Flat Jesus

So, let me start with a confession. Last summer, my first call was in the midst of a pastoral search. They were looking for their next Senior Pastor and I was curious. My boundaries are uber high and I still want to honor that distance so they can get about this next chapter in their life. And I in mine. But, that doesn’t stop me from stalking their website and gleefully reading the announcement of their next settled pastor and then going to find out every thing I can about her. (Hey. I’m nosy.) That is how I found myself on the website of the church this newly called pastor was about to leave and I saw — for the very first time — this thing called a Flat Jesus.

I pinned it to Pinerest and raved about it to my Director of Children and Youth Ministries. Because I thought this was awesome. Who wouldn’t want to carry Jesus around with them every where they go all summer long?

Certainly, I would. Because I love that reminder at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus tells the disciples, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NRSV). I never tire of hearing these words. I always need this reminder. I need to know that the presence of Jesus Christ is always with me — and it just might help to have a little carbon copy of this likeness in my pocket to help with that reminder.

So, this summer, we gave our church members (kids and adults) a laminated Flat Jesus to take with them on all their summer adventures. We talked about the many places that we will go and how Jesus will go with us there too. This was, however, one week after Ascension Sunday when I had stared up at the ceiling asking the kids where in the world Jesus went. This was not forgotten by one of my kids who had some HUGE christological questions in the middle of the Time Especially for Children that I really wasn’t ready to answer. Perhaps because as much as I want to believe in that wisdom in Matthew 28:20, the experience and practice of living in liturgical time really messes with my head so much so that I ask from the pulpit, “Where is Jesus?” I’m happy to ask that question and I’m thrilled that this kid pushed me on it — even if I didn’t give his question the justice it deserved.

Me and Flat Jesus at the Hospital

Because the pictures have already started to appear. We’ve seen Flat Jesus on planes and picnics. We’ve seen Jesus go to a dance recital, a restaurant and a hospital. We even got a picture from one of our RVing members who doesn’t have an actual Flat Jesus in their hands but sent a photo of their travels with the note: Flat Jesus may not be in this picture, but God certainly is! To me, that’s the whole point. 

In a world where a media mogul begins a campaign to encourage people to Just Say Hello, because we have somehow become so disconnected from our neighbors and our communities, we need something to hold us together. We need some way to be silly and playful and remember that we’re all in this together. And that God is with us too. That, to me, is the whole point of Flat Jesus. It’s a way to keep a congregation bonded together during the summer months.

But, it does more than that. Because it also allows an opportunity for public witness which progressive Christians tend to hate. We don’t want to offend anyone so we don’t talk about our faith. We don’t want to sound like those other Christians so we miss a whole bunch of opportunities to talk about why the experience following Jesus Christ really does matter in our lives. And it happens on Facebook where every friend can see (provided the algorithm fits with their interests) what you’ve posted even if it’s on the church wall. It’s a way of offering a connection to a church that’s willing to have a little fun and take Jesus with them to the end of the age.

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