’s time and waiting patiently for the Holy Spirit to bring the church together. We saw this done most recently during the pastoral search process, which led to my being called to serve as your pastor last year.
The practice of corporate discernment is a means of creating space for God’s activity in our lives, affirming together a shared sense of God’s desire to move in a particular direction. Through the practice of discernment in community, we open ourselves to the wisdom of God that is beyond human wisdom and available to us when we ask for it. But discernment does not take place in a vacuum or by accident. We must first cultivate an environment in which discernment can take place and then enter a process that enables us to actively seek God’s will in the decision that we face.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul indicates that the ability to discern the will of God is a natural by-product of spiritual transformation in community. Paul writes, “Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (12:2, The Message)
Next Sunday the church will gather following worship to discuss the outcome of the Cape Mediation report on the interviews that were recently held with members of our congregation. The report draws attention to areas where we are thriving as well as challenges we face. Our congregation has endured hardships and disappointments over the years, but we are committed to being together in ways that are spiritually transforming, called to serve as the body of Christ in our community.
It is my prayer that we continue to act from a clear sense of God’s desire for us as we discover the vision of where God will take our congregation in the future. I invite you to be part of this discerning journey of faith. See you in church!