In developing and working with communities over the past twenty-plus years, I have become dissatisfied with the casual approach to relationships that we tend to take as post-modern Christians. It comes across as kind of a “partake-if-you-want-to, care-if-you-want-to” approach to community. But I’ve been working on a concept of House of Prayer Communities that’s going to take more heart, more vigor, more — dare I say it? — commitment. That seems to be a hot-potato concept these days. I was always attracted to the concept of covenant relationships that I see in the Bible, but never have had any working models that I could see in action, up close.
So I began to look around for more depth in a relational platform than I had ever seen in the past. After further investigating the concept of covenant, I have become convinced that it is the central governing concept of the Kingdom. But understanding just what covenant is, is a tricky business for people with a 21st Century Western mindset. Is a covenant like a contract? Is it like a family relationship? Is it like a marriage? And if we can’t quite understand just what it is, how can we implement it practically in our own 21st Century communities?
I have been in the midst of drafting a covenant for the communities that we are planting — and asking these very questions at the same time. What follows here is a revised version of the introduction to the Anglican Covenant, a beautiful piece of writing, and a good place to start:
“’This life is revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. These things we write so that our joy may be complete.’ (1 John 1.2-4).
God has called us into communion life in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1.9). This communion has been “revealed to us” by the Son as being the very divine life of God enjoyed within the Trinity. What is this life revealed to us? John makes it clear that the communion of life that each Member enjoys is the same as the communion which is within the divine life itself, the very life of the Trinity. This life is the joy of love shared within a community of committed relationships. This life is not a reality remote from us, but one that has been “seen” and “testified to” by the apostles and their followers: “…so that you also may have communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”.
This life of the One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shapes and displays itself through the very existence and ordering of the Community of believers, if we participate together in it.
Our divine calling into this kind of community is established in God’s purposes for the whole of creation (Eph 1:10; 3:10 ). It is extended to all humankind so that in our sharing life in Christ, God will establish His Kingdom in and through us. Down through time, according to the Scriptures, God has furthered this calling through covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David. Yet the prophet Jeremiah looked forward to a new covenant not written on tablets of stone but upon the heart (Jer 31.31-34). In God’s Son a new covenant is given us, established in his blood, secured through his resurrection, and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. Into this covenant of new life in Christ we are baptized, and empowered to share God’s communion in Christ with all people, to the ends of the earth.”
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on covenant? Do you have experiences that can shed light on covenant?