Sunday, 26 December 2021

The Last Time Boxing Day Was Also the First Sunday After Christmas—a Short Sermon with reference to Real Life, Is 63:7-9; Heb 2:10-18 and Mt 2:13-23


The last time the First Sunday after Christmas happened on Boxing Day was 2010. Possibly the lowest of all low Sundays. As I listened to this morning’s sermon, I wondered what I’d said on that day eleven years ago. So I looked it up and here it is:

After the midnight service and all, I got to bed around 130 Christmas morning. At 330am the dog we are dogsitting decided she wanted to go out and bark at passing reindeer or anything else she imagined was there. I lay awake trying to think warm thoughts and was just about ready to go back to sleep when at 430am granddaughter Samantha woke, calling her sister Emily. I got in there as quickly as I could to try and head off the house being awakened that early. Samantha told me she had arranged to wake Emily if she woke up first. I told her it was still the middle of night.

I lied to my granddaughter on Christmas morning!

She seemed happy with that and seemed to settle down again. I got back to sleep for another couple of ours. We had a lovely day of gifts, lazing about, good food, family (including Skyping Okotoks and NZ) and naps. And shot through it all was aching fatigue (strenuously denied, of course, by the children) and the emotional hyper-rawness that comes with it plus some grief and anxiety over some family health issues. I’m sure all of you have experienced the same kind of thing. 

This is the context in which the first Christmas happened only, judging from this morning’s readings, more so. Listen to some of the words and things we heard about in the readings: affliction, suffering, death, the devil, flee, destroy, a furious king, dead babies, weeping, loud lamentation and fear. On top of that there was God’s wrath. 

From our Hebrews reading:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb 2.17)

…“to propitiate,” relates to putting away the divine wrath. When people sin, they arouse the wrath of God (Rom 1:18); they become enemies of God (Rom 5:10). One aspect of salvation deals with this wrath, and it is to this the author is directing attention at this point. Christ saves us in a way that takes account of the divine wrath against every evil thing. ( Gaebelein, F. E., Morris, L., Burdick, D. W., Blum, E. A., Barker, G. W., & Johnson, A. F. (1981). The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation (30). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

All this is the context in which every celebration of Christmas has happened since, including yesterday. And, try as we might, we can’t make it otherwise. There’s not enough tinsel or Christmas lights or candle-light services in the whole world to do it. We simply cannot manage life well enough. We need help. Which is the point of Christmas. In Jesus, God the Father, comes to his troubled people, hopelessly tangled in their own sin, so vulnerable to effects of the sins of others, to suffering and death. And he did it supernaturally. 

The angel of his presence saved them

in his love and in his pity he redeemed them

he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isa 63.9)

The only way to get out this life alive is accept the redemption the Father offered supernaturally in Jesus. 

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist. (Heb 2.10)

The only way to get out this life alive is to acknowledge with faith who made us and for whom we therefore exist. 

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2.14-15)

The only way to be set free from that lifelong slavery get out this life alive is to ask for and receive that deliverance. 

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” (Mt 2.19-20)

It might not be the only way to get out this life alive, but it helps to believe in an enchanted creation filled with wonders like dreams sent by God, angels, a virgin birth and resurrection from the dead. 

I wish you all a Merry, Bright and enchanted Christmastide. 

Monday, 29 November 2021

Advent Anticipation—Still Waiting

It’s Advent again. The waiting season. I’m reminded of the old TV ad about the ketchup which is so rich and thick that it takes a very long time for it to come out of the bottle. The song featured in the ad was Carly Simon’s

Anticipation which includes this line: 

We can never know about the days to come 

But we think about them anyway. 

Her words seem sad and not very hopeful. Unlike Carly Simon, in our Advent anticipation we Christians do know something about those days to come. The Bible is very rich and thick with hope for our future. Jesus is coming back. In the meantime, as we think about those days to come, we live in the waiting here and now when the sauce hasn’t yet come out of the bottle.

The children wait impatiently at this time of year, avidly counting sleeps until the big day. We “grown ups” wait, too; for gift buying inspiration, the last minute, a call from a loved one, for it to be over, that special piece of Christmas mail, the results of medical tests, for a separated spouse or a wandering child to come home. Real life with all its joys, awkward inconveniences, hopes and fears, continues. It all seems especially emotional and poignant in Advent.

Carly Simon again:
And I wonder if I'm really with you now
Or just chasin' after some finer day  
The temptation is to chase. The lights and glitter, carols and good cheer make us want to fast-forward to the bright sugar plum Christmas “finer day” right now. But then we miss the deeper, more restful "with you now" Advent rhythms of anticipation and appreciation of God’s rich, thick goodness which can seem so slow in coming.

