Deacon Reflection: A Man with a Dream (and a Prayer)
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, the oldest among you will dream dreams,the youngest will see visions.” Joel 2:28
I am an older man who had a dream. For nearly five years after the turn of this century, I had this odd recurring dream. I dismissed it for awhile as merely the result of eating something I shouldn’t or reading too many odd novels or simply stress from the practice of law (I have been an attorney since 1986. I worked for 14 years with Legal Aid and for the last 20 years in bankruptcy law.). Finally, I related my dream to a Christian friend who happened to be a psychologist. He was convinced that God speaks to us in dreams and encouraged me to listen deeply to what God might be trying to tell me.
The dream went something like this: I was hiking up a tall mountain along the side of a road that led to the summit. Cars zoomed by me up and down the mountain while I plodded along. As I rounded a bend in the road, I came upon a small restaurant, more like a small diner. It was not far from the summit, but it wasn’t located on the summit itself. I went into the diner and saw they were advertising for help. I accepted a job there as a waiter and busboy. I served people on their way up and down the mountain, but never reached the physical summit myself. Yet, I had the sense that I had found my place on the mountain as a servant helping others on their journeys.
In 2005, I met with my rector, the Rev. David Pittman, at St. Peter’s in Charlotte. I told David that I thought God was calling me to do something more in the Church. I told him I was thinking about starting the process of becoming a deacon in the Church. David was not surprised by the question. He replied with words to the effect that he wondered what had taken me so long. Shortly after my meeting with David, the dream stopped. The process began. I was ordained in June 2010 and served as deacon at Christ Church, Albemarle for six years and now at All Saints', Concord for four years.
The symbolism in my dream is pretty evident and reflects the role of the deacon in our liturgy. We serve at the table. But the symbolism also extends to my diaconal ministry of providing pastoral care to senior adults in our parish and serving as an “unofficial” chaplain at three nursing homes in Cabarrus County. Like a good waiter who listens carefully to his guests, my ministry requires me to listen carefully to the people I am serving, listening deeply to their needs and bringing those needs to God in prayer and to God’s church.
The way our youth-oriented society neglects our senior adults causes me great sorrow. The ways in which the Church often neglects our older citizens causes me greater sorrow. Our seniors have much to share with us. They long for an ear to listen - and listen attentively to the stories of their lives. I like to refer to it as "hearing the Gospel according to St. _______ [here inserting the name of the person I am visiting]." I have heard amazing stories of courage and endurance from a woman who, as a young girl, was forced to leave her family in London during the Blitz; a man who spent Christmas 1944 in a foxhole in the Hurtgen Forest; and a turret gunner in a B-24 bomber shot down over France who spent the last year of World War II in a Luftwaffe prison. I have listened to poignant stories of loss and pain. I have heard inspiring stories of ministry in difficult circumstances and in dangerous places. And I have prayed like I never prayed before. I am very troubled by a society that so venerates the young that it ignores and shutters away the wisdom of our mothers and fathers who have endured so much, risked so much, done so much, learned so much, cared so much and have so much to share with us. I am grateful for the calling to sit at the feet of my elders and hear about their lives and share with them the two things I know to be absolutely true: They are deeply loved by their God, and through the resurrection of God’s son, Christ Jesus, they will be whole again and live forever in God’s love.
One of my great joys over the years has been sharing my diaconal ministry with other members of the churches in which I have served. Parishioners who, by joining me in my ministry, have found they, too, are being called to go out and be with our mothers and fathers who live in long-term care and assisted living facilities.
I encourage you to listen deeply to the God who is calling you to serve, for he calls all of us to serve. God speaks to us in his written Word, in the still, small voice in our hearts, in our dreams and through those we serve. You have been given a unique spiritual gift from God. Discover that gift and put it to work for the glory of God and the welfare of God’s people.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!
By the Rev. Vernon Cahoon
Tags: Deacon Reflections