Mark 11: 1 – 11 When Hope Is a Hindrance Palm Sunday March 28, 2021


When Hope Is a Hindrance

Mark 11: 1 – 11


(preached March 28, 2021)


The poet Emily Dickinson has written beautifully about the ups and downs of human experience.  In one of my favorite poems of hers, she writes powerfully about hope.  The poem begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”


Hope is a powerful thing.  When times are tough, hope can boost your spirits and lift your sights to brighter horizons.  For example, hope helps with the stresses of parenthood.  When your children are small and trying your patience as kids do, you can hope that as they grow up, sooner or later they’ll learn to behave.  Or when a relationship falls apart, hope tells you that someday your broken heart will heal and life will be worth living again.  Hope is a powerful thing.


Today is Palm Sunday.  In our gospel passage for today, from the gospel of Mark, hope is springing all over the place.  The people who greet Jesus with joyful cheers are full of hope.  They welcome him with shouts of jubilation as he enters Jerusalem.  It isn’t just a lot of noise either.  They demonstrate their welcome by taking off their coats and spreading them on the ground before him as he rides into the city.  In those days, that’s how people would welcome a conquering hero.


Seeing Jesus riding into Jerusalem, the people are full of hope.  They hope that here at last is the righteous ruler the prophets have foretold.  They hope that Jesus is the messiah God has sent to save them from the suffering they’ve endured under Roman rule.  They hope that Jesus will lead them to victory over their oppressors.  Their shouts of jubilation are full of hope that he will usher in a new regime of justice and peace.


Hope is powerful.  Hope can do amazing things.  Hope plays a big part in our sense of well-being.  When times are tough, hope for better times can get us through.  When it feels like all the doors are closing in our face, hope can open a window.  So what about you?  What do you find yourself hoping for this morning?


Maybe you’re hoping that this gloomy rainy day will help flowers grow this spring.  Maybe you’re hoping your golf handicap will improve.  Maybe you’re hoping the next visit to the doctor will show that the pain you’re having can be treated without too much inconvenience.  As human beings, you and I need hope.  Without hope, life would be bleak indeed.  But while hope plays a big part in our sense of well-being, it’s also true that hope can be a problem at times.


That’s because there is such a thing as false hope.  False hope can get us into trouble.  False hope blinds us to reality.  For example, take the reality of aging.  It’s a fact that we all get older.  But one woman refused to accept that.  She had another idea.  This became obvious at a family birthday party, when her grandson asked her a question.

“Grandma, how old are you?”  he asked.


The whole family knew that Grandma tended to avoid the subject of her age.  They held their breath as they waited to see how she would respond.


“I’m 39 and holding,” she said.


But the little boy wasn’t satisfied with that answer.  He asked, “Well, how old would you be if you let go?”


There is such a thing as false hope.  False hope can be a problem.  False hope can blind you to the reality of a situation.  When you’re full of false hope, you refuse to listen.  When you think a serious problem is just going to get better by itself, and you ignore the advice of everyone around you, you’re caught up in false hope.  When you’ve convinced yourself that your daughter’s drug use is just a little harmless recreation, you’re under the spell of false hope.  Hope can keep us going, but false hope can hold us back.


On that first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, the people were exuberant, filled with the hope that Jesus was the messiah for whom they had been waiting.  They were filled with hope that he was the conquering hero who would defeat the forces of Rome.  It was an exciting time.  But it wasn’t long before their hope turned to despair.  As the week went on, they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to lead them to victory over their Roman rulers.


By the end of the week, the Romans had put him to death on the cross.  The people who had welcomed him with cheers were overcome with disappointment.  What they had so passionately hoped for did not come to pass.  But they had been clinging to false hope.  The hope for a victory over Rome was a false hope.


The followers of Jesus had to let go of that false hope.  They had let go to make room for God to do something different from what they had been hoping for: something even more wonderful.  They had to put false hope behind them, and look to what God was really doing.


They had to realize that Jesus would usher in a kingdom, but it would not be a kingdom as the world understands it.  It would be the kingdom of God: more wonderful than they could possibly have imagined.


It can be difficult to let go of false hope, but Palm Sunday says that letting go of false hope is not the same as giving in to despair.  Letting go of false hope opens a way for God to act.  Letting go of false hope makes room for God to work in our lives. It makes room for God to do something new, something different from what we had been hoping for.  It opens a way for God to do the wonderful things God longs to do.


Sometimes you and I have to let go of false hope, so that God can work in our lives.  We have to let go of the plan we were so sure was the perfect plan for us.  We have to make room for the plans God has in mind for us, that will bring joy beyond our wildest dreams.  We have to let go so that God can do something new.


Sometimes, no matter how hard you and I hope, things aren’t going to go the way we hope they will.  But Palm Sunday says that’s OK because when you let go of false hope, you open a way for God to work in your life.  When you let go of false hope, you make room for the possibilities God has in mind for you.  You’re free to receive the wonders God can do, free to enter into a joy the world cannot give or take away.


Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Palm Sunday


“In Love, Christ Came Among Us”     – Bill Leach /Joseph Martin

Maria Ferrante, Soprano

Joyce Carpenter-Henderson, Pianist