“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so
that you may discern the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
March 1, 2012
Paul’s words to the Romans have always struck me as essential church operating procedure. His concern is that the world’s approach to choosing the right thing to do — founded on conventions, assumptions, and traditions — can be deeply flawed. He urges us not to be conformed to this way of choosing the best path but to keep God in the equation.
He also tells us how — discernment. With Latin roots from discernere, discernment means to separate, distinguish, sift through. When applied to our faith, it involves the search for God’s wisdom and guidance. Applied to decision-making, discernment sets our choices in the context of our faith and relationship with God. As a process, it’s about uncovering the decision, not making it.
Lent, as a prelude to Easter, is a particularly appropriate time for discernment. We’re meant to reflect and re-examine, to attend to our relationships with others, ourselves, and God, and to make changes in our lives — discerning God’s way for us.
During this Lenten season, our congregation will make some key decisions. Our Open and
Affirming discovery, including its study sessions throughout March, will conclude with a decision about whether to designate ourselves an ONA church. Likewise, we’ll decide on a proposed budget at a congregational meeting on Sunday, March 25. Given projected income shortfalls, embedded in that decision will be decisions about staffing levels, program and ministry leadership, and support for outreach. I am pleased to say that, to date, there’s been healthy, constructive conversation about these choices.
My prayer, however, in the midst of our decision-making, is that we’ll discern God’s will and allow these decisions to be uncovered together by God’s Spirit. I hope the insights, unique perspectives, good ideas, and open-minded approaches circulating within our church on these important matters will continue. Yet equally important will be our intentional discernment of what God wants us to do and be.
Together, in a spirit of discernment, may we seek out what is good and acceptable and perfect, confident that our minds and hearts may thereby be renewed, and blessed by the promise of being transformed by the power of God.