LORDS MANIFESTO

THE LORD’S MANIFESTO

For Jesus there was anther world that was possible. For Jesus this new world wasn’t somewhere else, it was right here in the mist of this one. Often when we pray our prayers, they can be about some form of mass evacuation… “Get me out of here!” Prayers about one day being somewhere else, a place where things are better.

For Jesus the Good News was always about this place. It was about dirt, dust, brick, stone, tower blocks and city landscapes.

Jesus had gathered his followers around himself when he teaches them about prayer. When we read the Lord’s Prayer it is possible for us to read it as some hyper spiritual transcendent prayer but for Jesus it was a prayer about the reality of life.

It was a prayer about blood, sweat and tears.

Imagine how rebellious it was to pray these words. Jesus and his followers were surrounded by the politics of Rome, the oppression of the Religious Empire in Jerusalem and the pagan world of the Greeks. This was a world all about oppression, exploitation and control.

Surrounded by the kingdoms of oppression, religion and politics Jesus teaches them to pray something far more rebellious.

“Our Father in the heavens, holy is your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

The Lord’s Prayer is a new Christian Manifesto. We are praying what God wants us to inspire to. It’s a prayer pledging allegiance to the Kingdom of God and not the kingdoms or cultures in this world. It is so easy for our primary commitment to be towards our culture, nation, or ethnical group but Jesus reminds us we have a commitment to another kingdom.

When Jesus is pushed on where his kingdom is by Pilot, he says “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

Jesus’ kingdom was of another place.

Often we make the Lord’s Prayer a prayer of resignation. We pray “Lord may your will be done’ with the attitude of what God’s going to do, God’s going to do. So we better get behind him or we will get left behind. It is possible to think that our thoughts no longer matter as we fall behind God and his desires in this world. We can think the Lord’s Prayer is about falling into line but it is much bigger than that.

Tom Wright says the Lord’s Prayer is a “risky, crazy prayer of submission and commission, or if you like the prayer of subversion and conversion. It is our way of signing on, in our turn, for the work of the kingdom. It is the way we take the medicine ourselves, so that we may be strong enough to administer it to others. It is the way we retune our instruments to play Gods Opera for the world to sing”.

So why is this a risky prayer?

Jesus tells us that when we pray we should pray, ‘Your Kingdom come on earth as in heaven’. Gods kingdom coming to earth is about the very ground we walk seeing change because the Kingdom of God is drawing near. The disciples knew that their citizenship was in the Empire of Rome, while they lived in the culture of the Jewish people of Jerusalem. But the Lord’s Prayer was to become a daily reminder that their true citizenship is not specifically in heaven but this heaven is coming on earth. Their citizenship was in fact in this Kingdom of God, which was stretching down to earth.

The Lord’s Prayer is a submission to another world, another kingdom and another power. It’s a prayer that doesn’t just point us to God, but points God’s will towards us, showing us we can be the answer to our prayers. It’s a prayer that makes us step up into this kingdom’s rule and reign but also calls this kingdom to come down in power. It’s a prayer that first gets us to submit to him and then be people who subvert.

IT’S A PRAYER OF KINGDOM INTENSITY AND REVOLUTINARY SUBORDINATION.

What do I mean by Revolutionary Subordination? It is possible to submit to the world around but also possible to subvert it. Jesus shows us the very act of submission is the thing that disarms the powers by making a sceptical of it. In other words we may pay our taxes to the government, we might pay our water rates and council tax: we might be people of the United Kingdom, but we pledge our allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

The Lord’s Prayer is to be a daily reminder of the Kingdom, which we sit under. It’s a prayer that we don’t just pray but we aspire to.

This prayer was never meant to be said with eye down low and voice repeating it at a whisper. It was meant to be a prayer cried out in pain and longing.

“Father, your Kingdom come”.

It’s a prayer crying out for more. In other worlds it’s a prayer that could read simply.

“Father, more”.

It’s a prayer beckoning in God’s kingdom. It’s a prayer crying out for a deeper heavenly reality on earth. If you have ever found yourself praying a prayer of “I’m not going to get through another day without something changing”, then this was the prayer Jesus gave and is the prayer we can now join in on.

The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a prayer of passivity, but a prayer of passionate intent to see more of God becoming a reality on earth. It’s a rebellious war cry making clear you want no more from the patterns of this world and you desperately need to see God cracking the darkness and oppression open.

