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Letter from Amy: March 13, 2024

Rembrandt, Holy Family at Night, c. 1642-8. I love the ordinariness of this scene. Mary and Joseph engaged in prayer and study (discernment!) while the Incarnate God sleeps at their feet.

Dear Incarnation,

We've been using the word "discernment" a lot throughout Lent. Several weeks ago, we invited you to spend time in discernment around two general questions:

  1. What do you sense God is calling Incarnation to be or to do?

  2. What do you sense God is calling you to be or to do within Incarnation?

Post-its are being added to the wall at the back of the sanctuary each week as our silences during the service grow. On Sunday, we gathered on Zoom for a brief time of compline and discernment together. You can read the liturgy we followed here. And you can read more about what and why we're discerning here.

But what do I mean by discernment? Christian discernment is "the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God" in all of life, including the questions we ask, the issues we face, and the decisions we make (quote from Pursuing God's Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton).

We grow in this capacity through practice! Silence, spiritual disciplines, listening prayer, and time in scripture all help us grow in discernment. We also naturally grow in discernment as our lives are renewed and transformed by the Spirit. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:2: "be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God."

Discernment, then, is distinct from brainstorming, strategizing, and decision-making (though all those things are good too). In discernment, we seek the wisdom of God which is beyond our understanding. We open ourselves to God's presence. We set down of those things which might hinder our ability to listen: preconceived ideas, personal agendas, preferences, attachments, voices of "should." We truly seek God's will and wisdom, not our own, which he promises to give (James 1:5).

That is what I mean by a time of discernment for our church. A time of deep listening, expectant waiting, and openness to God's presence and activity among us. It's wonderful to listen together and experience the awe of similar themes from God emerging across our community.

Discernment is aided by time, attention, and silence. But it can happen anywhere; I suspect you, like me, do a lot of your praying in the midst of your ordinary life. A few Sundays ago, a woman told me that she had chided her daughter during to church to pay attention to the liturgy. Her daughter replied, "I'm paying attention to the liturgy while I'm doing other things. Don't you always tell me that I can hear from God anywhere?" And we can, in fact, hear from God anywhere. If you can't set aside special time to discern, you can always pray a simple prayer like "speak, Lord" while in the midst of other things.

In addition to hear-from-God-anywhere discernment, we also have a few more opportunities to practice discerning together. There are two more Sunday silences before Easter (5 minutes this Sunday!). And we'll hold another Discernment Zoom on Sunday, March 24, at 8:30pm. It's the evening of Palm Sunday, and that's intentional — Holy Week is an especially spiritually weighty time, and there's no better way to enter it than by expressing our openness to God's presence.

In other news:

  • Russell is out of the hospital and recovering. His strength, mobility, and vision improve every day. Please continue to pray for his full restoration, and thank you so much for your prayers, care, and support. You are an amazing community! If you'd like to give to his support fund (to assist with medical bills and other related expenses), you can do so here.

  • Our Lent retreat is this Saturday! Join us from 9a-12p at the Radkas' in Arlington Ridge. RSVP here. Hope to see you there!

  • Holy Week is coming soon! You can read about all services on the Holy Week page of our website. This is my favorite week of the church year and I can't wait to walk through it together — and then to ring those Easter bells!

  • I loved having our outreach partner visit last week! You can give to our Lent offering for Rock Recovery here.

Thank you all! Keep flexing those discernment muscles, and let me know what you're hearing and seeing. It's a gift to be your pastor.

With love,



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