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Rev Martin Kuhrt Are you a Sheep or a Goat?
Jesus said (Matthew 25 v31-46) that there are two types of people. Some are heading for the paradise of God’s kingdom (sheep) and some are heading for the fire of judgment and hell (goats). He himself will separate us according to how we respond to him in this life. The defining question is ‘are we people of compassion to those Jesus identifies with – his ‘brothers’ who are hungry, thirsty, naked, alienated, sick and in trouble? Or are we at root selfish, greedy and hard-hearted?’
The time to decide is now. It is later than you think. If you are not sure whether you are a sheep or a goat, there is one way to make certain. Learn to recognise Jesus. Learn to follow him. Join a church which cares about Jesus’ brothers and sisters (whoever they are) and find assurance that you are heading in the right direction.
Church of the Holy Spirit offers a welcome to all those who live nearby, and with the other churches seeks to serve vulnerable people in Aylesbury, whether they be in hospital, prison, homeless or in any other kind of need. We also seek in Jesus’ name to help his brothers and sisters thousands of miles away. We are twinned with Busabi in Uganda where we support the church there which looks after orphans and clothes them in school uniforms. Also we support a ministry to orphans on the coast of Andhra Pradesh, East India, which houses, clothes and feeds them, and transports them to school in a bus bought with money we sent.
In our church there are opportunities to make sure you are a sheep, not a goat, by being part of a body of people which seeks to meet others’ basic needs whether they be food, water, clothes, human company, emotional, practical or spiritual help. If you know you are a sheep, fine, but if, honest to God deep down you fear you might be in danger of being a goat, then join us! ttp://www.holyspiritbedgrove.org
Is Religion Dangerous?
Earlier this year I visited Jerusalem, a place both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Centuries of bloodshed have left deep wounds. The sins of human pride, greed, anger and lust have defiled the ‘Holy City’ and continue to do so. Perverted religion has played a major part.
For people who seek to follow Jesus and for whom faith is about a daily relationship of trust with a living person, the word ‘religion’ has always been viewed with ambiguity. Religion can be associated with arrogance, legalistic practices, divisive rituals, spiritual manipulation and hypocrisy. Most committed Christians I know would not like to be called ‘religious’, which at the very least conjures up an image of being prim and proper, old-fashioned and ‘holier than thou’.
The message our Western liberal society gives us is that ‘religion’ is a fact of life that we should know something about, but should be careful not to take too seriously as regards our own lives. It has become derogatory to use the words ‘radical’ or ‘fundamentalist’ when actually those words originally meant ‘going to the root of the matter’ or ‘going back to the foundation’. If the root or the foundation is true and good, we should not have a problem. If it is false and rotten, we will have all manner of problems.
The Bible only uses the word translated ‘religion’ once in a way that is unambiguously good. James 1v 22-27 says “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (NIV translation).
After Israel I visited India, to support a brother who looks after orphans and widows in the State of Andhra Pradesh on the East Coast. Many years ago he turned away from the morally polluting worship of idols, rejected the caste system, and chose a new life in Christ. He lives simply and non-materialistically and has brought hundreds to know the love and forgiveness of God in Jesus. It is this kind of ‘religion’ that the world needs.
What we do not need is the kind of religion the Bible rejects. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they felt themselves to be naked and tried to cover themselves with fig-leaves. This was the first attempt at ‘religion’. They tried to make themselves respectable by their own efforts. It did not work. It was God who mercifully clothed them with the skin of animals. A sacrifice had to be made and blood had to be shed to provide a covering for our shame (Genesis 3). As a way of truly covering our guilt and making us right with God, man-made religion is just as useless today as it was then. If we think we can merit a place in God’s kingdom by keeping religious rules, rituals, practising ‘jihad’, avoiding certain foods and certain people, or giving the occasional token to charity and going to church at Christmas then we are deluding ourselves.
Only by accepting God’s sacrifice of himself in Jesus and by truly following the risen Lord can we fulfil the requirements of ‘true religion.’ All other religion is useless – and dangerous.
