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April 21, 2024–The Good Shepherd

Rita Argus (Denver, CO)

Warm-up Question

  • What signs of spring have you noticed this week?

The Good Shepherd

I love going for hikes, especially in the springtime. Even before I moved to Denver, I would go for long walks in nature and soak in God’s creation. There was just something about the budding of trees, the smell of the soil, the rustling of birds or squirrels, and the warmth of the sunshine that would calm my brain and ground me in the moment.

On one particular hiking adventure, the trail led us through a valley dotted with yellows, oranges, pinks, and whites of wildflowers. A slow trickling stream crisscrossed over the path before flowing into a pond deeper in the valley. The trail worked its way up so that we were overlooking the pond and there hanging out in the pond were two grown moose and their small calf. Since we were at a safe distance from them, we took the opportunity to watch them as they waded through the water and grazed on the vegetation. As I took a deep breath, that place felt just as holy as a sanctuary.

With all of the notifications and texts and new stories and deadlines and to-do lists and everything else this busy life throws at us, I find it is so important to take these moments to be in God’s creation and to stop and breathe. These moments not only help me to reconnect with God and fill my spiritual cup, but they also help my mental health and physical well-being.

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. While we might think of a shepherd as someone who keeps us out of danger, a good shepherd also leads their flock to places where they can slow down and rest on their journey. So, let’s lean into the calling of our Good Shepherd to slow down and rest a bit this week.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you care for your mental health, physical well-being, and spirituality?
  • Where are places outside of the church building that you find holy?
  • What are ways that you reconnect with God?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:5-12

Psalm 23

1 John 3:16-24

John 10:11-18

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings .)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

 Jesus often uses metaphors, like being a good shepherd, in the Gospel texts. Sometimes those metaphors can be really unfamiliar to our lives today. Even as a person who grew up on a hobby farm in southern Wisconsin, we didn’t shepherd our animals in the way that Jesus’ original audience did. We had the luxury of good pasture land for them to graze on and the protection of a barn in the evenings. But, we did have one trick up our sleeves: our llama named Becky.

Besides being a fun addition to the barn, Becky also protected our herd. I know, it feels funny to think of a llama as a shepherd of sorts, but llamas develop a deep connection and love for their herd. Llamas see it as their job to protect the herd from any outside threats. If you were to walk into the barn, Becky would immediately lean her long neck over the fence, get right into your face, and smell your breath to determine if she knew you. If she knew you, she would go about her business of eating and watching out for the herd. But, if she didn’t know you, then her intense stare and concentration would be glued to you as she watched your every move and ensured you were not up to any shenanigans. And what would happen if she didn’t like what you were doing? Yep, you probably guessed it: she would spit on you. Yuck.

Gross llama spit aside, Becky’s role was so important in bringing a sense of security to our herd of goats. In the springtime, the mama goats would often be down in the pasture, carefree and grazing to their hearts’ content while Becky would be settled down closer to the barn with all of the little goat kids jumping all around and over her. The mama goats trusted fully that their little ones would be ok with “Auntie Becky.”

While reading this week’s Gospel text, I found myself reflecting on this trust that the goats had for our shepherd llama. One line stood out especially: “I know my own and my own know me.” While I wish this journey of faith was that straightforward, there have been times when I felt like I didn’t know God or what God wanted of me. Times when I feared or had doubt and I cried out to Jesus and was met with silence (or I didn’t recognize or missed hearing him).  Times when I have been so focused and worried about the barrier in front of me that I didn’t notice the Holy Spirit reaching out a helping hand.

 Maybe in all of this, I am trying too hard to be a “good sheep” when really what Jesus is saying is more simple, and therefore, radical. Maybe Jesus is saying, “You belong. You really do! I know you and you are mine. I am here for you. Period”. Because here is the thing, even out here in the wilderness where we roam, Jesus is here with us. Jesus accompanies us, laughing at our joys, crying at our sorrows, listening to our frustrations, and every other moment in between because we are called and claimed children (sheep!) of God who belong and matter more than we can even imagine.

Discussion Questions

  • Imagine a modern example of a good shepherd and describe it.
  • What are ways that Jesus has shepherded you in your life of faith?
  • What does belonging mean to you?

Activity Suggestions

  • Write phrases that remind you that you are belong on sticky notes to hang up in your room or bathroom mirror to remind you of God’s love and presence in your life.
  • Take time to journal or create art around a modern example of a good shepherd that you have  encountered in your life of faith.