This prayer was meant to be a rebellious, rousing prayer of Godly revolution.

So what did this prayer indicate the Kingdom would look like? The prayer says it will look like three things. Daily provision of bread from heaven, the practice of grace and people faithfully doing what is right because evil no longer makes sense.

The Lord’s Prayer is not a protective charm; it’s not about magic or voodoo. It’s about naming the concrete goodness of God, grace and discovering a gift of faith for that goodness, and then bringing that goodness into reality by the sheer desire to see God work it out through us.


Big deal if your a believer, Jesus is looking for Disciples

Believers or Disciples

I recently made a friend laugh when I said that Jesus had believers coming out of his ears. Its like these believers are ants crawling all over him. The reality is that Jesus has around 2,039 million people today who claim to be a Christian’s, that’s 33% of the world’s population. In many ways, if you were that way inclined, you could argue that we are winning. Islam adds up to 19% of the world and non-Religious making up 12%.

But the reality is were just not making the impact that we should be. Jesus has believers coming out of his ears and still the church is impotent.

The reality is many people claim to be believers but Jesus never asked for more believers but talked about ‘disciples’. In Matt 28 Jesus sends out his followers and tells them to make more disciples. Disciples making more disciples.

There is a significant difference between believers and disciples. Believers are those who have their golden ticket. They are saved and are now all set for the day they die and make their way on the heaven train. All these people are doing is sitting back, attending worship and waiting until the day they get to heaven.

But Jesus in Matt 28 he asked us to make disciples. A disciple was someone who wanted to follow his or her Rabbi so closely. They wanted to see how their Rabbi did it, they wanted to do the things their Rabbi did and they wanted to promote their Rabbi’s teaching and not their own. Disciples lived in the awareness of their own smallness, and they live in the awareness that things could be so different.

That there is another world possible in the midst of this one.

Disciples followed their Rabbi’s so closely that you never quite new where the Rabbi’s life started and where the disciple’s life ended.

Jesus has churches full of believers but what Jesus needs are disciples. People who are going to take his teaching to serve the last, least and the lost with their whole hearts seriously. People who are going to see themselves as Jesus’ tool in the world. The church isn’t an institution that holds people with religious views. Jesus is bigger than a religion, or all the trappings if a religion. The church is meant to be a counter cultural community asking the question what does a group of people look like in the world when they take Jesus’ command to make ‘disciples’ seriously. How would the church, before we even get to the world, be impacted if we took Jesus’ radical sermon on the mount seriously and we actually lived out his radical teaching?

Jesus never came to start a religion or an institution but a movement. A movement of people all choosing to be Jesus’ disciples. Leaving simple religious belief behind and join a movement of people all becoming disciples.

Until we move away from simply believing. Until we move away from religion and religious behaviour we will never be able to live the simple life of a disciple. The question to ask ourselves is what am I and what do I have in my hand.

Do I hold a ticket or a toolkit?

Because a disciple is someone who is worrying less about holding a ticket and worrying more about using his tool kit to beckon in Jesus’ kingdom.


LOGOS

Here’s an interesting thought on John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

The term used here which we translate here as Word is in the Greek ‘logos’. The gospel writers never created new ideas they were always looking for things in the culture to take and re-use from. We see John as well as the others writers often use Greek pagan concepts, ideas and philosophies as an image or tool for a greater image they were trying to communicate.

The Greeks during Jesus’ time believed in multiple gods who were served by men and other angelic beings. These gods lived in a green room waiting until it was there turn to perform once again on the earth as if it was a stage for their divine performance. The philosophers believed that these gods communicated with those of the earth through an intermediary called the ‘logos’.

Logos meaning ‘word’ contains the mind and intention of divinity and sends these flowing down to earth. These Logos were the way the divine would communicate with the lowly human beings. The logo’s was the incarnation of the gods divine pronouncement, their reason and their ‘wisdom’.

Other lines of Greek thinking said that the logos were also there to keep the universe balanced and held together. Like the soul of the universe being held together by heavenly beings. These logos could let the world collapse whilst trying to hold apart the light and dark. The cult of Hermes made use of this idea to describe their Hermetic corpus (Gnostic writings) written about in the Poimandres:

“Poimandres fell into a deep and heavy sleep, in which there appeared to him a being who introduced himself as the Shepherd of Men, the Mind of Authority. The Shepherd then shows the mystic a vision, in which he sees a great light and a great darkness, respectively reality and matter. From the light comes a Holy Logos… the shining Son of God, who proceeds from Mind, the Universe itself”.

