Reflections on the Paralympic Opening Night
Rev Martin Kuhrt (vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit and chairman of the Aylesbury Church Network)
What a year 2012 is. We’ve just experienced the wonderful celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jublilee. At Church of the Holy Spirit, we hosted an inside ‘street party’, providing a delicious Sunday roast for 100 people, most of whom live alone for one reason or another.
The word and the concept of ‘Jubilee’ comes, like many things in our society, from the Bible. The word meant ‘the joyful and triumphant sound of the ram’s horn’. This trumpet blast symbolised freedom and victory and was blown at the Jewish festival of “Yom Kippur” – the Day of Atonement, which Christians recognise as Good Friday. Whenever there was a ‘jubilee’, whether it be every seven years or every fifty, debts were cancelled, slaves were freed, agricultural land was rested and re-distributed so that the ‘rich did not get too rich and the poor did not get too poor’. How we need to re-discover the principles of Jubilee today!
As I write, there is the excitement of ‘Euro 2012’ and the usual roller-coaster ride of watching England play. Then of course we have ‘The Games’, when the eyes of the world will again be on us.
Martin Kuhrt (Vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit and chair of Aylesbury Church Network)
Illegal goings on at Church of the Holy Spirit?
Marriage is seen today as a vehicle for a sense of personal happiness and fulfilment rather than primarily a building block for a healthy society. It’s treated as one lifestyle option among many and need no longer be the context for sex and having children. Civil partnership legislation has very much reduced the unique legal status of marriage. Sexual orientation is viewed by many as a given (like having red hair) and is a protected characteristic under equality law.
Thus the traditional understanding of marriage is seen as excluding a recognised minority – denying them something good that some, if not all, might really want. It seems unfair – some people are being banned by smug heterosexuals from marrying!
As your local vicar, and someone who has experienced in my adult life 16 years of singleness and 11 years of marriage, I want to be fiercely ‘inclusive’ in offering a loving welcome and Christian ministry to all. Any authentic follower of Jesus will recognise we all need God’s merciful forgiveness and help in overcoming sin. As a local church we are committed to renouncing all hatred, bigotry and fear, and where the institutional Church has got things wrong, we want to repent of that and get things right.
Our concern about re-defining marriage is that there will no longer be any legal recognition for the concept of ‘the voluntary sexual union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others to that union.’ It will thus be increasingly difficult if not impossible to recognise and support marriage as traditionally defined once it has ceased to have legal definition. Those who seek to do so (for example churches offering marriage support or guidance only to opposite-sex couples, Christian and other bodies unwilling to employ in certain positions someone ‘married’ to someone of the same sex, teachers unhappy to teach the new orthodoxy to children) will increasingly find they are not just being ridiculed by the Equalities Minister as “living in the Dark Ages” but facing legal challenges for seeking to maintain the traditional terminology. What we do at the Church of the Holy Spirit, for example, may soon be rendered illegal.
Martin Kuhrt, vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit, Bedgrove
Giving It Up for Lent
By Martin Kuhrt, Vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit, Bedgrove
The secret lies in the ‘F’ word. No, I’m not recommending stress relief by cursing and swearing. The ‘F’ word is Forgiveness. Forgiveness essentially involves giving up patterns of thoughts and feelings which are unhealthy, expensive and potentially crippling.
We’ve all got stuff that we need to give up. Think of yourself as a computer with a hard-drive containing hundreds of gigabytes of storage space. We file away experiences, thoughts, personal vows, memories and feelings. And like computer hard-drives, this data, if not cleaned up and ‘defragmented’ can noticeably affect our life-performance and satisfaction levels.
Forgiveness is very much a double-sided thing. We need it ourselves and we need to extend it to others. In order to give up our own guilt to God, we have to be willing to let go of other people’s guilt stored on our own ‘databases’. But the converse is true also. We cannot let go of bitterness, resentment, accusing thoughts, and accumulated anger towards others without having experienced the grace of God in taking away the stuff He quite justly has against us.
There have been some notable examples of Christians giving up grievances and choosing the way of forgiveness even in the face of great injury and loss. But these people are not superhuman, or people who are psychologically out of touch with their own emotions. They are people who have experienced God’s grace and forgiveness and therefore know that thoughts of revenge, hatred and bitterness have to be given up to God, or else we freeze ourselves off from His healing power. They know we depend on God for any ability to forgive.
The only way to find both forgiveness for ourselves and the grace to forgive those who have hurt us is through the love of God in communion with others. I don’t know what your image of church is, but I wonder if you would be more inclined to come along to church if you saw that we are a community of people who are together exploring the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God expressed to us in Jesus.
As we’re in Lent, why not give up some pre-conceptions and try us out?
Church of the Holy Spirit Sunday Services
9.00am A traditional service with organ hymns and liturgy
6.30pm A very informal, contemporary service
Good Friday 10am all-age service and 2pm reflective service
Easter Sunday Usual pattern of services as shown above
As a Puritan, the great Civil War patriot John Hampden , the symbol of AVDC, whose statue stands proudly in Market Square and in the Palace of Westminster, and after whom Scotland’s National Football Stadium is named, would not have been happy with the way the birth of Christ was celebrated in 17th century Buckinghamshire. Then, committed Christians were dismayed that the festivities often slipped back into pagan ways with widespread drunken-ness, violence, gluttonous indulgence, coarse behaviour and promiscuity.