Closing Prayer

Good and gracious shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us in your ways. Fill our hearts with your love and help us to know you are deeply as you know us. We pray this in the name of the one who creates, redeems, and sustains us, now and forever. Amen.

April 14, 2024–Bikes of Faith

Samantha DiBiaso, Rockville MD 

Warm-up Questions 

  • What is one of your first memories of Jesus?

Caution! Red Letter Bible!  

When I was a kid, I didn’t really go to church. But I had a Bible that my grandparents gave me at my baptism that sparked my curiosity. I would open that Bible up from time to time when I played pretend “librarian” with all my stuffed animals. Every time I opened it up, I was startled by the words printed in red. It was one of those red letter edition Bibles that printed all of Jesus’ words in red. As a kid, reading Jesus’ words in red made me think Jesus was angry, scary, and mean. Why? Because, in my mind, red equaled angry, scary, and mean.  

As I grew up and started going to church, I began to learn that Jesus is not angry, scary, and mean, but instead is loving, caring, and empowering. But I think that those red letters still shaped how I read the Bible. Often times I would hear Jesus’ words and questions as words of judgement and shame, questions like: 

What do you want me to do for you? 

Do you love me?  

You of little faith, why did you doubt? 

 The church didn’t always help with hearing those questions as words of judgement, particularly because I felt that what I was learning in church was that doubt in my faith was bad. Just like with the red letter Bible, I saw DOUBT in big red letters. Caution! Don’t doubt! Doubting is bad!  

Maybe you had this experience too. Maybe you were taught by the church that doubt was the opposite of faith. Maybe you have had or have doubts and feel shame about them. To you and to our past child selves, I say today, I am sorry and may we as a church do better. 

Even though the church has not always done the best job at teaching us this, the reality is that doubt is not the absence of faith. Doubt is essential to faith. Engaging and wrestling with our doubts, along with asking questions about Jesus, is a part of what it means to have faith. Jesus doesn’t welcome us on our journey of faith to test or shame our doubts. Jesus doesn’t belittle what little faith we may have. Instead, Jesus reaches into our lives with deep and compassionate love, reminding us again and again that our doubts are welcome. 

Discussion Questions 

  • What were you taught about doubts as a kid?  
  • Do you have any doubts about God today? What are they? 

Easter Sunday 

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings. 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection 

In our gospel reading we find Jesus appearing to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and the disciples are terrified because they think they are seeing a ghost. If I was them, I would be terrified too! After all, wasn’t he crucified just a few days ago? Jesus responds to their fear with a question, asking, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  

Often times we tend to hear Jesus’ questions about doubt as words of judgement. We hear that doubt is wrong and that we should just have more faith. But what if, instead of words of judgement, we were to hear Jesus’ words as encouragement? Instead of hearing Jesus’ question, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” written in red, what if we hear them as written in love? 

What if we hear Jesus’ words in a way that a parent might encourage their child when they are teaching them how to ride a bike? Catching their child when they fall, and saying, “Little one, why are you afraid and why did you doubt? I’ve got you. I will always be here to catch you when you fall. I will always be here to help you. Look at my hands and my feet. I am with you always.” 

And then Jesus sits down by a campfire and offers the disciples something to eat.  Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire, full stop. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well you can only come to the campfire if you have enough faith and as long as you don’t have any doubts.”  

Instead, Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire just as they are–doubts and all. The same goes for us as well. Jesus encourages and empowers us as we learn how to ride our bikes of faith. On our journey, Jesus will be there to encourage our doubts because they will help us to practice and grow in our faith. And then when it is time to take a break, Jesus will invite us again to sit around a campfire to eat food and to share stories.  

Discussion Questions 

  • When is a time that you’ve felt like the disciples, afraid and locked up in a room out of fear?
  • When is a time that you’ve felt like Thomas, wanting to see evidence of Jesus and his resurrection?
  • What do you think it looks like to see “marks of the resurrection” all around us? Can you think of one that you’ve seen this week?

