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.