Think of a person (or a pet) in your life who has loved you the most. Can you talk about how you experienced giving and receiving that unconditional love?
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
From The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences: You Don’t Have to Die to Experience Your True Home, pp. 80-81, Dennis Linn, Shelia Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn
This trio of authors – a Jesuit priest, his brother, and the brother’s wife – have written over 20 books about different types of healing, selling over a million copies in many languages. Many of the books are slim volumes with child-like illustrations, but with profoundly spiritual words. I was fortunate to experience a retreat a month ago with Matthew Linn, where I bought even more of his books!
Here is a passage from one of them that I think ties into the two parables of Jesus in today’s readings.
“We [the three authors] are trying to give others the experience of seeing their goodness reflected back to them in the eyes of someone who loves them. …the core of Anita Moorjani’s NDE and the aspect of it that she experienced as healing her of cancer was being ‘filled with the knowledge that I was simply magnificent!’ She describes how this happened:
I still felt myself completely enveloped in a sea of unconditional love and acceptance, I was able to look at myself with fresh eyes, and I saw that I was a beautiful being of the Universe. I understood that just the fact that I existed made me worthy of this tender regard rather than judgment. I didn’t need to do anything specific; I deserved to beloved simply because I existed, nothing more and nothing less.
This was a rather surprising realization for me, because I’d always thought I needed to work at being lovable. I believed that I somehow had to be deserving and worthy of being cared for, so it was incredible to realize this wasn’t the case. I’m loved unconditionally, for no other reason than simply because I exist.”
Relax your body slowly from your toes up. Breathe in three times God’s light/comforting darkness, God’s love, strength, and healing power. Breathe out worries and cares of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
Imagine you are back in Biblical times, listening to Jesus tell the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Use all five senses in imagination:
What time of day is it? How’s the weather – cool, cloudy, or sunny and hot? Can you see the expressions on the listeners’ faces, and on Jesus’ face? Are there sounds of nature around? What can you smell or taste? Can you feel your clothes on you and what type of shoes you are wearing?
Imagine that most of the crowd has gone away and you are alone with Jesus. He comes near and asks if you have any questions. Ask Jesus whatever is on your heart and mind, about yourself, about these parables, or anything else.
Imagine Jesus answering all your questions. But then he leans down, takes your hand and smiles into your eyes. “You are my lamb,” he says with love. “You are my coin. Rest in my love.” Imagine resting with Jesus, knowing you are found, safe, cared for always. When you are ready, open your eyes and become present in your room again.
The Beloved danced around the light
twirled her galaxy skirts
dreamed of love
and made room in herself for another
poured her delight into the palm of her hand
fashioned it with beauty
and set it dancing with joy
shining in the dark of her eyes
river into the world
flowing with all the others
all one dance one beauty one delight
Tell me, child,
what will you do with all that love in you?
Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes