Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:1-10; John 12:20-33

It started so well,… Ever had one of those days? The sun’s shining, that first cup of tea or coffee tastes so good, in fact you are feeling so good that is what makes it doubly disappointing, sneaking up on you like that, destroying your hopes, as the day descends into chaos at a stroke – one keystroke when you press the Power button. All I wanted to do was send a single email with a simple message, Yes, fine, see you! But what happens? Nothing. OK reboot. Still nothing. Any thought of enjoying an early morning walk was fast disappearing with mounting frustration as my screen finally sprang to life telling me to wait while my computer reconfigures something which I had not asked it to do. Now it seemed to take on a life of its own and expected me to wait. Time dragged on – I don’t have the patience of Jove and could have phoned the person I wanted to reach, but was locked in a battle of wills, determined not to be defeated. Restart it ordered. At last! It was still only 7:15 am, the day wasn’t completely shot – yet. Maybe my good mood could be rescued. Vain hope, now everything was slow – extremely slow, and could I send that email? No. Could I access the help menu? No. Could my husband fix it? No. After spending over an hour on the phone with a technical assistant somewhere far, far away, finally I called a friend-cum-expert who connected directly into my system, concluding that something had corrupted my files and no wonder, my operating system was a disaster, so needed replacing. By lunchtime all the accumulated rubbish had been cleaned off my memory and drives, and a new operating system was in place with safeguards that would fix future problems. Often it’s who you know.

Connections can be so helpful when it comes to getting good advice, solving problems, finding jobs or brokering the right introductions maybe through references or personal recommendations. These can at least get your toe in the door, even if the rest is up to you. That’s the power of social media in making and maintaining connections, but family and friendship ties like clubs and other associations that promote common interests and values, all forge powerful networks.

Yes, who you know can make a big difference. Take those Greeks who wanted to see Jesus when he was being mobbed by adoring or curious crowds. Who did they approach? His only disciple with a Greek name – Philip. And what does he do? Go to one of those closer again to Jesus, Andrew – Peter’s brother. Did the Greeks get to see Jesus? Perhaps they all got more than they bargained for because the coming of Gentiles to him seems to have been like a sign, a turning point in fulfilling prophecies about the Son of Man – prophecies that spelled suffering for Jesus, but suffering that would draw all kinds of people to him – suffering that would expose good and evil at work in the world but would bring the glory of new life made possible by his willingness to suffer for us, and our willingness to accept the new start made possible by forgiveness and love. But to accept that new life we too have to decide to trust God, and give up whatever diminishes the joy of life possible when we let go of the hurts we have suffered or cause, and instead of being plagued by the past, or let our days be dominated by regret, undue anxiety or fear – to install a new operating system. It may not be as simple as having our memories cleaned up, like my computer, because the data is still there, but because forgiveness can override what corrupts our response to life and others, feelings like anger, bitterness or other destructive thoughts and behaviour.

Having a new operating system can make the world of difference to life as we experience it moment to moment, person to person. In Jeremiah, we heard that instead of the old system – the old covenant that didn’t work so well because people broke it, God was going to forgive and forget past mistakes, wipe the memory of sin clean, and install a new program, writing the law of love in people’s hearts rather than on tablets of stone. Great, but this seems to need regular maintenance, and that’s where Jesus came in – better than any normal specialist or high priest, but one who provides a lifetime guarantee of limitless access to assistance, no matter what the problem, where we are or what time it is.

An old colleague tested it when she faced something very serious so searched boxes of files in her basement, found what she was looking for and dusted off the agreement to check its fine print, but couldn’t find any. Not sure if it was valid, she called a mutual friend to get my email and contacted me. Need to talk, can I see you? We’d barely sat down when she shoved an old envelope across the table. Inside was a beautiful, ornately decorated Baptism Certificate that looked brand new, but the date told its true age. Finishing her tale of woe which she claimed to have brought mostly on herself, she said I’m dying, and it’s too late for me to clean up my act, so this may sound silly or crass, but if there is an afterlife, is this a kind of ticket to heaven? Do I have to renew it? I’ll pay. “No need” I said “Someone already has.” Has what? “Paid for you to renew it as often as you want – that could help you get a taste of heaven and enjoy new life right now, but it’s not me you need to see.” I don’t care, I’ll see anyone. Can you arrange it? – introduce me? I’ll make it worth your while. “No worries, you’ve already done that.”

“Want meet him?” Here in a coffee shop? Not the guy behind the counter? “Sure, and the kid on his iPad and the couple of cyclists in the corner – he’s everywhere. You brought him here and he will leave with you when you go, and whatever made you look for that certificate, was probably him reminding you that somewhere hidden deep down is this connection that cannot be broken called love. Listen – I’m not loving, nor lovely – look at me! she cried angrily. “I have been listening, so has Christ. While you were talking he’s been cleaning up, wiping the slate clean, and is ready to install a new operating system if you like.” That’s rich coming from you she shot back you don’t have a clue about these things – you never understood computers! And she would know as the IT expert who always had to get me out of a jam. Sorry, she said, I’m horrible! OK, Here’s the deal, let’s leave computers out of it, just tell me about this guy – this God I’m going to meet.