NOTE: The following is an article published in the September issue of the magazine "Mainstreet" (click on the headline above to see the magazine online).
40 Days of Discernment
A Congregational Program for Choosing a Way Forward
Why I Need 40 Days of Discernment
by Mary Ailes, Truro Vestry
I came home from General Convention with perhaps more clarity regarding the Episcopal Church’s official stance on biblical truth than I ever could have asked for. So friends ask, “Why go through 40 Days of Discernment? What more do we need to know?”
Those are good questions to ask. Why do it? Isn’t it clear that scriptural truth has been tossed aside and replaced with the latest gnostic wave to wash ashore? The answer appears rather simple—and I confess, quite humbling. Why do I need 40 days of discernment? Well, I may know what I want to do—but what I need to do is ask Jesus what he wants me to do. It’s not that I need to know what I want, but what the Lord wants of me.
Looking over the years spent working within the Episcopal Church structures for renewal, it is clear to me—now more than ever— that it is I who desperately need Jesus. That may not be what I intended to discover going in, but that’s what I know now. I want to know the real Jesus. Not the Inner Christ That Is the We in All and All. Not Christ the Cosmic Power. Not the Great Big Idea. Not even the Compassionate Mother, the Beloved Child, and the Life-giving Womb.
In the Alpha Course, the first talk centers on the question “Who is Jesus?” When Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) first started putting the course together as their introduction to newcomers in their parish, many folks told them that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to start right off with Jesus. “Why start off with the toughest question of all?” came the advice, saying that it might be better to start soft and leave the tough stuff for later. But what Nicky Gumble and the folks at HTB found was that every thing else in the course depended on clarifying who Jesus is.
Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say that I am?” If Jesus asked us that question now, what would we say? What would Truro as a parish say? What would the Diocese of Virginia say? What would The Episcopal Church say? What would I say? “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks us even now.
Here at Truro, along with The Falls Church and other local parishes, we are dedicating forty days of our lives together to deliberately focus on our future and an important key—in fact, the foundation for solid discernment is to answer the question Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” He asked the disciples that question for a reason—and He asks that question to those who follow him now.
If you haven’t yet done so, please seriously consider joining a home group or a special 40 Days small group and walk with others here at Truro as we walk through this journey together. We will indeed have the time of our lives!
To know Jesus as he really is means to dare to meet him: in prayer, in his Word, in worship, in community, and in testimony. May we, during this time of discernment, be like those who went to the disciple Philip and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”