Here is today's message from worship this first Sunday in Lent.
Message is based on Genesis 9:8-17, 1st Peter3:18-22 and Mark 1:14-15

Some of you may know that I used to work in labor relations.
Many times there would be a contract that the parties agreed to and then lived by.
The contract ruled everything in their relationship day in and day out.
There would rarely be any exceptions made to what the labor agreement stated.

Even when no union exists, there’s an implied contract between employer & employee.
A worker agrees to provide skills or services and a business agrees to pay them.
Contracts are also often in effect between companies to exchange or pay for services.
If you think about it, much of life involves this idea of a contract or mutual agreement. 

In our daily lives, we all engage in some sort of contract with other people.
They may not be written down but the rules of a mutual agreement are understood.
When we purchase goods of any kind, the agreement of a contract takes effect.
When we vote for a candidate there is an agreement on how the election takes place.
Even when we enter into a relationship or marriage, a contractual understanding exists.

There are two key components to any contract or agreement between parties.
One is that trust must be part of the understanding.
You would never willingly enter into an agreement with someone you didn’t trust.
If there is no trust then no one can never have faith the other party will do as promised.
Trust isn’t based on if we like the other party, but whether they’ll abide by the contract.

The other key aspect is an equal ability to enforce the contract or, if need be, to void it.
Both sides need to have the right to enforce the agreement or to leave if its not done.
If the rules are not followed, the workers can go on strike or walk out.
If a business has a bad employee or one who breaks the rules, the employee is fired.
If election results are flawed, then rule of law says voters can demand a recount.
If a shopper buys damaged goods, the item is returned and there is ruled to be no sale.
If a vendor is not paid by a consumer, then the deal is off and product withdrawn.
If in a relationship or marriage one party reneges on promises - contract can be voided.

So, you know who made one of the biggest contracts ever offered?   God, that’s who.
God has made an offer of a contract with humanity from the very beginning of time.
In the Garden of Eden, God made a contract with Adam and Eve.
Then, as we read this morning, God made a contract with Noah and his family.
Later, God makes a contract with the people of Israel.

In each of these cases the agreement is pretty much the same thing.
God promises to take care of them, not punish them unjustly, and to love them.
‘I will be your God and you will be my people’ he says to them all.
And the people, be it Adam & Eve, Noah or the Hebrews, have their part of the deal.
To obey God’s wishes and ways and, even more importantly, to love him and no others.

Another word for this understanding and contractual agreement is ‘Covenant’
It’s a word found throughout the bible to describe this contract and its really important.
Because the idea of ‘covenant’ really defines our overall relationship with God.
And, of course, the bible tells us that God has always held up his end of the deal.
But that humanity in general, and the Hebrew people in particular,….. did not so much.

Yet,…God never seems willing to just walk away from the contract with the people.
In 1st Peter we hear him say that “God waited patiently in the days of Noah”.
That’s another word and theme throughout the the bible - that God waits patiently.
Waits for humanity to turn from self-centeredness and sin, and get back to him.
Waits patiently before punishing any who refuse to be sorry and try to change.

Remember what I said about labor and management or a consumer and business?
That if one party breaks the rules, then the contract is broken and the deal is done?
That really never happens with God and us.
Because, even though we may renege or walk away from the covenant’… God won’t.

So, finally, in HIs patience, God sends His Son, Jesus, to seal the deal with us.
With Jesus, whom they called the Christ, or Messiah, we get a final covenant with God.
Because, in Jesus we get what he himself called - “the new covenant”.
This “new covenant”, Jesus tells us, was effectuated by him “in my blood”.
That, in his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, he creates a new contract.

So the deal is no longer, try, try, your best to follow God’s rules and hope he forgives.
The covenant, or contract, is now based on the love of Jesus and our love for him.
Now, we try to follow try to emulate Jesus, but when we don’t, you’ll be forgiven.
That instead of just trying to follow the rules of the contract, we try to follow Jesus.
God's hope is that, through our faith in all that Jesus did, we will fulfill and do our part.

So since God’s relationship with us is now based on Jesus’ love;…it can’t be voided.
Because, in a loving relationship, its the love that grounds the contract, not the rules. 
A contract built on a loving relationship does not need to trust the other party.
Because trust is inherent in a loving relationship, neither side wants to walk away.
Instead, the parties will work to keep the contract strong even if rules are not followed.

The truth is that, as Christian people, we live in a daily relationship with God.
A relationship where we try, but often fail in our covenant agreement with God.
And yet, Jesus does not give up on us or leave the covenant he has given us.
He forgives and we keep on trying again,…and again,….and again.
That’s because love, not legalistic rules, is what the Jesus contract is all about.