Activity Suggestions: 

  • Try playing around with Jesus’ tone when you read stories in scripture. In places where you may hear judgement, try out hearing Jesus’ words as encouragement. Reflect on what it is like to hear the story with a different tone from Jesus. Do you hear the story differently?  You can use some of these stories to get started: 
    • Matthew 14:22-32: Jesus walks on water 
    • Mark 4:35-40: Jesus calms the storm  
    • John 20:11-16: Jesus appears to Mary
  • Write a letter to your past self that felt judged or shamed. Write yourself a letter from Jesus’ perspective of love, curiosity, and wonder. What is it like to share Jesus’ words of encouragement with your past self?  
  • Spend some time journaling about a time when Jesus showed up when you were feeling afraid or struggling to believe. 

Closing Prayer 

God of us all, you care for us as your beloved children. Fill us with your words of love, curiosity, and encouragement. Help us to turn our judgement into wonder. Guide us to be people of your wonder so that we may continue to live into the beautiful mysteries of the resurrection. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is love: Amen.  

April 7, 2024–What You See, Isn’t Always the Truth 

Mariah Mills, Boise ID 

Warm-up Questions 

  • How did you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter?
  • What happened after all of the celebrations were over? Did it feel like life just went back to normal?

What You See, Isn’t Always the Truth 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! What now?

If you went to or watched church on Easter Sunday, you likely heard something along the lines of: “Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the powers of sin, death, and the devil have been defeated! We no longer have to fear, we no longer have to be captive to sin, we are set free! Death is no longer the last word!” These are the beautiful truths we hold on to as followers of Jesus.

If you’re like me, you probably found yourself watching the news or using social media later that day after church. Through all of the scrolling we’re bombarded with stories about the ways death and injustice continue to wreak havoc throughout our world. We just proclaimed that death and evil have been defeated, and at the same time we still witness so much unjust death and so much evil. It looks like death continues to prevail. When all of the alleluias subside, what do we do with the resurrection? How do we reconcile the promise of the resurrection with a world that continues to hurt and suffer?

Thankfully, one week after we hear the joyful proclamation of Christ’s resurrection, we hear about what happened in the days following the empty tomb. It’s there, in this story we find today about the aftermath, that we find even more good news—as we wrestle with what resurrection means for us, and for the world, Jesus shows up.

Discussion Questions 

  • How do you respond when you see the ways death and evil continue to show up in the world?
    • Do you think it’s possible to still see glimpses of the resurrection in the midst of it all? What do those glimpses look like?
  • If you could ask Jesus one question about his resurrection, what would it be?

Easter Sunday 

Acts 4:32-35

Psalm 133

1 John 1:1—2:2

John 20:19-31

Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings. 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection 

If you read this passage from John and immediately went to “Doubting Thomas,” you wouldn’t be the only one. Often, along with his disbelief, Thomas becomes the star of the show in this passage. People try to wrestle with whether Thomas is doubting. or lacking trust. People wonder if that’s good, bad, or none of the above. Those are all great things to wrestle with at a time when doubt and questions continue to be seen as “bad” in the Christian faith. But if we zoom out a bit, and look at this passage within the bigger picture of the resurrection, I wonder if we’ll get a different perspective.

When we look at this passage rooted in resurrection, I think we find that these encounters with the disciples, Thomas, and the risen Jesus are directly addressing the question “What now?” The disciples know that the tomb is empty, and they’ve heard Mary say “I have seen the Lord.” Now they’re locked up in a room, out of fear for what might happen to them if they were outside. They could face the same fate as Jesus if they were found out. They are afraid of what’s next, uncertain about where Jesus is, and probably have questions about what Mary saw. What now? Then Jesus appears before them, saying “Peace be with you.” Jesus brings them peace in the midst of their fear.

We aren’t sure why, but Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he was making a coffee run, or maybe he really did believe that Mary had seen the risen Jesus and he was out proclaiming the good news. All we know is that Thomas missed seeing Jesus. So, all Thomas wants is what the other disciples had: an encounter with the risen Christ. Thomas wants to see for himself what the other disciples now know, that Jesus is alive. He is adamant, saying “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and his side, I will not believe.” Jesus appears before Thomas, saying “Peace be with you,” showing Thomas the marks in his hands. Jesus brings Thomas peace, and shows the marks of his defeat over death, all in the midst of his yearning to know Jesus is alive.

Today we also ask ourselves the question, “Jesus is risen. What now?” We may find ourselves feeling a lot like the disciples, filled with fear and uncertainty about the future. We may feel like it’s easier to hide and shut out the world rather than be with all those who suffer. Today we are reminded that, through the Holy Spirit, we have received the breath of the risen Christ. This is both a breath of peace and a breath that sends us out into the world as the body of Christ.