This ideas wasn’t totally alien to the Jews. Although they didn’t believe in many Gods but were monotheistic (believed in one God) they did believe this God did communicate with his creation. The Rabbis and sages had the idea of a pre-existent ‘Wisdom’ character mentioned in the book of Proverbs and Job. They believed that the Torah was the embodiment of this wisdom. The Rabbis had concluded that there was in fact a heavenly Torah, wisdom in person.

John takes this idea of a heavenly Torah, wisdom as a person and brings in the Greek idea of the logos and creates an opening verse the Jews would understand but also the Greek thinkers would recognise. But in Johns version there is no green room and there aren’t other gods waiting to speak but he proclaims that yes there is a logos, the word of God but this logos has always been and always will be and this logos is God himself. God the creator of all things, logos on earth walking among his creation. The God had left his heavenly green room and was walking amongst his people.


SHABBAT

A few reflections upon the Sabbath

Exodus 16:26 “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath. In it there shall be nothing none.”

I’ve been reading a few interesting books of late on the topic of Sabbath. There is one in particular which has really captured my imagination. ‘The Sabbath’ by Abraham Joshum Heschel is a great short book with some fantastic one-liners. For many of us Sabbath is very similar to any other day of the week. We are connected to the world by facebook and twitter, we check emails on our blackberries and still take phone calls from work colleagues. Sabbath is a day of rushing around, taking the kids to football and doing the weekly shop. For others it is the day they spend all their time in the church running services, leading worship or doing the washing up following the after service coffee.

The term Sabbath comes from the Hebrew ‘Shabbat’ which holds within it several ideas. Shabbat is the ceasing of any work but also the remaining and dwelling in a place of the divine. Some translators say it means to sit, remain or even to abide. Shabbat is the farewell to daily manual work and the process of coming to realise that the world will survive without your help.

Heschel says that “six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth, on the Shabbat we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone else”

Our souls belong to ‘Someone’ else. Shabbat is the reminder that the world does not own us and that our souls belong to something much bigger and beautiful. Heschel says that “six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh we seek to dominate the self”.

Shabbat is the seeking to dominate ourselves; it’s a day not for the sake of the world but for the sake of life. Many people say, I have a day off, which implies that the world is work and on this day they get to ‘not work’. Shabbat is not there for the sake of the work, in the hope that if you rest you will be able to work more, but in fact the weekdays are for the sake of Shabbat. Shabbat isn’t a break in the world or an interlude but is the climax of living.

Heschel says that ‘Shabbat is the love of man for what he and God have in common’.

Shabbat is the celebrating of creation and a reminder that there are two worlds, this word and the world to come. Shabbat is an example of the world to come. Shabbat should point to the world to come – Eternity.

So what is Shabbat? It isn’t just the absence of work; it’s also the celebration of creation. If you spend all week in an office cubical and then spend Shabbat in the shopping centre you really can’t claim to celebrate creation. If you spend the week behind the counter and then Sunday in a church, you can’t claim to celebrate creation. Shabbat is the connecting with the divine and the reminder that you’re a ‘human being not a human doing’ (quote from Rabbi Abraham Kook in ‘Shepherd Consciousness’).

The Rabbis taught that before God created there was Shabbat, it preceded the world and it also completed it. They also taught that it was the pinnacle of all creation, Shabbat was the last thing God created. They conclude that Heaven and Earth were created in 6 days and that when Shabbat came God created ‘Menuha’ and the universe was complete. Menuha is usually translated as ‘rest’ and the universe would be incomplete without it.

There is a danger that Shabbat becomes nothing more than a day we do the odd jobs, the day we finish off projects and cut the grass, wash the car. But Shabbat was created to complete not only the universe but also us.

“To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of external obligations, a day on which we stop worshiping idols or technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature – is there any situation that holds out a greater hope of man’s progress than the Shabbat?” Heschel

Shabbat can be translated as ‘remain’ or ‘dwell’. Shabbat is the art of sitting and dwelling and being happy in our own skin. Not needing to produce but chill with ourselves and be content with not having to do anything.

Deut 5:15 reads, “In it you shall not do any manner of work, neither your son, daughter, servants, ox, ass or any cattle. Neither a stranger in the gates”.

The Rabbis taught that it even was a sin to be sad on Shabbat.

