You are probably familiar with the idea that the church is not a building; it's a people. More specifically, you are the church, the temple in which God dwells. No longer must we look to Jerusalem, to stone and mortar, to a mere structure; now, we must live as the church.
You have probably also heard that under Jesus, the old covenant has been fulfilled and that we are now a new covenant people. That all the law-keeping, rule-following, ritual-performing requirements of Old Testament faith have passed away and the new law, the new rule, the new ritual is love. (We could, and probably should, talk for a minute about how much we've twisted that and how wrong we're still getting it, but...not now.)
But what does all of this mean?
Interestingly, we get a clue from the prophet Isaiah, long before any of this even mattered. Long before it was even imagined. Steeped in the times of the Temple, of ritual worship, of the Law, the prophet talks about something that most of us don't seem ever to have thought about.
We are the new covenant.
We get that we are the new temple and that we live under the new covenant, but what we don't often understand is that we are the new covenant. We are God's promise to the world.
Isaiah says it in so many words (chapter 42) - God has appointed you as a covenant for people, to be a light and to heal and to free. All the things that Jesus called us to do, sent us to do, we do because we are the sign of God's covenant in the world.
Think about that for a second. No, really think about it. God has given all kinds of signs of His covenant and His character in the Scriptures. He gave a rainbow after the flood. He gave a child to the childless. He put dew on fleece....and put fleece on dew. He moved the shadows ten whole steps. He delivered a long-awaited Messiah through a virgin.
And yet, He also says that the world will know that He is who He says He is, that He is the Lord our God, that He is Creator, Master, Lover, Redeemer...by His people who illuminate, who heal, and who free.
They'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes...but they'll know He is holy, amazing, wonderful, gracious, generous, powerful, present, God by our love, by our love. This world will know that God is for them when they see that we are for them. They will know that He is love when they see that we are love.
It's more important now, in an age of science, than ever before. Because we think we can explain the rainbow and we know how to help infertility and through the invention of sperm banks, yes, even a virgin can bear a child, but we still cannot explain why one man loves another so deeply as to sacrifice himself for him. We cannot explain a love that goes beyond the barriers we've constructed for it. We cannot tell you why we care so much about someone we've maybe even never met before.
Of course, as Christians, we know why. And most of us are fairly willing to tell others all about it.
But let us show them instead.
For we have been appointed as a covenant for people, that they may know the God who loves them.