We may also find ourselves feeling a lot like Thomas, and I think that’s because we are all Thomas. We have not seen the resurrected Jesus in bodily form appear before us. Yet that does not mean we cannot believe. Although Jesus has not appeared to us to show us the marks of his hands, there are marks of the resurrected Jesus that we can see all around us. When you see signs of hope in the midst of the world’s suffering, those are marks of resurrection.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! What now? We live as the body of Christ in the world, trusting in the promise of resurrection. We do this with all of our joy, fear, wonder, questions, disbelief, and faith in tow. And as we live as Christ’s body, living in a world that still endures death and suffering, we will see that there are indeed still marks of the resurrection permeating all things.

Discussion Questions 

  • When is a time that you’ve felt like the disciples, afraid and locked up in a room out of fear?
  • When is a time that you’ve felt like Thomas, wanting to see evidence of Jesus and his resurrection?
  • What do you think it looks like to see “marks of the resurrection” all around us? Can you think of one that you’ve seen this week?

Activity Suggestions: 

  • Go out and live as the body of Christ in one way this week. Maybe that looks like volunteering at a nonprofit, helping a neighbor with yard work, or talking to someone new and getting to know them.
  • Spend some time journaling about a time when Jesus showed up when you were feeling afraid or struggling to believe. 

Closing Prayer 

God of resurrection, we praise you for the life, death, and resurrection of your son Jesus. As we wrestle with what resurrection means for our world, help us to see marks of the risen Jesus. Show us marks that give us hope for the coming Kingdom, a place where all that has been fractured is restored. A place where death, injustice, and evil are no more. A place of resurrection. Build us up as the body of Christ, and guide us as we proclaim the promise of resurrection in a hurting world. Amen.

March 31, 2024–What is Watered, Will Grow

Kelsey Green, Baltimore MD 

Warm-up Questions 

  • In a world plagued with violence and death, what does resurrection in our current time and place look like to you? 
  • How do you know “Jesus lives”? 

What You See, Isn’t Always the Truth 

Friends, I’m tired. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but the current state of the world has me shuffling between images of pure terror and mind-numbing silence most days. I’m worried about my neighbors, worried about the future, worried about what to say to you. I’m sitting here hoping that this reflection might bring you whatever it is you seek in the holy scriptures…but I’m not worried about Jesus. In fact, the lead up to Easter assures me that there is nothing too big, too scary, too uncertain for our God.  

Growing up I thought of Easter as a big party, complete with fancy dresses and tasty brunches. I knew that something BIG had happened because I could look around the room and see the delight on my fellow churchgoers faces. The deep purples and scarlets transformed into golden hues, candy passed secretly over and under pews. It was a day of celebration and while I didn’t understand, I just knew it.  

When I came to a deeper understanding of the Lenten season and ultimately Resurrection Sunday I began to connect a few dots in my mind. We were so sad on Good Friday, so painfully aware of the absence of the savior. On Holy Saturday we sat in the sadness, much like our ancient siblings believing that the one who came to save us, had failed. Just as in our current reality–it is normal to feel powerless to the death dealing ways of the world. As people of God, as followers of the risen one we are equipped with a new message to combat the powerlessness–that is, if we can believe it. As Paul said in his letter to the Church at Corinth:  

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

My friends, tired though we may be–we have the power to remind those who are perishing that death doesn’t have the last word. That the one who came to save all people, is still at work in the world. We can use our faith to propel us towards action, towards empathy, towards a brighter tomorrow.  

Discussion Questions 

  • Take a moment and reflect on your life so far:
    • What are some things you feel powerless to? 
    • Where do you go to decompress from the realities of our world?
    • Where in your life do you need reminders that “death does not win”? 

Easter Sunday 

Acts 10: 34-43 

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 

Mark 16:1-8 

Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings. 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection 

Well talk about tired! Not to mentioned traumatized, brutalized, exhausted…tired doesn’t even seem to cover it all. By the time we encounter the women in Mark’s gospel this resurrection Sunday, they have been through quite a harrowing ordeal. Their dear friend, confidant, and teacher has been rounded up, brought before a mock trial, and executed at the hands of the state. The men they’ve been following around, brothers in the fight, have been scattered and fled. The terror throughout the land is palpable and yet: the women are at work.

