Discernment is always part of the life of faith. Following after Jesus is an act of discernment. It asks of us to put God’s story of commitment to the world as witnessed in Christ at the centre of our life together. We have to bridge time, space and culture, interpreting this story for the communities in which we live and have our being.
How do I know what God’s will is for me?
How do we decide where God is leading our community?
How do I honour and love God in the patterns of my life?
How do we honour and love our neighbours in the patterns of our life?
Christians understand discernment as an activity of the whole, gathered community. Here we place the activities, hopes and dreams of our common life within the framework of God’s transforming work in the world. In the book Practicing our Faith, Frank Rogers writes:
“Discernment trusts that resolution based on something larger than self-interest and partisanship is possible. It orients the conversation and imagination of communities toward participation in God’s activity by inviting members to share in the goal of that activity: the new creation.”
This requires wrestling with ideas and situations, patient listening to the voices of all members of the community, and the belief that God does not leave God’s people alone. Authentic discernment is faithful to Christ as witnessed to in Scripture, bears the fruit of the Spirit, and is life-giving for the community. It is difficult and intentional work. But it is beautiful, for it is how we join in God’s life and activity in the world, how we lean into God’s reign and our yearning to see all things made new.
The third paragraph of the Uniting Church’s Basis of Union affirms this:
“The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the way.”
Discernment is an ongoing task– it is never finished.
Discernment is a community task– we weigh up our call together.
Discernment is a joyful task– for in it we wait upon God and trust that God will turn up in our midst!