The reality is our world just isn’t built in this way. We work and many get only one day off a week, some even less than that. Others may get the weekends but these get filled very quickly with people, places and the weekly shop. It’s like we work to just get to the weekend where we do the things that are left over.

Shabbat is the residing to the fact that things will not be finished, work is still to be done but our souls are more important.

The reality is we can come up with some wonderful excuses why we can’t stop. “There just simply isn’t enough time in the week!” But what if our world isn’t complete without rest. What if the rest is the very thing that completes and finishes what needs to be done. Often we live life in the rush to the next thing, but the best thing is to ‘Menuha’, rest.

Stop, sit, dwell and be happy in our own skin.

Be happy that the world will go on and that we aren’t the saviour of the world.

Shabbat is the reminder that one day the world will have to exist without us so it better start to learn now how to do that now.


A PERCULIAR PEOPLE

I have met some odd people and non more so than in the church. But I get the impression from reading the gospels that this is the kind of people God is drawing to himself. So often we want to fit in, try and be like others, buy the same kind of clothes, car and coffee. But maybe Gods plan is different to that of the consumeristic society surrounding us.

The church is made up of misfits, rejects outcasts and this is Jesus’ body. You don’t choose to attend church as a fashion choice; we can’t make true Christianity cool.

Peter describes the church as a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

The image I’ve always had of the church is that of a group of people who are in the process of becoming more like Jesus. But as I read the gospels I don’t see a Jesus who fits in, but a Jesus who stands apart from the culture and society of the times. Not afraid of it but different too it – distinctive.

Peter talks about the church as a chosen people, which makes us sound like an elite Christian society. The global church is full of people who behave like they are Gods gift to the world, which I know we are, but they strut around like teenage boys full of testosterone who’s just been picked for the football squad. Sometimes being known as chosen gives us an over inflated sense of ego which I don’t see in the life or teachings of Jesus. Jesus is confident, passionate but never egomatic. The Greek word Peter uses here which we translate as chosen is ‘eklekton’ which can also be translated as circled but in the King James Version it’s rendered as ‘peculiar’.

A peculiar people?

The word peculiar is often thought of as meaning odd, strange or weird but has a much greater and helpful meaning. Something peculiar is something that is irregular, going in the unnatural direction and can also mean curious.

The King James bible says we are a peculiar people, irregular, going in a different direction and living in a curious way. Were not just set apart but also curiously peculiar to everything which is often seen as natural and normal.

Sadly the church in this generation has become known for being judgemental, unloving, strong on its anti-gay stance and living as hypocrites non of which were top on the characteristics of Jesus.

We are called to be a people going in a different direction, to challenge the systems that control society and have a prophetic imagination of a new community in the mist of an old one.

Where is our peculiarity?

Where are we being different?

Where are we making a stand to go in a new direction?

A direction away from Whitehall and business of Canary Wharf but to only go there to turn over the tables.

In the 1838 an offshoot of the Wesleyan denomination started calling themselves The Peculiar People. Imagine a church who called themselves The Peculiar People, imagine how they tried to behave and what they wanted to model. They became known for wanting to go in a new fresh direction, less towards large churches and more towards small local grass roots communities. Sadly they re-branded themselves in the 1950’s to the Union of Evangelical Churches and have almost died out today with only 16 communities left. Their problem was people didn’t want to be apart of a group known for being peculiar. But the reality is they were on to something, they had grasped something of Jesus.

There was nothing normal about a Jewish Rabbi eating with tax collectors, drinking with prostitutes and making up his inner group of disciples from terrorists, teenagers and those with a low reputation. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to bring dead people to life. And to live by Jesus’ teaching, living to die to our own needs and greed’s so that a passion for a life that gives life means we are peculiar.

The church is a group of people choosing to live out a different ethic, an ethic not focused on self glory, pride or building empires but an ethic that’s based on small mustard seeds, little birds and small children. Its not an ethic of bigger is better but smaller and subtler.

Shane Claiborne wonderfully calls the church a ‘contemporary community of theological pranksters, ghetto poets, guerrilla gardeners and ordinary radicals’. There is nothing normal about the church, but I guess we have known that by looking around the pews. But what if we became known not for our lack of dress sense but for our peculiar passionate love for living justly, searching for new creative ways of living peacefully, longing to live with mercy and walking with humility.

And those who choose to live like this get dismissed as odd. But then again so did a first century Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth.