They do not remain bound by their fear but go into service for the one whom they loved. It is customary in Jewish law to tend to the body of one newly deceased and prepare it for burial. Despite their fear, the women go to the tomb, wondering who will move the stone away so they can get to work. I imagine their eyes still bleary as they approach to see the stone already rolled away. That would have been enough for me. Cowering and fearful, I certainly would have run away but they women persist.

Upon entering the tomb they are greeted not by the body of their beloved but by a man dressed in a white robe. The man calls out to them, “do not be afraid!” I can’t help but chuckle because what else would they be? He assures them with a word, “I know who you are looking for–Jesus the one who was killed most gruesomely. Do not be afraid, he is not dead–he has been raised!” I give the women a lot of credit because I would have laughed this poor man to shame. He then instructs them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has gone ahead of them and will see them again in Galilee, just as had been promised. The women, still struck with fear, fled from the tomb. While they were excited, their fear held them captive from saying anything to any one.  

As a preacher I always try to remind people of the mental gymnastics that these women were doing at the tomb early that morning. After going through a traumatizing pattern of events they have gone to do the most normal thing any grieving Jewish woman could do. They went to follow the law, to prepare the body of the one they loved, and the tomb was empty. After all they had witnessed, after all the horrors they had faced, the broken and battered body of the person they loved most was missing. And I think they give the angelic one in the tomb grace. I, for one, would have had many more questions to ask of this mysterious fellow.  

Once confirmed, I too would have had a bit of an issue with what once was dead coming alive. I would have forgotten all about what Jesus had said because grief is a powerful mind eraser. I don’t blame these women for hearing of this resurrection and holding it close to the chest. The disbelief, coupled with cautious joy midway for the exit stage left. For those of us who have read this story before, we know what is to come. Let us beloveds sit in this resurrection joy. Let us not be so quick to move on to what comes next but rather to marvel at our ancient sisters who knew the risen one long before the others caught on. 

Discussion Questions 

  • How do you find joy in the world today?
    • Are you cautious to receive/experience this joy?  
  • How do you share the good news? 
  • If death doesn’t have the last word, what would you say to someone who is deep in their grief/despair? 

Activity Suggestions: 

  • Look for the risen Christ in the world: keep a running list of “God sightings” to bring you joy on gloomy days!  
  • Take time to get outside as winter turns to spring and look for signs of new life 

Closing Prayer 

God of newness, you gave your only son to die for our sake – that we might have new life. In this season of new beginnings breathe resurrection into our dreary bones and awaken us to the needs of our broken world. May our work in you be done to uplift those bowed down. May our hunger for justice be fed in community. May our hope shake up a comfortable few – bringing attention to your mercy. Unite us here and now. Today to the ends of the age. Amen and amen. 

March 24, 2024–Expectation and Reality

Sarah Fryman, Bayonne, NJ

Warm-up Questions

  • What has it looked like for you when the anticipation of an event was better than the event itself? Worse than the event itself? 
  • What about when the event doesn’t even end up happening?

An…wait for it…ticipation!

I am notorious for putting the cart before the horse (or maybe the cart before the donkey???). I get really excited about new things or adventures. I build up all this anticipation. And then the Thing happens…and it wasn’t what I expected. Or, even worse, the Thing doesn’t happen at all. 

The past couple of years have been filled with this anticipation. I anticipated going to seminary, and it didn’t turn out the way I expected, mostly due to a global pandemic. In some ways, it was worse than I expected, but surprisingly, thankfully, it was better than I could have imagined. For as long as I can remember, I have looked at the world through the lens of “What if this doesn’t work out?” It hasn’t been until recently that I was challenged on this by someone I trust. She said to me, “Sarah, but what if it does work out? What if it is even better than you anticipated or expected?” 

A great poem that touches on this theme is “Imaginary Conversation” by Linda Pastan:

You tell me to live each day
as if it were my last. This is in the kitchen
where before coffee I complain
of the day ahead—that obstacle race
of minutes and hours,
grocery stores and doctors.

But why the last? I ask. Why not
live each day as if it were the first—
all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing
her eyes awake that first morning,
the sun coming up
like an ingénue in the east?

You grind the coffee
with the small roar of a mind
trying to clear itself. I set
the table, glance out the window
where dew has baptized every
living surface.

