While celebration events haven’t started yet, this year we are commemorating 50 years of the birth of covenant communities. It isn’t yet the 50th anniversary of The Sword of the Spirit, but it is the time when the first covenant community came into being – the Word of God, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the first members made their covenant commitments together in the autumn of 1970. Other covenant communities originated in the following years, many of which joined the Sword of the Spirit or started in its midst. We have a number of older communities, such as Árbol de Vida that is now turning 43, and also some newer ones that have sprung up in the past ten years.
One thing is true – in all the communities in the Sword of the Spirit we can see the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to pour out his Holy Spirit and make us a people. He promised to form a covenanted people with us, a bulwark to advance the mission he has tasked us with. And then, even if a new Sword of the Spirit community was born just a few months ago, or if at our local covenant community there are people who just recently made their initial commitment, the fact is that this new community and these new members have come to form part of a reality that has been in existence for many years now – this people that the Lord has been calling and building together through the work and power of his Spirit.
What gives this people its solidity? What is the mortar that joins the blocks and stones of this bulwark, whose only foundation is Christ? It is none other than the covenant, empowered by the Holy Spirit. The type of Christian community we are is called “covenant community” precisely because what characterizes it, what constitutes it, is the covenant commitment all the members make when we join the community.
Thus, when difficult times come, such as the one we are now going through, the Lord doesn’t need to start recruiting individuals in order to form a people into a shared life together. The Lord has already been at work in forming covenant communities for decades now. The covenant commitment we share together – a covenant initiated by God himself who is its guarantor – is what makes our community life solid. It’s not our activities, our programs, our ministries that make us a community – it’s the covenant commitment we make with one another and with the Lord.
On the basis of this covenant commitment and way of life we share together, the Lord has worked wonders. And, no doubt, he can continue to work them, even in the midst of difficulties, or rather, precisely in the midst of difficulties, because we have been created “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). What a great blessing this is, the covenant commitment and shared life together which God has blessed us with!
This article © 2020 by Carlos Alonso Vargas was originally published in Spanish. Carlos Alonso Vargas is a coordinator in Árbol de Vida community, in San José, Costa Rica.
Top illustration credit: Worship Together from Bigstock.com
Carlos Alonso Vargas is a long-time leader in The Sword of the Spirit, who has served mainly in teaching and community building. With studies in philology and linguistics, he works as a translator and editor. He and his wife Dora have three adult children and five grandchildren and live in San José, Costa Rica.