None of this means that we are particularly discerning in our food, drink or fashion choices. Do not be mistaken into thinking that a people who devote themselves to discernment are, therefore, discerning. The term comes from Romans 12:2 in reference to understanding God's will. Of course, we could use any number of other terms that various other translators have preferred -- to determine, to find out, to understand -- but "A Season of Coming to Understand" just doesn't have such a ring to it, and "A Season of Determination" sounds downright scary.
Our practice of discernment is premised on a belief that the Holy Spirit is present in the community of believers. It goes back to Anabaptist days if you read the historical record selectively. When everyone in the community of believers agrees, it is easy enough to believe that the Holy Spirit is with the community but it's a bit trickier when our discerning takes us off in a million different directions. Or even two different directions. Few Mennonites are comfortable with the idea of a Holy Spirit that can simultaneously speak completely opposing positions. In recent years, Seasons of Discernment have had some relation to questions of sexual behaviour or misbehaviour, though you wouldn't always know it from the titles of the season. And since we don't seem to be able to agree on these issues, we just keep discerning, and discerning, and discerning. At present, Mennonite Church Canada is calling on all congregations to discern what to do about our previous discerning not having brought about consensus.
To mark a Season of Discernment, we spend some time getting together and mulling over the issue. We might get into small groups and talk about the issue; we might have special meetings and educational sessions. If we agree after all of this mulling, we come to a decision, duly record it in minutes or Church by-laws and consider the discernment process a success. After so much time and effort, you'd think that the end of a season of discernment might deserve a real celebration, with glasses clinking and backs being slapped. Maybe even a display of fireworks. Sadly, no. Typically, we are all so tired of the whole issue by the time we finish (if we finish), we just quietly slink off to the relief that comes of solitude after too much time in community.
But, not to fear. You can count on the Drunken Menno to rush to the aid of weary (and thirsty) discerners everywhere. You may already have noticed that a key activity in the discerning process involves mulling. Happily, the British perfected the mulling of wine a long time ago. With only slight variations, we can Menno-ify this and make it the perfect drink for a long, cold season of discernment.
4 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 1/2 cup water
1 1/2tblsp whole cloves
13 sticks of cinnamon
2 tblsp nutmeg
3 cups pure, unsweetened cranberry juice
1 handful of cranberries
6 bottles of a fruit forward red wine (Cabernet Franc, Gamay or Cabernet Sauvignon for example)
Mix sugar, syrup, water and spices in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy. Add cranberries and cranberry juice and bring back to boiling. Add 6 bottles of red wine.
Alternately, you can make up a batch of the syrup and store it in the fridge indefinitely. This way, you can mix it with the wine cup by cup as the need presents itself. There's no guaranteeing that this will actually produce enough discerned wine to last a full 12-year season but it may help you forget the passing time.