And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
(Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17)
As Peter spoke to the crowds on the day of Pentecost, quoting the words of Joel, he gave a stirring description of what he believed would be the day-to-day reality of the church until Jesus returned. To many of us, reality seems to lag far behind this expansive hope. But Peter insists that day revealed a truth about who we are in Christ, a truth that he expected would always be present among us.
All of the roles Peter speaks of are vital to our church. We need people of vision and courage, young and old, men and women, but more than anything, we need elders to dream dreams.
Anyone at any age can dream dreams. Only the elders can interpret them with the knowledge and balance that comes with the wisdom of experience. I once asked the greatest trainer of clergy I have ever met how he did it. He replied, “I believed that God promised to provide leaders in every community. If I couldn’t see them, it was because there was something internal that blocked or distorted my vision. The fault did not lie with either human or divine failure.”
These words have become real and helpful guidance. Often, God’s calling is obscured by a lack of faith coupled with our limited appreciation of God’s ways and purposes.
The divine promises can be discerned only by those who trust that God will act and lead. There are elders in our midst, and we must believe that they will be revealed. Those of us who are older must believe that God can give us the capacity and capability to be elders. Ω
Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.