Discerning the Movement
The Uniting Church in Australia has at its heart the core starting point of God’s reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation (2 Cor. 5: 19 & BoU Par 3). Sometimes referred to as Missio Dei or God’s Mission for the whole creation. This mission of God is most fully revealed in Jesus. Jesus reveals what a renewed and reconciled creation looks like. How people live together. How creation is cared for. What relationship with God looks and feels like.
Disciples have long sort to look towards Jesus to discern what God is up to, where they might join in with God’s mission. This is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. The scripture is silent or the context is so different on many topics than is experienced today.
The Church down through the ages has in response to this experience sort to practice “spiritual discernment”. Individuals too have long exercised this discipline of discernment, seeking the will and direction of God that they might align their lives and actions to those of God.
How does the Church and individuals practice such discernment?
There are many ways in which such a discipline is exercised. One of those ways the Uniting Church is very familiar with is meeting as councils of the church, praying together, seeking the wisdom of scripture, looking to the wisdom of the Church’s tradition and placing new experience alongside these concerns. When together we practice such discernment, the church does its best, despite its human and institutional frailty to listen deeply to God’s direction and call.
Other practices have included Lectio Divina: an intentional reading of the scripture, pondering sacred text and listening to the voice of God coming through to us in images, words, voices. This is a four-step process:
Lecito – listening for the setting and the outline of the passage. We allow our imagination to take us into the scene.
Meditatio – reading again the passage we ask what is the significance of this passage? How do we understand God in this passage and where do we see ourselves in these characters?
Oratio – reading again and allowing our feelings to surface. Talk with God about how you feel about the text and what you hear.
Contemplatio – sitting quietly now, let your inner self listen in your heart for God’s leading
African and South American cultures inform us of ways of reading scripture that enable us to discern God’s leading through a series of readings and responding to the passage with each other.
Another practice has been the use of “Centering Prayer”. It is a practice that allows us to let go of the baggage and assumptions we come with to conversations of discernment. It is often practiced at the beginning and end of meetings.
There are resources for these three practices on the website or contact the presbytery office.
In a time when the Church and our Canberra Region Presbytery is faced with many discernment questions and choices to be made about directions to take and where resources are to be deployed. We would do well to start practicing the discipline of discernment and take up some of these ancient Faith Practices that alien us with God’s dream of a reconciled and renewed world.