This past Sunday was Epiphany, the Sunday we celebrate the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus as told in Matthew’s Gospel. They come following a star to his cradle and they leave under the direction of a dream from God. Since most of us will not be guided by God through a dream (probably) or by a special star burning in the heavens, then what, in our everyday life, is to lead us and direct us? The New Testament has plenty of teachings and a number of helpful examples that can help lead and guide us. But it is far from exhaustive and there will be plenty of times when faced by the complexities of modern life, scripture will point us in the general direction but we will need to develop some skill at discernment.
Discernment is the gift and quality that we need to develop to help us make the right choices. Like the wise men in the story, at plenty of places along the way we will be faced with the decision of who and what to follow. Discernment is a very important tool in the modern Christian’s tool box.
Discernment is not an easy attribute to develop. It takes a conscious effort. It means learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. It means making the effort to question and examine what we know and what we have been told. It means both prayerful and carefully considering who and what guides us. Discernment helps us to make the kind of choices that lead us to be the people we want to be and, even more importantly, to be the people God has called us to be.
Discernment is a gift that helps us to not be fooled by those who would lead us astray, even when they try to appear to help us.
Certainly none of us think that our lives are without people who would lead us astray or trick us for their own purposes. The role of Herod in the story of Epiphany from Matthew’s gospel, reminds us of the brokenness of humanity. For all his smiles and kind words, do you think Herod would have treated the wise men well if he had caught up with them before the returned home, not having reported back to him?
No star or dream to guide you there and back again. No problem. Use your head and heart and ask God, in your prayers, for discernment. It is a gift as precious as Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh.