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Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

The nard oil that Mary used to anoint Jesus' body came from the spikenard plant in India. The oil was placed in an alabaster box then transported by caravan across the long flat desert to the markets of Jerusalem.

One pound of nard oil cost 300 denari, the equivalent of nearly one year's wages for a common laborer.

Spikenard is still costly – a pound now runs about $480. There are many corners of this globe today where that would be one year's wages. So it is not an unreasonable question Judas asks:

Psalm 118:1-2,19-29
Luke 19:28-40

A MAJOR CHALLENGE of Lent is this: how should we wait? Our culture demands that everything happen instantly. Lent requires a different kind of clock, one synchronized to Kairos, or God's time; open to the working of the Spirit.

In the dramatic emotional swings of Holy Week we find ourselves in a kind of twilight zone, both knowing what awaits our Lord and not wanting to know what will happen, of wanting to fast forward from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. If only we could avoid the pain of betrayal and the horror of the crucifixion, the agonizing sense of loss felt by the followers and friends of Jesus.

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 15:1-2, 11b-32

MODERN CHRISTIANS can see the ending coming from a mile away. Of course, the Prodigal Son will be met on the road once more by his forgiving father. They'll have a big "welcome home" party. And the older, more responsible son will refuse to join in, preferring to remain outside, stewing with resentment. We already know the message: it's never too late to repent. God's forgiveness is extravagant. We might even play the game of "Which Son Am I?" to try to find new paths into this parable. But ultimately, though we may feel a twinge of pity for the older son, we are more or less "set" with what this story has to teach us.

Then why are we still so ashamed? If we know the lesson this parable imparts, why don't we believe it? So many people I know carry guilt and sadness with them, year after year, for an offense, trait, or desire they deem unforgivable. I still can get pangs of remorse for being gay, twenty-five years after coming out—despite a loving husband and a changing culture. We behave as if Divine Love is conditional, and that God opts out under certain circumstances.

Exodus 3:1-15

The Lord said, "I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt....So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you." (Exodus 3:7-12)

Lent is another time in our lives as Christians in which we focus on preparation for Jesus' death and resurrection, and our own shortcomings and, perhaps even our strength. God helps us prepare for the next step in our lives, the next set of challenges. God provided tools of the spirit and companions and prayer partners to assist in the journey. We recognize our limitations, but are called to trust in God again and move forward.

"Who am I Lord?" to have seen what I have seen and yet to be given such awesome responsibility.

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

I LOVE THAT IMAGE of Jesus the mother hen, longing to take the children of Jerusalem under his wings. It's an appealing picture of God—a God who longs for us, who reaches out to gather us in. It's an image of God that comforts us.

But Jesus goes on to say that the children of Jerusalem have not been willing to take the shelter he offers. A motherly figure, making a welcoming gesture, offering love and security, and the children of Jerusalem say, "No." Does that make sense?

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

I'VE CAUGHT MYSELF over the last year praying in a way that I didn't learn in church or from the prayer book and that we don't hear from Jesus. These are prayers such as, "please, please, please don't let me run out of gas," or "please help my son get into the right college," and even the more serious, "please don't let it be life-threatening."

It's not that we can't pray any way we like, certainly we can, but in Lent we have an opportunity to go to the desert with Jesus, and look this kind of demand-based prayer squarely in the eye and say, as Jesus in effect said to Satan in Luke 4:1-13, that the healing and wholeness that God offers is far beyond the particular outcomes we may have in mind.

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Psalm 51:1-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-16, 16-21

With the passing years, I find myself more and more aware of the rhythms of life, whether in the daily routine that supports a sustainable balance in our social experience, or in the natural order, such as the rhythms of the waves on our shores or the changing of the seasons.

There is also a rhythm to the church calendar, and we are again at the time of the year prompting us to remember: our own earthly existence is a part of that rhythm, especially that part of the rhythm of life that will involve and succeed our own death.