Martin Kuhrt, Church of the Holy Spirit
The limits of human political authority
My four year old asked me “daddy, why has that wedding cake got two men on it? It should be a man and a woman.” He reminded me of the child who piped up, ‘why has the Emperor got no clothes on?’ Had that child in the fairy tale been told he was being naughty and bigoted and “of course the Emperor has clothes on”, his childlike innocence would have been assaulted. This is going to happen with the government’s plans to exchange the truth for a lie.
There have always been limits to what parliament can lawfully do. Parliament cannot, under our evolved constitution, for example, prolong its own length, abolish the monarchy, the church, the judiciary or get rid of a free press. How much less, therefore, can it legitimately undermine the whole basis on which our society is built? Marriage is the most basic building block of families and society. It predates nation states, monarchs, courts and parliaments. Politicians do not have the right to meddle with its basic meaning.
All true followers of Jesus will respect every human being as ‘made in the image of God’. As the soon to be Archbishop of Canterbury has said, we should reject all irrational prejudice and cruelty. But right is still right and wrong is still wrong and we mar the image of God in us when we do wrong. The 1960’s culture said ‘all you need is love’ but didn’t understand that true love seeks the best for others and is not about self-gratification. Many people regret now the way that ‘love’ was used to justify the crossing of God given sexual boundaries which resulted in great harm to those who were young and vulnerable. Those who have conscientious objection to gay marriage are not necessarily nutty fundamentalists, or hateful bigots, or people for whom this issue is merely theoretical, but are seeking to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. Commending a course of action that is in rebellion against the truth is not showing the love Jesus showed.
The government launched a ‘consultation’ in which all the resources of the state have been employed to ‘spin’ the outcome. Its proposals contain so much distorted and inconsistent thinking it is hard to know where to begin in commenting on them. Most importantly, the government assumes that marriage can be an undefined ‘loving’ commitment between any two people who are adult and not from the same nuclear family. Thus, by treating this unfounded assumption as a given, it is able to confidently declare that “it is clearly wrong that two people who love each other should be ‘excluded’ from being able to get married.”
However, no one is being unfairly excluded when marriage, by its very nature can only be between male and female, because it is by definition the union between man and woman, who are physically, psychologically and spiritually designed to complement each other. It would make more sense to allow polygamy, or adult siblings or half siblings of differing sex who feel committed to each other to marry each other than two people of the same gender. It is clear that replacing something God-given and intrinsic to humanity with a novel human construct is a recipe for disaster. The government is rushing headlong into a course of action which will damage the very roots of our society.
My concern is not primarily for the church, and whether or not anyone will try to force us to recognise or conduct ‘gay marriages’ which of course in time they will. There will be division in the church, for sadly there will be those who betray the faith and reject Jesus’ teaching because they love the ways of this world. There will be persecution and this will reveal who are the true believers. My chief worry, however, is for the country I love and the well-being of the younger generations. This is a tragedy for our nation and everyone, inside or outside the church, ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, will suffer as a result. Rev Martin Kuhrt
Roots, Racism and Religion
David Cameron was visiting a nursing home. He tried to chat to one of the residents but she was off-hand and disinterested. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “If you go over to the desk they’ll tell you”, the woman replied!
A sense of identity is important to all of us. We all need to know who we are and where we come from to be secure and develop our full potential as human beings. That’s why family, community and national identity are each important for our well-being. Love of family is the first quality we learn as we grow up. Love of our community broadens our horizons to our friends and neighbours and prompts actions which strengthen local pride. The love of country has inspired much that is good and honouring to God, namely duty, sacrifice and courage.
The Christian faith, however, offers us an identity that goes even deeper. The deepest, most long-lasting and secure identity is provided by knowing that we are children of God, loved and precious to Him. Jesus was the first person ever to reveal that we can have a close personal relationship with the God who made the Universe and who made us as individuals. He taught us to pray “Our Father…” If we are secure in the Father’s love we’ll be less prone to the fear of losing our cultural identity because we’ll be aware we belong to a worldwide community of faith that transcends barriers of colour, class and nationhood.
The roots of racist thinking lie in a deep fear of losing our cultural identity. This kind of dread never leads to love, honour, courage or anything good. Fear like this is incompatible with love, and without love, the Bible tells us, we are nothing. I believe The English Defence League and the British National Party seek to capitalise on people’s insecurity and fear. The result is therefore hatred suspicion, alienation and more fear.