There are many things that can help us enjoy the anticipation. Advent Calendar devotionals, for example, especially with children. Spending less, worshipping more and giving Presence (Jesus in you and me, Immanuel); the gift of time spent with the people in our lives. From Advent Sunday until Christmas Eve I enjoy lighting up only the blue lights in my decorations. I like the sense of anticipation that is generated as I look forward to seeing the full, multicoloured display fired up on the night we celebrate Jesus’ birth. 

In the midst of the "with you now" realities of your life may you have a slow, rich Advent full of delightful anticipation and, when the time finally comes, a lovely Christmas, thick with joy, wonder and all the goodness of Jesus Himself. Some things are very much worth the waiting.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Come, Holy Spirit, come

Did you know that there is a whole litany dedicated to invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit in The Book of Alternative Services?  It’s on page 123.  As I look at it again, I wonder why, if I take being charismatic seriously, I wouldn’t be praying this daily — perhaps even hourly!  It would be as easy as 1-2-3, wouldn’t it? 

“Come, Holy Spirit,” it says.  Repeatedly.  Ten times!  Amen to that. 

In each petition, it describes one of the Holy Spirit’s activities or properties: creator (Gen 1:2), counsellor or helper (John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7), power from on high (Luke 1:35, 24:49, Acts 1:8), breath of God (Job 33:4, John 20:22), wisdom and truth (Eph 1:17, John 14:17, 26, 15:26, 16:7, 13).  Come, Holy Spirit, with all those attributes, indeed!

Here are the five petitions associated with these:

  1. Renew the face of the earth

When I pray this, I think of revival and all the great awakenings the Lord has wrought through the ages — of hearts strangely warmed, repentance, lives lived in Scriptural holiness, justice in the marketplace and full churches.  Thoroughly prayer-worthy. 

  1. Touch our lips that we may proclaim your word

Most of us Anglicans need to be a little touched in this way — considerably more than we are, actually.  I know, I know; St. Francis said share the gospel always and in every way and, if necessary, use words.  Words, I suspect, are necessary more often than we would like (Rom 10:14).  Try this prayer and, as the Holy Spirit touches your lips, write down and memorize a simple statement of why Jesus and your church are important to you.  It doesn’t have to be theological or literary.  Just something honest and in your own words, using the word “Jesus” at least once, describing how you have been blessed and the hope you enjoy because of his presence in your life.  Then pray and watch for opportunities to share it (1Pet 3:15) with the people in your life who have not yet tasted and seen how good the Lord is.  

  1. Make us agents of peace and ministers of wholeness

Being Spirit-filled certainly helps with this (Gal 5:22-23).  Agents of peace and ministers of wholeness are agents of reconciliation (2Cor 5:18-20).  By the way they behave, they encourage and help people to be reconciled with God and with one another.

  1. Give life to the dry bones of this exiled age, and make us a living people, holy and free

The truth is, “this fragile earth, our island home” (Eucharistic Prayer 4, BAS, p201) is a temporary one.  We are away from the Lord (2Cor 5:6-10), exiled for now and so our bones dry out and we die.  But resurrection is coming — a home-coming (John 14:1-6, Heb 11:14-16) and a new city (Heb 11:10).  There is Holy “sauce” for these dry bones of ours that enlivens us, sanctifies us and sets us free from sin and death.  Only Jesus has the recipe. 

  1. Strengthen us in the risk of faith

John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, said faith is spelled R-I-S-K.  To R-I-S-K is the only way to experience any assurance of things hoped for and to be convinced of things I haven’t yet seen with my own eyes.  Goethe, the 18th century German writer, once wrote:  “The dangers of life are many and safety is one of them.”  This prayer will help us to avoid playing it safe.  Aslan, wrote CS Lewis, is good, but he is not safe.  Neither should we be.  Ours is to step out in faith and let the Holy Spirited winds of God blow through our hair.

In his book, Seeking Spirituality: Guidelines for Christian Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century (Hodder & Stoughton: 1998), Fr Ronald Rolheiser wrote about how Paul, after he had been knocked over and heard the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus, “got up off the ground and walked into his ecclesial future ‘with his eyes open, seeing nothing’ (Acts 9:8) — which is a marvelous description of all of us on the day when we made our commitments in marriage, parenthood, priesthood, religious life, or any other deep vocation; we stared ahead into the future with our eyes wide open, seeing nothing, and walked, probably with some enthusiasm, into that future.” (pp118-119)  May the Lord so strengthen me and you, that we may forgo mere safety and set out on the R-I-S-K-y road with our eyes front, wide open and looking for adventure!

Oh, and one more thing.  I’d add the following petition:  Come, Holy Spirit, gift giver, may we earnestly desire the manifestation of your Spirit in all your spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy.  Come, Holy Spirit, come. 

R-I-S-K.  Easy as 1-2-3.  Amen and amen!