There are so many things as young people that we are told to anticipate–first jobs, getting into college or trade schools, dating, marriage, children, advanced degrees, traveling–and yet, sometimes we hype these Things up, or they just don’t end up being what we expected. Managing disappointments can be a sign of growth, of maturity, and yet it is still so, so hard to do. As people of faith, we sometimes put expectations on God, as we anticipate what our lives in Christ may look like. While there will inevitably be disappointments and let-downs, God usually has something better in store than we could have ever anticipated.

Discussion Questions

  • Take a moment and reflect on your life so far. 
    • What are some things you anticipated to happen by now? 
    • What are some things you anticipate to happen soon or in the near future?
    • When things haven’t gone the way you anticipated, how have you navigated the disappointments? 

Palm/Passion Sunday

Procession with Palms: Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 14:1 — 15:47 or Mark 15:1-39[40-47]


Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

“A little thought for Palm Sunday…

Think about the donkey that rode Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday. People were lining the streets to see him. Shouting “Hosanna!” Waving their palm branches. That donkey might have started to think he was the star of the show. But the donkey had to learn the same thing we all have to learn. The glory is not ours. We’re just the asses that get to carry Jesus in.” – Shane Claiborne

The disciples of Jesus, and the many, many people who followed him around, had expectations. They anticipated the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One. And so far, Jesus wasn’t necessarily meeting those expectations. He was hanging out with the “wrong” types of people. He wasn’t advocating for military or political power. I imagine the disciples were saying to themselves, “Well, if this is who he says he is, then sooner or later, he’s going to have to do something we expect a king to do!” 

Enter: Palm Sunday. Or so one may think.

On the surface, the processional gospel for today does indeed have an air of triumphalism, of kingliness, of a sigh of relief. Finally, this Jesus guy has come to Jerusalem to take what is rightfully his: the title of King. The people are putting their cloaks on the ground, along with leafy branches. It’s like a royal parade. But, things are still a little weird. Jesus is riding in on a humble donkey. In those days, a king would have a huge procession of fancy chariots and horses and it would be extravagant because of course, a king deserves this!

We hearers of the good news, on this side of the resurrection, know that in the days to come, the expectations, the anticipation, the hopes and dreams of these desperate people will – again – not be met. The lives they thought they would have are about to be hung on a cross, under the title, “King of the Jews”. The One who was supposed to come and be the King, the Messiah, the Chosen One, is entering into the holy city on a donkey, heading toward his death. And not just any death, but a horribly brutal, shameful, traumatic death. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, right? This wasn’t the hope, the anticipation, or the expectation that any of the disciples or the crowds had in mind. Truth be told, it’s not that we, today, want to read. Questions are racing through our minds: What if Jesus isn’t who he said he was? What if this is the end? What if all of this was – and is – for nothing? But if we change our negative “what ifs”, look how this changes our questions: What if this isn’t the end of the story? What if this is a path God has laid before us? What if this is Jesus being EXACTLY who he said he was?

Being a human means there will be disappointments. But, being a human means there will be successes, too. How we view the world, the lens through which we experience Things, impacts our responses to them. When we put our trust in God, our hopes and dreams and anticipations may still not work out the way we expect, but we have a God who abides with us in those let downs and disappointments. We have the gift of not only anticipating what is to come in this life but in the one after, too. We have the gift of viewing the world through a lens of hope. Hope is a “what if it does work out?” As we continue our journey with Jesus to the cross, may we anticipate his death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again. 

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you anticipate or expect God to do?
  • How do you anticipate or expect these things to happen? What is your role in making these things happen?
  • What does Jesus Christ as King mean to you?

Activity Suggestions

  • Take some time to think about the expectations people had, and still have, both for the Messiah and for God. 
    • On a piece of paper, write those on the left side.
    • On the right side, write what actually happened, as well as the results of those expectations.
    • Using your discernment, decide if the result was greater than the anticipation.
  • Considering using this as a framework for evaluating how things go in your own life.

Closing Prayer

Surprising God, we know that every good gift comes from you. In our expectation and anticipation of your work in the world, remind us that you have always been with us. Show us that your goodness, love, and mercy are far better than we could ever imagine. Help us again and again to remember we are just the donkey; this isn’t about us. As we journey with your Son to the cross, abide with us. Lead us on the path that you have set out for us, and may we always trust in you and your will. In the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, we pray. Amen.