We have an instinct to protect our own perceived interests, to be suspicious of the stranger, to ‘look after our own’, and so we hear slogans like “England for the English!” or “Jobs For Whites First!”. However, the Christian Gospel declares that the love of God in Christ can bring unity of purpose and shared values to people who are different in cultural background. When there is love, ethnic diversity brings a richness and a spice to life. True love is colour blind. Probably the most famous of Jesus’ parables is the Good Samaritan. The main point of the story was that Samaritans and Jews generally hated each other – for understandable reasons. But the Samaritan saw only a naked man, wounded and bleeding, and not knowing (or caring) that he was a Jew, helped him, and the world became a better place.
But are there limits to cultural diversity? Shouldn’t we be stressing common loyalty rather than multi-culturalism in these days of international terrorism and ethnic tension?
As a Christian, I believe that the good aspects of our society stem largely from our Christian heritage. Seeking to protect our Christian heritage however by spreading fear, hatred or violence is however, a contradiction in terms, and totally counterproductive, as well as being simply wrong. If we value the things our Christian heritage has brought, we should return to the faith of our forebears. We must reject selfish materialism, the idols of sex, money and power and start worshipping God once again, in the way that has been made possible by our Lord Jesus Christ. When our nation turns back to God, our society will be healed from its family fragmentation, addiction, crime, and selfishness. We’ll see a return to integrity in politics and business, a new respect for the environment, a new honour for marriage, care for children, the elderly and the vulnerable, and a new hope for our nation.
The Bible tells us that the true enemy is not flesh and blood people –but the forces of evil in the heavenly realms that love to promote fear, hatred, selfishness and blindness to the truth.
Rev Martin Kuhrt, Vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit
Bedgrove and Busabi
group of people are meeting in their village every week for three years. The
village is called Busabi in Eastern Uganda. The people are Christian believers
and they are meeting because the care about their village, their neighbours,
When they sit down together in
the heat of the equatorial day they see not just the dusty ground, the unmade
roads, the slowness of life as people walk to collect water and food, the
parentless kids running around. They start to see potential, what could be: a place which cares for
orphans; a community of people not centred on self but on other; a village which
could pull together to give time, money and skills to help the needy amongst
This three year process is called the PEP (Participatory Evaluation Process). It has been used in various African communities for some years and international agencies have become very interested in its ability to transform extremely poor villages and towns in Africa.
The PEP is a grassroots process
in which people in poverty conceive and own local projects – these might be
humanitarian community projects, or business ventures which improve the
economic health of local families. It starts with reading about what the Bible
says about society and our place in that society: Why do humans have dignity?
Why and how should we care for our neighbour? What are my personal giftings?
The second year looks at the actual needs of the community, and the third year
plans how the project can be delivered with the available local resources.
in contrast to a “rich” nation offering handouts to poor communities across the
world, the PEP starts sustainable, empowering, culturally appropriate projects
which have been shown to have lasting effect. Communities have been equipped to
lift themselves out of poverty. All that is needed is a group of interested
individuals who are open to being challenged and moved.
The church in Busabi has embarked on the PEP and they have identified their community’s need as to care for orphans – tragically HIV has torn apart communities all over Africa leaving parentless children, and Busabi village now hopes to care holistically for theirs.
With the help of Tearfund, the
Church of the Holy Spirit in Bedgrove has been moved to twin with the church in
Busabi. We see Busabi’s vision as very inspiring and motivating. We hope that
by funding their PEP over three years, and by making friendships with
individuals across continents by writing to and visiting Busabi, that we can
tell the story of Busabi to all in Bedgrove.
How then might we be challenged
to care for our community in Bedgrove? What are the needs of Bedgrove? Why and
how should we care for our neighbours and friends? How do we need to be changed
in order to achieve this? What is true community and what can it achieve?
We hope that our relationship with the church in Busabi will not just last for the three years of their PEP, but be a long-term twinning based on friendship, listening, encouragement and learning. We hope that people in Bedgrove of all ages and walks of life, and of any faith or belief will find this intriguing and want to get involved. In the coming months we will make it clearer how people could become part of this; do drop by the church if you want to find out more in the mean time.