MY NAZARITE YEAR

2009 is now over and were already having arguments if were actually in a new decade or not, but for me 2009 was a interesting year…

In 2008 I had become frustrated in the way God hadn’t followed through on many of the promises I had thought he had made about life and work. Living in a place of frustration I knew that there must be more and that there must be a deeper rhythm of spirituality that until now I hadn’t experienced. Mid November 2008 during a night of prayer with Soul Survivor I sat on my laptop and wrote freely about God, and what seemed his inability to follow up on his promises. This out burst became several pages of lament, naming people and places that I just didn’t see God’s healing spirit at work. This frustration and outburst had left me desperate to experience far more than I had previously seen. It had been around this time that I was studying for some of the teaching at Soul Survivor. Most sermons for me have to come from a place of experience and a place of having the scripture become real to me. I imagine it like the fermentation process of a fine wine, not that I see my preaching as fine. Because we were studying Acts over the academic year I had been reading ahead and thinking about what was going to come up half a year down the line. In this time of reading I had come across once again the idea of the Nazarite vow.

The Nazarite vow is found in Numbers 6 and was made famous because of Samson who actually wasn’t the greatest Nazarite. The reality is that the Nazarite vow was practiced by many Jews right up to the days of Jesus and beyond. Some would argue that Jesus himself was a Nazarite. It is certainly true that John the Baptist followed the vow and so did Paul in the book of Acts. The vow for some was a vow for life, born at birth some were offered to YHVH as Nazarites whilst others did so for periods of time.

Numbers 6:1 reads…

“Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them: When either man or woman shall make a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to Yahweh, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of fermented drink, neither shall he drink any juice of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried.
All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is made of the grapevine, from the seeds even to the skins. “All the days of his vow of separation there shall no razor come on his head, until the days are fulfilled, in which he separates himself to Yahweh. He shall be holy. He shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long. “All the days that he separates himself to Yahweh he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to Yahweh. He shall separate to Yahweh the days of his separation… This is the law of the Nazirite: when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the Tent of Meeting”.

The principle of the Nazarite dates right back to the dawn of Israel where people recognised that the rhythm of life often was far from that which God required. It was also a time that they realised that the rhythm of life stopped them from being able to connect with the God through creation because most of the time they were absent, their minds were elsewhere. People would choose to spend time living the vow not because it was a better way of life but because it was an outward sign of what they were vowing on the inside.

Lets break down the vow into the three simple areas…

  1. Don’t drink anything of the grape, i.e. alcohol
  2. Do not cut your hair
  3. Avoid death

The vows purpose was relatively simple; by cutting out on the pulls of certain things it allows the Nazarite to focus more on God. In the same way we practice lent by giving something up, which opens us up to hearing from God for a extended periods of time this vow opens people up to freeing themselves for a extended period to hear too from God. In the lent period the idea is that by freeing yourself from objects or items that take your attention God can draw you back to places in your life that he needs to work. Often in lent when someone gives up chocolate it brings to the surface issues of addiction, need, longing and even the running away from something else, some bigger issue. Often in life we avoid wounds and deeper issues by filling our minds with other things. The Nazarite vow was about being totally committed to hearing from God, receiving his often painful healing but also to slip into a place of deeper connection with him. Lets unpack this a little more.

Why would God want someone to give up fermented grape drinks? The Nazarite should not eat or drink anything of the grape, be it the seeds or the skin. The purpose was about taking the person away from what is often thought of as worldly enjoyment. In the culture of the Nazarite wine was a significant thing, it represented Gods blessing but also the pleasures of the flesh. Often people ask what do you mean by ‘worldly pleasures’ or ‘pleasures of the flesh’, it is at the end of the day Christian jargon. The reality is don’t ask me; ask yourself what it means for you. You can’t ever say you don’t know. It’s the things that keep you from focusing clearly on God. For some its food, others drink and others it’s the desire for fame, maybe lust and sexual desires or even wealth.