This was published in Taste and See…, Anglican Renewal Ministries (ARM) Canada’s quarterly magazine three years ago. Visit to subscribe and for more info. 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

All Buttoned Up—a Short Sermon in Memory of Myrna Jean Tubman

 Jesus is The One in whose Name we lay Myrna to rest and worship the God and Father who created he——after all, not only was he Myrna’s hope, Lord and Saviour——Jesus is also The One who, as we heard in the passage from John’s gospel Pastor John read to us, rose from the dead and went on ahead to prepare a place for Myrna in his Father’s house—and to prepare places for you and me, too, if we want one. 

Jesus is also the one——predicted and foreshadowed in Carol’s reading from Prophet Isaiah——upon whom rested, perfectly and in full power, the Spirit of the Lord God——by which he was anointed to preach good tidings, to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives. That Jesus. 

And The One, as we prayed together in Psalm 121, from where our help comes, who watches over us, preserves us from evil and keeps a watchful eye on our going out and coming in from this time forth for evermore. 

We can all use some of that Jesus, I think you will agree, at times like this. 

And because of that Jesus, even as we grieve Myrna’s death, we need not sorrow as others which have no hope. For if we believe as Myrna did and as Douglas read in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, that Jesus died and rose again——then, when the Lord himself descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God——those who believe will be “caught up together with them (and Myrna!) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Thes4.17) living large in one of those mansions in the Father’s house that Jesus promised. And won’t that be a day!!! Woo-Hoo! Heaven on a Saturday night!! (from Jim Tubman’s tribute). 

But what do we do in the meantime? While we’re waiting? When our hearts are troubled. When we have to deal with people we love dying and leaving us behind? 

First, as Jesus said in the gospel, we must believe. Believe in God and believe in me, he said. Okay. I can do that. Jesus, I believe you lived and died on the cross and rose again. Like Thomas in the gospel I have some questions about details and there are some things I’d like to be different and some of the people you’ve put in my life can get up my nose from time to time, but, Yes. I believe. Please prepare and reserve one of those mansions in your Father’s house for me, too. 

(We took a moment to say Yes——to confirm your reservation.) 

Strictly speaking, that’s all there is. But the thing is to really believe is to put that belief in action while we’re waiting. How might we do that? Perhaps there’s something we can learn from Myrna. 

The impression I got from Myrna and from Slater and their family is that Myrna lived her life and loved God and her family to the full. A BIG life Jim, her son, said in his tribute. To me, her button art is a sign of that. 

They’re made with ordinary down-to-earth buttons just like the ones on our pants and tops and coats yet they’re beautiful and whimsical and fun and, I believe, an outward and visible sign of a rich inner life blessed by the presence and love of Jesus. I wonder what would happen if the way we live our lives and relationships were more like Myrna’s button art——winsome and gentle and brightly coloured and down-to-earth and a little quirky——and I wonder if then perhaps the Spirit of the LORD would be upon us ordinary, down-to-earthy folk more often, too——bringing good tidings, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, freedom to them that are bound, and we’d be ready, buttons all done up, for the Lord’s descent from heaven and to be caught up into the clouds to meet him in the air and to take up residence in one of those Mansions Jesus promised. 

And what a great way it would be to honour and remember our dear sister, Myrna Jean Tubman, and The One who loves and redeemed her so well. Jesus.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Wind and Fire: Encounters With The Holy Spirit

Jesus breathed on his disciples saying receive the Holy Spirit (John20.22)—Wind—and is the one, Matthew tells us, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with Fire (Mt3.11). To each is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good (1Cor12.7), The Father empowering and apportioning as he wills (1Cor12.110—sometimes gently, almost imperceptibly—sometimes dramatically.  At Anglican Renewal Ministries (ARM) Canada, as Eastertide flows on to Pentecost, we thought it would be helpful to collect share some Baptism in The Holy Spirit stories as an encouragement and show the range of the Holy Spirit’s workings. 

The series so far—latest at the top: 

Pastor Kevin Johnson

Rodrick Gilbert

The Rev Mike Flynn

Janice Renee Ng

Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson

Janice Renee Ng

John Roddam

Holly Roddam

Daniel Joseph—Part 3

Daniel Joseph—Part 2

Daniel Joseph—Part 1

Alison Stortz

The Rev Geoffrey Dixon

Dianne Trinder

Series Introduction—The Rev Gene Packwood—Chairman, ARM Canada

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Jesus Has Changed Everything—a Sermon Preached by Judy Packwood on the Sunday After Easter 2019 in St James Anglican Cathedral, Peace River, Alberta

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (JOHN 20:19-31)

Through the written word, and the spoken word,

may we know your Living Word Jesus Christ our Savour. Amen

Jesus has changed everything. 

Jesus changes everything. Jesus will change everything. The events of two thousand years ago have changed everything, including you and me.  Maybe God loves us?

