top of page
  • Writer's pictureFather Benjamin von Bredow

Love like a morning cloud.

A Sermon for Palm Sunday

March 24, 2024 at Holy Communion

“What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.

On Wednesday evening at the Tim Horton’s, Lesley and Petrea were having a conversation about Holy Week. “On Palm Sunday,” Lesley explained, “the crowds celebrated Christ as a King, recognizing that he was the promised Saviour, but by Friday they killed him.” Petrea asks, “How did they change their minds so fast?” Petrea has asked an excellent question. How indeed?

But perhaps the question is not just, “How did they change their minds so fast?”—those people far away, long ago—but, “Why do we change our minds so fast?” As we read today’s Passion reading this week at the Bible study, we discussed how every character in the narrative could stand in as a representative of the whole human race. Every act in the Passion narrative is a human act. Judas speaks of our betrayals, the priests speak of our political conniving; Pilate represents our failure to take responsibility; the absent disciples our unreliability.

These examples alone can tell us why the crowds turned on Jesus so quickly: the human condition is is one of inconstancy. We are flighty: we love one thing because it seems good to us at a moment in time, then we love another when the winds change. We love every new Messiah when he is out in public speaking words of power and challenge, but when he gets shut down by people we’re too afraid to contradict we conveniently forget that we were ever interested.

The prophet Hosea gives us words for this: “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). Our love is like a morning cloud.

But there are other examples of what it means to be human in the Passion. This week, someone at the Bible study asked, “What about the women at the foot of the cross?” Yes, they also show us humanity: humanity grieving, empathetic humanity, humanity which lives to suffer and comfort the wounds of others.

But above all the Lord himself, our true God, is also human. He is “the Son of Man,” that is, “a child of Adam,” a human being who stands for all of us. What does he show us? Humanity suffering, certainly—but also humanity patient, humanity enduring, humanity humble, humanity steadfast.

Nothing about Holy Week can be understood unless we know that the cross is “a death Jesus freely accepted” (BAS 199, see John 10:17–18). With two eyes open and a clear mind Jesus puts his hand into the trap. His courage is only matched by his total openness to everything that will be done to him. At his judgement he doesn’t answer any of the charges. “He did not cry aloud or lift up his voice” (Isaiah 42:2). In Jesus crucified, we see humanity illuminated by unwavering, patient steadfastness. The contrast in Holy Week is not so much between how we behave on Palm Sunday and how we behave on Good Friday, but between our flightiness and Jesus’ constancy.

And just as it is above all our love which passes away like the morning cloud, so Jesus’ constancy is the faithfulness of his love for his fellow human beings. Jesus goes to the cross not because he loves suffering, but because he loves us, and going to the cross is what is necessary to save humanity.

The sacrifice we need to make to be reunited to God, the sacrifice of our “souls and bodies,” we do not make because our love is inconstant. So Jesus makes that sacrifice for us: he joins humanity, so that, offering himself to God as Man’s representative, we can offer ourselves to God in him. In Christ we die utterly dying to self-will, and yet taking up our lives again to live by the will of God.

On the cross Jesus’ constancy intervenes to make up for our inconstancy. His patience under suffering makes up for our avoidance of suffering. Jesus’ love for his friends makes up for their lack of love for him. As our offertory hymn says, in Christ there is “Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.”

“That they might lovely be.” That is crucial. The mystery of the cross is that what we could not do, God does for us so that we can do it in him. More simply: we are not off the hook from our duty to live in faithful love and patience just because Jesus dies for our failures. Even if we have been loveless in the past, now in Christ we are empowered to become lovely. Our collect says it so plainly: Jesus dies “as an example of his great humility, … that we may follow the example of his patience.” The patience and humility of Christ, the patience which will endure any trial to lift up another human being, must be ours if we are Christ’s.


bottom of page