Spiritual Discernment, Please! August 4, 2020

     by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, WDC Associate Conference Minister

We thought this virus was going to decrease in the warmer months.  It hasn’t.  We thought surely it would be under control by the time school starts.  It’s not.  I wonder what Advent and Christmas celebrations will look like, not to mention faith formation for all ages in the meantime.  Then there’s the need for continued work toward racial justice that this virus has brought to the fore.

Of the many lessons we’ve learned recently as followers of Jesus, a crucial one is the need for spiritual discernment.  There are no easy answers to the virus-related and racial justice questions.  These are complex issues.  Different congregations and communities begin at different places and look through unique lenses because of these needs.

I invite us to consider some aspects of spiritual discernment:

Read the Stories of Scripture:  At a webinar on Saturday afternoon during WDC Annual Assembly last weekend, our keynote speaker and Old Testament professor Danny Carroll Rodas spoke passionately about the need to begin with scripture when we are discerning justice for immigrants and considering other important issues.  How is God’s love shown in the Bible when people are forcibly removed or move away from danger and toward food and shelter?  What have God’s people risked for the sake of hospitality and sharing the good news?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Over and over in Acts, we read that early followers of Jesus “devoted themselves to prayer.”  We can’t work toward discerning God’s will together if we’re not spending time asking God for direction.

Seeking God’s Purpose Together:  Be clear what you are trying to discern together.  If we focus on the “how-tos”—how to convince people to wear masks or how to safely get kids back into in-person Sunday School–we’re focusing on the implementation and not the “why.”  Here’s an example:  We can have an argument about whether we will meet in the building or over Zoom or some other way, or we can talk about what we most value about worship and each other.  That might inspire a deeper conversation with new options for implementation that we hadn’t even considered at the start of the discernment process.

Philippians 2 summarizes the purpose of spiritual discernment well:

“…complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.  You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.”

In this time of turmoil and challenge, we must seek God’s desires for us, as a people, and not just our own way. True discernment is hard work and it’s holy work.

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