Christians everywhere, followers of this Jesus who has changed everything, have spent weeks, or was it years? It seems like was a very long time -  plodding through Lent, daily being reminded of how sinful we are, how we make rotten choices and how easily we are diverted to thoughts, words and deeds that grieve our heavenly Father. After the necessary  and helpful somber pilgrimage through Lent, we arrived at Good Friday, where it all got worse, The unthinkable, in human terms, happened. Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ, was crucified, killed.  Good Friday? How can that be? And yet - it is.  Because Jesus died. Because he was killed. And in his dying, changed everything.  

Three days later, on Easter Day, all that misery was replaced with the  celebration of the awesome power of our loving God. Jesus is no longer dead, he is risen, he is alive, God lifted him from death to life. He is no longer in the tomb, without breath, without light, without life. Death, the enemy, the devil, Satan, has been defeated, Is defeated.  And things changed for him too.  The only power he has now is the power we give him when we succumb to his charms, his deceits, his temptations. 

Jesus changed everything for the disciples. 

Isn’t  this a wonderful story in today’s Gospel reading!  Thomas is the one disciple I would really like to meet. He was missing when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples, and so had to hear about the miracle from his companions.  

I wonder what the other disciples said to Thomas beyond the words recorded in this chapter of John.  Did they make themselves out to be super special because they had seen the Lord and Thomas hadn't? I like to think they commiserated with Thomas because he wasn’t there to see Jesus with them.  

They told him we have seen the Lord

What? Really? I don’t believe it. I need proof. I need to see the holes made by the nails, and not just see them, but put my fingers in the holes, touch them. I will not believe unless that happens.

What would be our reaction if someone came into this place and said “I have seen the Lord’?  Would we think him, or her, to be crazy, an attention-seeking delusionist? An interrupter of all that is Anglican, all that is decent and in order? Or would we praise our God for his kindness and goodness and for the great gift he has given the person who says he has seen the Lord. What an amazing thing to experience. Would we be jealous? Would we believe?

Thomas was not there with his fellow disciples when Jesus  came into that room. Jesus knew he wouldn’t be, and still chose that time to appear to the disciples. And when he comes to them again, a week later, when Thomas ispresent, Jesus does not give Thomas a hard time for not believing that the other disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus. He does not put Thomas down for his doubts. He meets Thomas right where he is and builds on that. Can we do any less for the people, especially the unbelievers that the Lord puts in our lives? 

And it seems to me that it is natural to have doubts sometimes. I do - there are seasons in my life when I question just about everything. The key to this, for me, is not to live in those doubts.  I know I can share my questions, my doubts, with the Lord, in prayer, and trust that He will help me deal with them, however that looks and in his time. Our God, who changed everything by allowing his Son to die so that we can be saved from sin and death, can probably manage to help me with my doubts. 

Julian of Norwich

And so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly; I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well . .  And in these words God wishes us to be enclosed in rest and peace.

Why didn’t Jesus wait until all the disciples were there before showing himself to them? Perhaps it was because Jesus knew that 2000 years later, each one of us would need to hear this story - the doubt, the need for proof, Thomas’s declaration “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus’ words to Thomas. “ Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  

We have not had the privilege of seeing, in person, the resurrected Jesus.  We are still a blessed people if we believe. Jesus says so. 

Jesus also changes things in our ordinary everyday lives. 

James Ryle said

Healthy things grow

Growing things change

Change challenges us

Challenge forces us to trust God

Trust leads to obedience

Obedience makes us healthy

Healthy things grow . . .

Gene and I do our best, mostly, to follow Jesus. Or rather, to let him lead.  That is harder for me than following. And because of this following thing, we also do our best to listen to God in the power of his Holy Spirit. We have recently experienced a change, a somewhat cataclysmic change — story of move to Regina.  Word came to us as we drove home in June. Good things - house sold in a very down market, free storage space, found a great cottage in Regina. Not so good things - Dealing, through the grace of God, with less than helpful remarks such as ‘gee, I wouldn’t live in Regina if it were the last place on earth’. Just smile and wave, boys!  Anyway, lots and lots of God-given change which has challenged us and delighted us and sometimes has caused us to grieve. And because Jesus is involved, our lives have changed, we continue to be challenged. And we also continue to work on trusting and obeying, mostly,  and our spiritual health improves. 

Jesus changes us - if we will only let him.

Today, as on every Sunday when God’s people gather to worship him and celebrate the Eucharist, we have the opportunity to acknowledge the magnificent event of Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

And as always when we encounter our Lord Jesus with open hearts and minds and hands, we will be changed. As we remember what God in his love and mercy has done for us and as we come to the altar this morning to receive Jesus Christ’s body and blood, to be changed, we, with Thomas, can proclaim “My Lord and my God”.

Amen. Alleluia