Busabi Project Lead, CHS, Bedgrove
Being True Community
What do you think of when someone says the word church? Perhaps you might
think of a rather cold, forbidding, Victorian building where rather
straight-laced people go for an hour every week to do something religious.
The Church of the Holy Spirit is not like that. It is a community of people who love Jesus. My family and I are hoping to adopt a little child who needs a home very soon. It’s been a long process, as social services examine every aspect of our lives, past and present. One thing that they have been impressed with is that we belong to a caring community. We have many friends who will comment honestly on our strengths and weaknesses, who will drop everything to help us in a crisis, will cook us meals, wash and iron clothes, and look after our children for us if we need to be away. We have people who understand the special needs and idiosyncrasies of our children, and support us rather than be judgmental about our parenting. They pray for us, give us gifts and share their lives with us. What is this community? It is the community of the church. Wouldn’t you like to belong to a community like that?
Our society is in desperate need of true community. Thousands of children need loving homes. Government policies financially discourage parents of children even living together, let alone getting married. Loneliness, mental health problems and sexually transmitted diseases are reaching epidemic proportions and each one of these phenomena is caused by community fragmentation. Notice how the government no longer talks about ‘the big society’. It can’t provide it and doesn’t understand how it emerges.
Our vision at Church of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than to be the hub of the Bedgrove community. If you are looking for friendship, we are here. If you would like a place to bring your children, we are here. If you would like help with addiction, we are here. If you just want someone to listen over a cup of coffee, we are here. If you are searching for God and wondering how to find Him, we are here.
Recently the Bedgrove community and beyond came together in an extra-ordinary way to support Alex Novakovic, now having his life saving treatment in America. People have said “this is wonderful. How can we sustain such community spirit”. The good news is that we can. Real community can be sustained and developed if we come together in the name of the one who created us and who sent his Son into the world to bring reconciliation with God and new relationships based on mutual respect, forgiveness, humble service and hope.
Rev Martin Kuhrt
Stage One of Church of the Holy Spirit Building Project Complete
As vicar of Bedgrove, I’m delighted that stage one of our building project has been completed this year and our mayor ‘cut the ribbon’. We have thoroughly upgraded our hall and added much needed new rooms for storage and for various group activities. We have re-designed the car park and built a new all-weather children’s play area and a patio area which will allow our popular coffee shop to serve people outside during the Summer months. The church members and various users of the hall have expressed delight in the new facilities, which mean more space, better lighting and heating and an attractive but tough new floor which will allow a full variety of activities to take place inside. Currently the hall is used for a pre-school, ballet and tap lessons, parent and toddler group, children’s parties, youth café, groups for the blind and various other community groups as well as the different children’s groups which operate during Sunday services.
he members of Church of the Holy Spirit, through their generosity, provided over 90% of the cost, which totalled around £185,000, and the work was carried out by Leedon Maintenance Services. A grant of £10,000 was gratefully received from the William Harding Fund, and £5,000 from the Oxford Diocese of the Church of England. Money was also raised from a concert given by the Swan Singers, part of the Wycombe Orpheus male voice choir. Bedgrove Surgery kindly allowed us to use its car park on Sundays while the work was carried out. The project was masterminded by Roger Harwood, our architect and longstanding church member, who gave his services for free.
The work is an example of how the church seeks to bless the Bedgrove community by welcoming people in the name of Jesus Christ into a place where the facilities are the best possible.
We hope to continue to improve our premises. Our application for planning permission for a two-storey glass ‘tower’ entrance on the corner of Camborne Avenue and Ambleside was rejected on the grounds that it was too ‘assertive’. This was puzzling since church buildings are meant to be noticed rather than hidden away. Sir Herbert Janes who built the estate in the 1960s specifically set aside land in the centre of Bedgrove for buildings of public worship. There is now a three or four storey block of flats being built by on Jansel Square which will be a lot more ‘assertive’. So we hope and pray that a renewed planning application will result in a favourable outcome.
So whether you come to the church during the week or join us for Sunday worship, we hope that you will appreciate what has been done largely by local people for local people. May God bless you over Christmas and in the New Year.
Rev Martin Kuhrt