Let’s take a moment to look back on our journey through this series. We returned to the baptismal waters where we encountered Jesus, who entered the waters to show us the way to God’s abundant life. We listened for the voice of God alongside Samuel, Philip, and Nathanael. With Jonah, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, we received the persistent and grace-filled invitation to participate with God in living out the fullness of God’s kingdom here and now. So, what’s next? Where does the path take us now?
Discernment. If you were expecting something a little more exciting, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But, if I’m honest, I’m not too disappointed because, even though discernment isn’t particularly thrilling, it is essential for all of us who seek to become the people of God. Discernment is part of the antiphonal relationship we have with God (see last week’s planning notes to find out more about what I mean by antiphonal). When we discern the movement of God in our individual and communal lives, we are continuing the call-and-response between us and God, depending on God’s grace and guidance to show us where to go, what to do, and who to be.
As the title of today’s sermon indicates, discernment occurs from among the people. That is why we must nurture and support the work of discernment within communal worship. Consider how you might highlight the ways that your congregation encourages the calling and giftedness of one another. Highlight ministerial candidates or seminary students from your congregation by having them take on leadership roles during the service or sharing the testimony of their experience of discerning their call within the community. Make a special effort to feature the work of your altar guild, quilting circle, or knitting group by visually displaying some of their work and sharing stories of how their efforts have made a difference in the church and the community. Give the children and youth an opportunity to tell a story, pray, or create art for the worship space. Offer up a litany of thanks for all the ways that the church shows up for one another and for the community.
But wait, aren’t we focused on discernment? Yes! And one of the ways we practice discernment is by noticing the places God is at work among us. When we do this, we come to expect that God does raise up from among us those with the gifts, skills, and assets our community needs to become a place where God’s love reigns. That said, we also must continue to create space to listen and to dream with God about what God might want us to do next. So, make space for dreaming in worship. Invite God to be in the community’s imagining of how to work with God to live the good news in your neighborhood. And then, listen to what comes bubbling up. Create space outside of worship that encourages people to share how God sparked their holy imagination. Remember that not every idea has to be acted on—that’s part of discernment! But every idea can be helpful in noticing how the Spirit is moving and discovering ways the church can join in.
If you are interested in further resources to assist your congregation in the work of communal discernment, you can access “The ReCycle: A Process for Community Discernment” from Discipleship Ministries here.
Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts Ministries, served as an organist and music minister in United Methodist congregations in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences, as well as the New Day Amani/Upendo house churches in Dallas. After receiving her Master of Sacred Music and Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology, Lisa earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University wherein she researched and wrote on the doctrine of Christ, disability, and atonement.