Lisa, a dearly beloved member of our church, died in early January this year. At her memorial service people could take a small card with a picture of Jesus on it to keep in their purse or wallet. It was something Lisa did. She called it her Traveling Jesus. It reminded her that, wherever she went, Jesus was with her.
This summer the pastor of our church is taking a short sabbatical and the church is mirroring her thematic focus. The expression Shabbat Shalom sums up the intent of this season. It is a blessing that roughly translates as “may you find wholeness in your resting.”
Our children’s ministry has a story about The Good Shepherd that serves as a core element; the children will hear this story a few times over the course of a year, and many times over the course of their lives. We want them to grow familiar with this story, the character of the Good Shepherd, and the various places he leads his sheep. We want them to grow in loving and trusting the Good Shepherd. We hope they will be able to tell the story to others about how the Good Shepherd knows each of his sheep by name—and how he comes to their rescue if they ever get lost.
Essentially, it’s a story about finding rest on the way. Is there any other context in which we find rest, after all? Jesus does not keep us safe in our pen. He calls us out and invites us to follow him. He takes us places, safe places and dangerous places.
In every place the invitation remains unchanged: “Come to me and you will find rest.”
Rest in work and rest in play
Rest in times of plenty and rest in times of scarcity
Rest in day and rest in night
Rest in warmth and rest in bitter cold
He does not promise we will be comfortable but he always promises he will comfort us.
In all my life I have never seen a shepherd so good, so faithful and strong. In him we find true wholeness. There is no skirting pain on a path of healing. With him, we go through all of it. It is not necessarily easy, but it always works out for good.
I invite you to be a little sheep with me this summer. Our church has taken the figure of the Good Shepherd story and encouraged each person to color their own to take with them wherever they go this summer as their Traveling Jesus. To add to the fun, we are taking pictures of our Traveling Jesus in various places (in the tradition of Flat Stanley) and sending them in so we can share with each other where we're finding Shabbat Shalom.
If you like, write me and I’ll be happy to put in your hands a “Traveling Jesus” that you can color and cut out yourself. Then, take this Jesus with you wherever you go this summer. Know that wherever you are, he is there, leading you, calling you by name, in love. It seems a bit silly for adults to do something like this but I find it’s always good to just be a child now and again.