‘Discernment’ is a funny word. The Oxford English dictionary offers the definition ‘the ability to judge well’.
We have just gathered for a congregational meeting where we have been asked to agree the budget, elect chairperson and secretary for the congregation, sign the safe church commitment, and hear about the next stages for the building work. All of this thinking and praying and decision making is discernment, or is it?
When we engage in discernment, we wait upon God. That’s another weird concept but it means that we stop listening to ourselves and the loud voices around us, enter into a prayerful posture and just listen to God. This means we have to STOP. Some of you who have got to know me well will be shouting ‘pots and kettles’ right now but yes, even I stop moving to listen to God!
If we don’t stop to pray and hear what God is saying, we won’t be discerning anything, we won’t be ‘judging well’.
Discernment is not a popular posture as it may mean we have to press the pause button and reflect. Once we’re in that momentum of movement, we don’t like to stop but it is essential to ensure we are still ‘judging well’.
When I was invited to a conversation at Manningham Uniting, I and the JNC engaged in this discernment process. That meant that we all spent time prayerfully reflecting on whether I was a good fit for this role. It’s always flattering for the ego to be approached to take on something as exciting, although I actually had no desire to leave my last placement and was pretty annoyed too at the same time!
However, the discernment process meant that I did my pros and cons list and then put that to one side and really asked God ‘what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to be right now?’ At the same time, the JNC was undertaking exactly the same process. Taking time out reflecting, praying, making ourselves vulnerable before God and each other. The JNC graciously gave me time and space to work through all of this and for that, I will always be grateful.
Listening to God and placing ourselves in God’s hands is a very vulnerable place to be. We are humans living well in Australia and believe we are always in control. We no longer seem to be able to live with the mystery that is God and always want to explain everything. Discernment is a process that cannot be easily described or explained but the Oxford definition ‘the ability to judge well’ explains enough.
As we enter the Advent season and look towards the New Year, my prayer is for the continued discernment of the church as we navigate the building projects and as Lucas and the church discern what the next season of his ministry will look like. Together, let’s judge that well.
Grace and peace,