The second area to follow was not cutting your hair. This could be seen as quite an odd thing to ask of someone. Surely God wants tidy, well respected and well groomed people to lead his church. Strangely that’s the point. How often when you turn on the TV and have the pleasure of flicking to the God channel so many of the preachers and teachers are suit wearing, short haired older men. The way we look is important to us and is certainly important to me. But this vow is about separating yourself from self-glory and self-promotion. In 1 Corinthians 11:14 it says that it is a shameful thing for a man to have long hair and this was nothing new. Back as nomadic people long hair was seen as glory to a woman but shameful to a man. A Nazarite is a man who is willing to humble himself to be in the position of a woman. Not cutting your hair was about getting over the self glory, personal pride self consciousness and self glory and about putting that side of you to death. Its about not worrying about what you look like and what you are wearing because what your about isn’t about promoting yourself but the one which you worship - YHVH. It’s essentially about making others greater than yourself. In a world made up of people glory seeking, desiring fame and self-promotion. The vow to not cut your hair was a reminder that others are more powerful and than you and became about bearing the weight of humility, denying all self-glory for the sake of YHVH.

The final section of the vow was about avoiding death. This for our modern understanding of the world needs some translation. We don’t see death in the same way as a nomads did camping in the desert, for us its hidden and not experienced too often. The idea of the death was that someone else’s’ death was so poisonous it would cause the person to also die. By experiencing a loved one die, something within us also dies. We have to ask the question what is it that brings us death and that should be that we would choose to avoid.

I had been writing my lament during the prayer night and I knew that I wanted to spend more time seeking what God desired for me and for my church. Because of desire I started to ask what was it that God required of me. Hoping it would be something simple and straightforward I declared to God ‘whatever’ he wanted I would do. As the weeks passed I became challenged to live for a year in the rhythm of the Nazarite. My gut reaction was that it was a little weird, but on the other hand I felt quite relieved. I was aware that some of the vow would not directly affect me. I don’t particularly enjoy beer and can’t stand wine so that wasn’t going to be a big deal.

Often I get the impression that people think church leaders a sorted, perfect and a finished work of art. The reality is the church is made up of recovering sinners and leaders are nothing more than wounded healers. For me to live out the Nazarite vow would mean being honest about what brought Cris Rogers death, what was it that effected the way I saw my self and challenged the very DNA of what God had spoken over me. I grew up in a house where fashion and looking good was important but I guess clothes had become a way of projecting to the world who I wanted to be. I had also become aware that I was knocking on the door of being 30 and I desperately wanted to make sure I keep looking in my 20’s.

I guess that fashion was one way of firmly trying to stay in my 20’s and it was also something that told me that I was ok. Every time you walk into a clothes shop that world communicates the message that to be ‘in’ and to stay fashionable you needed to have what was on the shelves. Fashion tells us who we are, what we are into, it also tells you a false lie that you will fit in if you have this stuff. It also shows a strange level of status between the cool young things and the old out of date cronies.

In my free time I would take Daisy out for a walk. Often we would pop into Topman, round into River Island and then maybe some other shop selling the next big thing. The reality is I didn’t buy a great deal, yes I have draw full of Tshirts but don’t have much money to spend on clothes so it was more about window-shopping. This rhythm of walking round shops, buying the new skinny jeans communicated to me lots of things. Firstly I wouldn’t be ‘in’ if I didn’t have the new trend from Topman and secondly that my worth came from what was in fashion.

Topman, Next, H&M were my death and for the next year I would avoid it totally.

This meant for me not even stepping into a men’s clothe shop to see what was on the rack. Deciding to live out the Nazarite vow meant that there needed to be come rules to the game. What was I going to do about clothes if I isn’t going to buy anymore and what would happen if an emergency happened, ie all my smalls disintegrated.

THE RULES
Rule 1 was that I wasn’t to go in any men’s clothes shops for the full year.
Rule 2 I could only wear what I already owned, which meant digging out old unfashionable clothing.
Rule 3 was that if I needed a new pair of trousers, shoes or top I had to either, borrow, by 2nd hand or make my own.
Rule 4 the only sub clause to the rules was that I could by new as long as it was fair trade.

So that has been my last year, living on only the clothes I already had, or choosing to make my own, not cutting my hair and avoiding alcohol.

The question was how would I break this to people when they asked with out sounding a nutter and most of all how to I break this to my wife.

I decided to simply break the vow into sections. Clothing being one, hair another. I decided to treat the vow like that of fasting. The bible makes it quite clear that fasting should be kept private, it wasn’t anything to boast about so I would be the same. I would only talk about it when asked what was going on and when I preached about the Nazarite vow at church I was going to totally avoid mentioning my years plan.

It wasn’t until Easter that I broached the issue of my hair with Beki. Trying to explain why the hair wasn’t going to get cut. I think it was a little of a contentions subject because when I brought it up she said “Let me think about it” and then moved on.

