Covenant Community: A Wonderful Life
– by Bob Tedesco
It’s a Wonderful Life!
According to George Bailey (actor Jimmy Stewart in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life), having an angel and a number of good friends is a “wonderful life”. I wonder how he might respond to knowing that we have an army of angels (2 Kings 6:16-17) if needed, and tons of Christian friends! Our way of life in Sword of the Spirit communities is truly a really, really wonderful thing.
This Life is a “New Thing”
From the beginning of the charismatic renewal, which began in the 1960s, we have heard the prophetic word about God doing a “new thing” in our midst today. Recently, a couple of our community leaders have sensed that the Lord wants us to see that the call to build a bulwark of covenant communities is a big part of the “new thing,” and that he is waiting for us, young and old, to take it more seriously. He is calling us to be “all in”… heart, mind, soul and strength. The Bulwark he wants us to be part of is not meant to have gaps and holes in it.
Have you ever watched children playing soccer? At any given time, several of the kids will be distracted and the opposing team will run right by them. Often, as adults, we are so distracted by certain details of our lives, that the enemy just runs right by us with no resistance. (James 4:7)
As we consider the “new thing,” notice that even elements of our way of life seem new or unusual to those around us: a people trying to integrate baptism in the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit into daily life and not just a prayer meeting is an unusual thing.
A people trying to welcome and build the Kingdom of God…
A people trying to live a scriptural way of life…
A people trying to live according to a scriptural covenant…
A people trying to live in an ecumenical community…
A people trying to live with lay leadership…
A people trying to raise their children as disciples of Christ…
A people who build a youth bridge covering K through post-university or trade school ages…
A people who take their place in a world-wide bulwark that presents the gospel and the culture of the kingdom of God…
There may be more, but these together make a very new thing, a very remarkable thing, a very wonderful thing.
It’s a Covenant Life
This wonderful life is a covenant life. It might be prudent to reconsider our own covenant annually. Our way of life is described in our community covenant and it becomes reality as we are faithful to it.
Our God is a Covenant Maker!
Starting early in the Old Testament the Lord shows himself to be a covenant maker and a covenant keeper. A covenant is a promise, and a community covenant is a set of promises that describes a hoped-for way of life. This full-life covenant is family-like and is meant to express the kingdom of God on earth.
The true “Supermodels”
We all know what the world sees as “supermodels”. But the title is based on what you consider to be super. We happen to have a superior savior…the best in the entire universe. And, we are called to individually and corporately reflect his life and kingdom to the world. As such, we are supermodels as individuals and collectively the bride of Christ. We are called to be a city on a hill and the people of God.
Integrity and Covenants
In the early 1600s, a Catholic priest named Camillus de Lellis founded a religious community dedicated to caring for the sick. He was later canonized in 1746. He is credited with the quote: “Commitment is doing what you said you would do, after the feeling you said it in has passed.” What a good description for married couples, for religious orders, and for covenant community members. Time, circumstances and moods will test our commitments to Christ, to our spouses if married, and to our covenanted brothers and sisters. Our integrity is tested as we live out our covenant relationships.
Another quote that recently emerged in an online bible study: “A new year is a time to look forward; a time to stretch; a time to grow; a time to stop babying yourself.” Whether we’re entering a new year, a new season or simply taking some time for spiritual reflection, reviewing our commitment to our covenant promises will be challenging.
The Lord makes use of covenants to establish and develop relationships. Marriage is a good example: we make a few simple promises only to find out that those promises cover more of our lives and decisions than we thought. Some examples: 1) I did not explicitly promise to come home every night or 2) to live in common sharing or 3) to hold down a full-time job, etc. There are many behaviors and practices needed to make a good marriage work, to make a good family work.
While not a marriage covenant, our community covenant covers many intended details of our way of life, but more will be necessary for a successful, covenanted, godly way of life. If we honor the details of our covenant, we will have a great start on what the Lord has for us.
Some of the important details in considering our commitment and faithfulness to our call are:
1. Attendance: We are committed to being present when the community gathers to pray…and we should be there.
2. Forgiveness: Have we been quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness?
3. Prayer: Have we been faithful to personal prayer and scripture study?
4. Tithing: Have we honored our financial responsibility to the community?
5. Authority: Have we been submissive to the community leadership and taken pastoral care seriously?
These are some covenant details worthy of consideration in any review of our commitments.
It’s hard to choose among the pop culture’s challenges. “Get back!” is an old Beatle’s song that says, “Get back to where you once belonged!” There are several movies with the title, “Back to the Future!” We want a blessed future and we want to do the right thing in the present, and those things were written into our covenant in the past.
It’s probably not safe to use a movie or song to draw a spiritual conclusion. But I sure don’t want to hear the Lord say (as in Revelation 2: 45), “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had a first. Remember, then, from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.”
The Lord wants us to show our love for him by our obedience to what he has called us to. I remember the devotion and dedication that we had at the beginning…it was remarkable. As we consider and celebrate our covenant, let’s get back to where we once belonged (repent) and love the Lord and the brothers and sisters in the way that he has shown us. Let’s continue in this “new thing” that he is doing and the “wonderful life” of covenant community!
Bob Tedesco is past President of the North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit. He is a founder of the People of God community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and has been one of its key leaders for the past 45 years. Adapted from Taking our Place in the Bulwark in Living Bulwark April/May 2019. Used with permission.