What are the first things that come to mind when you hear the word covenant? You probably were not thinking about lent, learning, or fun and interesting. Yet as we can see in the Bible covenant is very important and appears from the book of Genesis all the way through the book of Revelations. One might even say that the Bible is the story of humanities changing and evolving covenant with God. The Holman Bible Dictionary defines covenant as “a pact, treaty, alliance, or agreement between two parties of equal or unequal authority. The covenant or testament is a central, unifying theme in Scripture, God’s covenants with individuals and the nation Israel finding final fulfillment in the new covenant in Christ Jesus”.
However, this definition is technical and cold. It does not convey the life giving warmth of covenant that is so important to Judaism and Christianity. Now Bill and I married in 2009, shortly after I started here. I remember that day very fondly. I remember getting dressed in one of the Sunday School rooms in the Preston City Congregational Church. I remember being nervous, afraid that somehow I would mess it up, embarrass myself, or fall day as I walked. I worried about all the details. I worried that the minister, I had learned under, wouldn’t get it right. I couldn’t just trust. Would the hoopa look as it should? My Christian cousin made it for us. Would I remember what I was planning to say? I remember my eldest brother calming me down and going through the trouble of searching the building for the groom and groomsmen because someone forgot where they put them. At that point, our wedding and exchanging of covenants was the most important thing I had done in my life. God’s covenant with humanity mirrors more of the covenant made between individuals in love when they get married. It has that same excitement and love, that same kind of passion and life changing importance. It is supposed to convey that undying love and commitment of God to us and us to God.
It is all about building that relationship and coming to full realization of that covenant throughout our lifetimes as we come to know God. There is comfort in that knowledge because as J.I. Packer a 20th century theologian reminds us, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, after that most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord”.
God is constantly reaching out to humanity, seen in the scriptures, to remind us that if we place our trust in him and his promise to us then everything else will fall into place. Instead of trusting though, we stress, we worry, we make plans for all possible outcomes, and we try to will things into being. Thinking about these things is important as we enter into the season of lent because this is the time to work on coming back into a right relationship with God and with one another. This is the time to work on fixing relationships and strengthening covenants. This is the time to come back to the foundation of trusting in the Lord.
In Genesis, we see where God promised to walk with Noah and his descendants. He promised to guide them and to provide for them. Yet as often happens, within a few generations humanity forgot about God and lost their trust in him. They forgot the covenant, the promise. They forgot what that rainbow represented and they fell away from God relying on themselves and their idols instead of on the love of God. We all do this. We all fall away from the love of God. We all lack trust at times. What Jesus showed us in his life is that we can change our ways at anytime and we would be welcomed back with open arms. We are shown that when we are unable to be strong, when we are not able to withstand the temptations in our times of wilderness that God is still there waiting to guide us.
When Jesus was in the wilderness, we hear that he was tempted for 40 days as he fasted and prayed. In this time, we get to see how Jesus was able to do what most of humanity is unable to do. He was able to put aside the temptations of the world. He was able to see that the love of God was more important and more valuable to humanity than any of the delusions of the devil. Where we often fall short in our relationship with the Holy, Jesus comes through as our strength, our leader coming to mend those tears in the fabric of our faith. He comes to teach us, to guide us in our understanding of God’s love for us and God’s plans for us in this world.
We are asked to trust in God, to trust in the work, patience, and love Jesus because he faced human temptations and chose instead to go forth to proclaim God’s love for all people’s when he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news”. God’s covenant of love is closer to each one of us than we ever thought. Now is the time to recognize it, to work to live into it, and to come to realize the power that such compassion and love has not only over our lives but also over the lives of all people. It is our job to work on building up that covenant with God, to allow for it to evolve as we come to know him better and to then go out and work on our covenantal relationships with each other. So go forth and work to feel the healing powers of God’s love for us and share that with others in your lives and those who find themselves in times of need.
 Holman Bible Dictionary, 308.
 J.I. Packer, 20th century.
 Mark 1: 15, NRSV.
(Based on Genesis 9: 8-17 and Mark 1: 9-15)