Today, few Christians would take the view that Christmas as a festival should be shunned. True, there are many who celebrate at this time of year who have lost touch with any desire to honour Jesus, even if they don’t rush headlong into wild pagan revelry. However, the fact that the origin of this ‘holy day’ means little to some, or that the whole thing has become over commercialised, does not mean we should despise the ‘holiday’ season, which not only blesses believers but, to a degree, the whole of society.
For people who do have a living faith in Jesus, Christmas can be a precious and joyful time, for reasons that have to do with our love for Him. But sadly for many, a Christmas without Christ leaves a sense of emptiness. Christmas can become a chore, a reminder of loneliness, an excuse to get ’wasted’, a time to get into more debt, a time to buy children expensive presents in the hope this will compensate for family dis-integration. There might be dreary parties, where the only excitement might be doing things we later regret. There’s the family tension. There’s the attempt to find on our flat screens the life we’re missing out on, or at least a bit of escape.
Why not return to Christ this Christmas? The world is much the same at it was 2,000 years ago. The strong trample over the weak. Nations are in peril. Some wonder where God is in all of this. The answer is that God came among us in Jesus. He is still Emmanuel – God with us. Despite everything, there is hope. In Him the addicted can find release, the lonely friendship, the guilty forgiveness, the fearful freedom, and the hurting healing.
Hawking and God
In Stephen Hawking’s new book, he says that it’s no longer necessary to believe in a God who “lit the blue touch paper of the Big Bang”, because the laws of quantum physics and gravity were sufficient to cause the start of the universe. Richard Dawkins has acclaimed this as “a coup de grace” in the argument against the existence of God. Physics, he says, has now caught up with evolutionary biology in supplying answers which eliminate the need for a Divinity.
But there are many scientists who do believe in God and indeed we can trace the development of modern science from the conviction that God created the universe to function according to laws of conceptual beauty and order which reflect his own wisdom, power and love. The pre-Christian pagan religions saw the universe as emerging out of the conflicting violence and lust of several gods who we would see today as morally debased. Scientific progress could not very easily be made with this worldview, which saw the earth as an arbitrary, chaotic and frightening place, and where the priority was to try to appease these malevolent forces that shaped reality.
The higher Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle saw the logical necessity of one supreme power or principle rather than many conflicting deities, but tended to think we could discover scientific answers through theoretical reasoning alone. It was biblically informed Christians like Roger Bacon who developed the tradition of empirical research and experiment because they believed that the universe was not governed by impersonal logic but a Creator who desired that His creatures explore and delight in his ordered but fascinating creation. In Genesis it says that God brought the animals to Adam for him to name them. (i.e. research and classify them). The scientific laws we know today were derived from the essential combination of observation, experimentation, rational thought and a sense of awe and wonder. Even scientists or naturalist explorers who are atheists often seem to display this ‘awe and wonder’ at the world around them.
Many philosophers (including atheists) have already pointed out flawsin Hawking’s argument. Where do these timeless laws that are supposed to have given rise to the universe/multiverse come from, if not from the character of an intelligent, timeless Creator? Hawking cannot possibly claim that nothing brought something out of nothing. He seems to be saying that something (timeless gravitational laws) brought something out of something (space time quantum vacuums).In order for his argument to work these laws themselves have to stand alone as eternal deductions of how things have to be and the something (rather than nothing) on which these laws operated to produce the universe also had to be pre-existent. But these laws turn out to be theories drawn from scientific understanding of how this universe works and he ignores the metaphysical question “why should there be something (even tiny quantum vacuums) rather than nothing?”
It’s a staggering claim that Hawking is making – that he understands the eternal basis upon which the Universe emerged 13.7 billion years ago and continues to be sustained to this day. A humbler person would acknowledge that we have left the realm of science and entered the realm of religious philosophy. And if he understood something of what Christians really believe, he would know that God never has been for us merely a ‘first cause’ postulation, the necessary ‘lighter of the blue touch paper’ but is known as the one who sustains all things all the time by his power and glory and the one for whom and through whom we exist – the very’ ground of our being’ (Paul Tillich)
Science and religious philosophy are two distinct disciplines, and to invoke scientific reasoning to prove or disprove the existence of God is to make a category mistake. However, this does not mean that faith in God is irrational or that there is no evidence for God’s existence.
The kind of proof though which establishes scientific or historical theories, or which leads to the conviction of people for criminal offences in a court of law, even if declared to be “beyond reasonable doubt” belongs to a category of knowledge which falls short of the deeper appreciation of eternal truth, experienced by the believer. St Paul said that ‘the eternal power and divine nature of God are clearly apparent from the creation’ of which we are a part, so that to disbelieve in God is a morally culpable perversity, not a respectable hypothesis. (Romans 1 v20).
Christians believe in God because we believe in truth, beauty and love, even when these qualities are tarnished in the world we live in. To believers, God is known at a deeper level than as a theory to explain gaps in scientific theory, or even as a psychological necessity. The evidence of supra-rationality is all around us if we look for it. God is ‘the ground of our being.’ To reject God is ultimately to reject ourselves.
Vicar, Church of the Holy Spirit, Bedgrove
Ian McCormack who gave his testimony at CHS was night diving off the island of Mauritius when he was stung multiple times by Box Jellyfish, which are among the most venomous creatures in the world. His testimony relates how he clung to life while getting to hospital, was declared clinically dead soon afterwards, and how during this time he had an encounter with God, which radically changed the direction of his life. To read, watch or listen to his testimony please Click Here
Global Virus Warning
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