I was reflecting recently on the new covenant expressed in Jeremiah 31:31–34:
“I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts; and will be their God and they will be my people”.
Rather than focusing on a relationship with God only through the law or teachers or a fixed location like a temple, Jeremiah records God’s assurance that the covenant will be new because the focus will be on a different kind of knowledge that is directly and personally experienced:
“For they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them”.
Of course, this new way of knowing is the message of the New Testament but when I remind myself that the early Christians had no Gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus or of the apostles in Acts, then the power of witness, of the Holy Spirit and of the encouragement of letters like Paul’s is very striking. I think then of the cry of the psalmist (Psalm 51:11 KJV)
“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”
What if we could no longer experience the Holy Spirit? What happens when we don’t respond to our role in the covenant or become blasé about the whole thing?
Recently, Yahoo mail users around the world (including myself) were thrown into a communications gap that felt like a form of social and vocational exile. Yahoo email was down for more than half a day. A commercial covenant was broken. I could no longer connect with people in a way that I take for granted.
The Express (U.K) reported that in response to the outage, Yahoo Mail users took to Twitter to express their frustration.
One said: “Probably the only time I need Yahoo and it’s down.”
Another wrote: “All of Yahoo’s NS servers are down. That’s an impressive amount of fail.”
A third declared: “Omg what happened Yahoo?”
In my own efforts to find out whether my account had been hacked or whether it was global, I came across a web site called Downdetector. Downdetector “offers a real-time overview of status information and outages for all kinds of services. We aim to track any service that its users consider vital to their everyday lives, including (but not limited to) internet providers, mobile providers, airlines, public transport and online services.”
There was talk of customers pulling their hair out, of “tremendous losses”, of downtime costing businesses millions every year “in hidden ways (that) must be fought against using all available resources.” In addition, “The impact on brand and reputation damage for a provider that suffers an outage can’t be ignored.”
A statement from the (Yahoo) company said: “You may not be able to access some of our services, including email. Our top priority right now is getting this fixed. We appreciate your patience.”
It was with great relief after hours of regularly checking in, that my connection was restored. And the delayed emails flowed. Take not thy email from me.
I’m still reflecting on this cyber incident and what the parallels are in a life of faith, a bit like Jeremiah, perhaps, waiting for the ever-patient God that always delivers. And I can see the value of a spiritual Downdetector.