Monday, January 26, 2009

Covenant Friendships

2 Peter 1:5-9 (The Message)
5-9 So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

The table was covered in a cloth of pale avocado, reflecting the colour of the walls. Care was taken in every detail of the table. The water jug held grapes and orange slices, and palest ochre napkins were carefully folded by Hannah and placed on the dinner plates. Candles shimmered; their light reflected in the deep red of the wine. Every detail communicated welcome and expressed a spirit of hospitality. We felt loved and honoured.

A family that included five chldren sat around the table. Their parents and Paul and I were strategically placed on either side of the 3 year old twin boys. We paused as hand went into hand around the table, small hands into bigger hands, and grace was said, before we began passing the many plates of steaming and delicous food.

The passing of the food; many dishes; took some time around 9 people.The children were really hungry because it was later than they normally eat. Finally the plates were full and we were ready to eat, when I felt a tiny hand squirming into my right hand again, and saw another taking hold of his dad's on his right, as a little curly head bowed.

" We already said grace,remember?" said his dad. There are habits of gratitude and respect for God being sown in these dear children.

Family: the word conjures up so many images and emotions for me. It can be at once the place of greatest hope and greatest disappointment; the place of greatest safety and greatest vulnerability.

Family is the foundation upon which a caring and loving, civilized society is built; formed first in the mind and imagination of God.

I have written here before of my dearly loved Aunt Agnes MacDonald, who wasn't really an aunt, but a friend 40 years or so older than me, and so close to my heart that "aunt" was the only word I could think of to connect her to me beyond the inadequate word "friend."

Her maternal grandparents had emigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland in the last quarter of the 19th century. Her father, when he had drunk too much whisky, would passionately recount a terrible betrayal of the MacDonalds by the Campbells. "Never trust a Campbell," he would roar to his wide eyed children, "They killed our bairns and they killed our women," referring to a massacre that took place hundreds of years ago as if it were yesterday. The Great Feud lived on in memory. In those days, family clans hung together tightly for good or evil.

There is the bond of family that is treasured if we are so blessed, and also the bond of kinship; of friendship of the kind I had with Aunt Agnes and have with some of my friends now, and the kind David had with Jonathan and described in the first book of Samuel; Covenant Friendship.

I, as an individual, and we as a couple, are blessed to have some relationships that we cherish. They are "covenant" in the sense that David's was with Jonathan. God has connected us in relationship with some families and single friends who are dear to our hearts. We pray for one another, support one another and are "for," one another in every sense of the word.

And why not? If family was God's idea, why not embrace it and one another? Why not open arms, hearts and doors, and see that family has a bigger scope than we might think.

1 Samuel 20:14-17 (New Living Translation)
14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”
16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

Psalm 68:6 a (New Living Translation)
6 God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy...


Marilyn said...


Your reference to Great Feuds reminds me of someone who told about an uncle she didn't know well because he never attended any family gathering. Years earlier there had been a falling out with someone and he stopped coming. He probably didn't intend for it to be lifelong, but it was. And long after everyone forgot what the dispute was about, the breach was still there. No family is immune to this possibility, not blood families and not church families. It's good to keep short accounts.

Belinda said...

Oh Marilyn, my beloved Dutch family of uncles and aunts were always divided and feuding.It was sad. My mum, their sister (there were 8 of them originally,)loved them all and tried to make peace, but she was always exiled by someone because she was friends with someone else!

Some Blood Family relationships are toxic, but then God gives us perfectly picked God Families.

Joyful Fox said...

What a blessing is covenant friendship. We are honoured and blessed to have that with you and Paul. We treasure that relationship dearly and are so thankful to our Heavenly Father and to you both.

It was a delight to share the evening for each of us at the foxden with you both.

I am honoured even by this post.