Early in 2009 I needed a new jumper so decided to give making my own a go. It wasn’t too hard and what came out, even though it wasn’t fashionable did the job. Its funny how when you do something a little different people are quick to try and tell you your copying someone else. Many young people jumped on the Shane Claiborne thing claiming I wanted to be him. The reality was to shrug off their comment was easier than telling them the real story.

As the year progressed it started to become quite painful. Like in lent when issues arise you have to sit for 40 days with the pain before resurrection Sunday comes around. The reality for me was it that it was like lent but permanently.

Early in the year wounds started to appear as I realised that I had filled so much of my time popping into clothes shops on days off trying to find something to do. Thursday’s is never a good day off and once you have done the cleaning what do you do with your time when you have little ones. Often we would have a walk into town, potter around the shops, grab a coffee and then walk home. I had started to come to terms with the amount of Affluensa in my life. How much time was wasted walking around shops. It also brought to the surface the pain of growing older and not having anything to mask now being in my 30’s.

Sitting with open wounds left me needing to hear about my identity in God and not the identity Topman had given me. Over time it felt like Jesus was making me own up to where my identity was coming from and if I am honest this process was painful. For many years through my teens I wasn’t the cool kid, I wasn’t in the in-crowd and this had left me feeling somehow second class. Over years of feeling second class, not as good as and less able, it had left me feeling deep down that I had little to offer. This process of stripping back, living out the Nazarite vow started the healing of seeing myself as not second-class and not as good. But now seeing myself as a wounded healer, I was coming to terms with being Gods son whom he was well pleased.

In a world that focus on the smart, fashionable, designer and a church which likes its well polished, clean cut church leaders this process started to free me from this. I never have had a desire to be the next big thing, or to build my own ministry, but this process of living on less, not worrying about how I looked made me even more aware of my reliance on God and not my own strength.

The year had kicked off with a trip to Masenco Kenya and seeing the poverty I had been inspired to take the vow as serious as I could. As the weeks turned into months and as I pin pointed my own failings in how I saw myself a deeper sense of spiritual awakening happened. I embraced the inner hippy and started to enjoy living on less in such a overcoming the deadness kind of way.

The reality was that the year didn’t start well, Beki had been taken into hospital and had to have an operation and other challenging things at work meant that I had to rely more than ever on Gods grace. We use that term ‘God’s grace’ lots in the church but often not really know what it means. I have come to realise what this means to live on his grace and not my strength.

The Nazarite vow for me became more than not doing a few things, but became about sitting with my self and God for a long, long while. It also became about looking at myself and my identity and acknowledging some of my dark side. I’m not a Sith, but there are bits of me that I am happy to avoid the light getting near. This year has been about sitting for prolonged periods of time in Gods presence as he pin points the dark corners and sheds light on them.

Its been interesting to hear roomers about what I have been doing this last year. Sometimes hearing people speak back to me sections of by vow they have heared others talking about has made it at times seam utterly weird, pointless and almost comic book but for me it has been deeply profound. I guess for the church as well as the world the vow in today’s society looks odd. What’s the big deal shopping, grooming and fashion. But for me I have found avoiding it utterly life giving.

I started out wanting to see God do more in others and ending the year having seen God do more in me. I preach a lot about being put back together by God but the reality is I speak about this from personal experience.

The last year for many looks like I’m taking this faith thing for too seriously but the reality is I think more of us need to take it seriously. I’m leaving 2009 with a increasing strength in God. I never wanted to be a church leader that led a large church and I am more determined than ever to be apart of a small resurrection community. More determined to be a leader who leads people to stripping away the fig leaves and help people to sit orquadly with their maker for a while.

I want to do away with the gloss, and professionalism and embrace the orquard redemptive gospel of being honest with the God that made us. I want to help people tap into the divine energy that formed them and can transform them.

There can’t be any going back for me now. I’m not sure I want the vow to end, I’m not sure where it will go but I am sure that I’m not stepping into Topman for a long time to come. The year is up but the vow will continue. What happens with the hair I’m not sure, we will have to see what Beki says about that, but I am sure Ive never been happier about the way I look. The reason is because my identity isn’t reliant on what I am wearing.

Anyone can take up the Nazarite vow, the only rule is that to become one you have to speak it out loud. Nazarites would need to have told someone, it sounds a odd rule but never the less it’s a rule. The most simplest way of doing it was as one Nazarite walk passed another they would said to each other ‘me too’.

I hope that more will embrace the ‘me too’.

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