Archive for the ‘John Oxenham’ Tag

Secrets, Lies, and Misconceptions   1 comment

Oil Lamp

Above:  A Biblical Oil Lamp

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

Job 42:10-17 (January 3)

Isaiah 6:1-5 (January 4)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Luke 8:16-21 (January 3)

Acts 7:44-53 (January 4)


Give the king your judgments, O God,

and your righteousness to the son of a king.

Then shall he judge your people righteously

and your poor with injustice.

–Psalm 72:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


Solomon built the first Temple.  Unfortunately, he used high taxes and forced labor to do so.  So much for justice for the poor!

We cannot keep our secrets forever.  It is good, therefore, that one’s secrets be either positive or morally neutral.  To give to charity anonymously, for example, is a positive secret.  To contribute beauty to the world anonymously for the glory of God is also a virtue.  I think, for example, of William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941), who went to much effort to keep the secret that he was the novelist, poet, and religious writer John Oxenham.  Authors and editors of hymnal companion volumes from his lifetime did not know the actual identity of John Oxenham.  (I know, for I own such books from that time period.)

Why we keep secrets matters.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of privacy.  “None of your business” is frequently a legitimate reason.  Keeping a secret so that glory will go to God, one oneself, is a good reason, as I have argued.  Yet covering up something negative, although perhaps successful for a period of time, will fail, at least in the ultimate court of justice–that of God.

The majesty and mystery of God, in whose presence we are not worthy to stand, is awe-inspiring.  That majesty and mystery also becomes an unfortunate excuse to dodge proper questions which warrant real answers.  In the Book of Job, for example, God permitted the titular character to suffer as a test of his loyalty.  Job insisted correctly on his innocence (to which the text attests).  Job deserved a real answer from God.  Instead he received the “I’m God and you’re not” reply.  Then he recanted.  The tacked-on happy ending, in which God restores Job’s riches and gives him more children, does not satisfy me.  The God of the Book of Job is a figure to recoil from in terror, not to love.

A faithful, awe-filled response to God, who exceeds human capacity of comprehension, includes loving and glorifying God, enjoying God, and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  Attitudes lead to actions.  So, without falling into the heresy of Pietism, I affirm the principle of the Letter of James that works matter.  So does being careful regarding what one says and writes about the character of God.  Many people have used God as an excuse to justify their bigotry and violence.  Some of them wrote parts of scripture.  The standard for me is Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate.  Understandings of God have changed and continue to do so, but Christ is constant.  And that is no secret.





Adapted from this post:


Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XII: Identity   1 comment


Above:  Diocesan Confirmation, the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, April 28, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12 (October 13)

Deuteronomy 12:13-32 (October 14–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 12:13-13:1 (October 14–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 19 (Morning–October 13)

Psalm 136 (Morning–October 14)

Psalms 8 and 113 (Evening–October 13)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–October 14)

Matthew 12:22-37 (October 13)

Matthew 12:38-50 (October 14)


Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 11-12:

Matthew 12:


In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free,

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–John Oxenham, 1913


The letter of the Law of Moses is culturally specific.  So, given the passage of time and the fact of living in a different place, undertanding the spirit of the Law can require some reading of well-researched commentaries.  Such reading has made much of the content of Deuteronomy 12 clear to me.  Now, for example, two themes of which I choose to write stand out in my mind:

  1. The Israelites were to avoid emulating the Caananites.  Thus, for example, there was to be one legitimate sanctuary, not a plethora of them.
  2. The Israelites were to recognize God as the owner of everything.  They were stewards and tenants.

As the unfolding narrative of the Hebrew Bible reveals, of course, the great majority of Israelites disregarded those principles, both of which pertained to identity relative to God and Gentiles.

Jesus, in Matthew 12, faced questions relative to God and Gentiles.  Hence the Sabbath question was a major issue in 12:1-21.  Also, if Jesus was God, what did that fact say about his religious critics?  Of whom were they?  That issue fed much sustained opposition to our Lord and Savior, for carping apparently proved easier than converting.  Even members of our Lord’s family (a vital unit in that and other societies) misunderstood him.  But, for Jesus, the more important family identity was spiritual and fictive.

Within societies our place relative to others defines us, of course.  It can be no other way.  But our more important identity is the one relative to God, in whose house there are many rooms.  May we honor God more than any human considerations which counter it.








Adapted from this post:


No Outsiders in Jesus   1 comment

Above:  Hadrian’s Wall


Galatians 3:1-29 (Revised English Bible):

You stupid Galatians!  You must have been bewitched–you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly displayed on the cross!  Answer me one question:  did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message?  Can you really be so stupid?  You started with the spiritual; do you now look to the material to make you perfect?  Is all you have experienced to come to nothing–surely not?  When God gives you the Spirit and works miracles among you, is it because you keep the law, or is it because you have faith in the gospel message?

Look at Abraham:  he put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.  You may take it, then, that it is those who have faith who are Abraham’s sons.  And scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, declared the gospel to Abraham beforehand:

In you all nations shall find blessing.

Thus  it is those with faith who share the blessing with faithful Abraham.

On the other hand, those who rely on obedience to the law are under a curse; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who does not persevere in doing everything that is in the book of the law.

It is evident that no one is ever justified before God by means of the law, because we read,

He shall gain life who is justified through faith.

Now the law does not operate on the basis of faith, for we read,

He who does this shall gain life by what he does.

Christ brought us freedom from the curse of the law by coming under the curse for our sake; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.

The purpose of this was that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

My friends, let me give you an illustration.  When a man’s will and testament has been duly executed, no one else can set it aside or add a codicil.  Now, the promises to pronounced to Abraham and his “issue.”  It does not say “issues” in the plural, but “your issue” in the singular; and by “issue” is meant Christ.  My point is this:  a testament, or covenant, has already been validated by God; a law made four hundred and thirty years later cannot invalidate it and so render its promises ineffective.  If the inheritance is by legal right, then it is not by promise; but it was by promise that God bestowed it as a free gift on Abraham.

Then what of the law?  It was added to make wrongdoing a legal offence; it was an interim measure pending the arrival of the “issue” to whom the promise was made.  It was promulgated through angels, and there was an intermediary; one party acting alone, and God is one.

Does the law, then, contradict the promises?  Of course not!  If a law had been given which had power to bestow life, then righteousness should indeed have come from keeping the law.  But scripture has declared the whole world to be prisoners in subjection to sin, so that faith in Jesus Christ should be the ground on which the promised blessing is given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were close prisoners in the custody of the law, pending the revelation of faith.  The law was thus put in charge of us until Christ should come, when we should be justified through faith; and now that faith has come, its charge is at an end.

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.


A Related Post:

Prayers for Inclusion:


Edmond Browning, a retired Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, advocated a church without outsiders.  He did not mean to expel the marginalized; rather, he spoke and wrote of expanding the margins.  Everyone in the church, he said, ought therefore to be an insider.  That was his inclusive vision of the church.  It was a vision consistent with Galatians 3:26-29:

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.  (Revised English Bible)

In other words, to quote a great hymn:

In Christ there is no East or West,

in him no South or North,

but one great fellowship of love

throughout the whole wide earth.

–John Oxenham, 1913

This is radical grace and inclusion, the breaking down of barriers and erasing of separate identities, some of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them makes many of us uncomfortable, even within the Christian Church.  So we fortify our walls and stand by our ramparts, so to speak.  Sometimes we even commit schism to maintain these barriers which grace tears down.  We like having a sense of who is an outsider (those other people) and who is an outsider (people like us).

I confess that I am not immune to this tendency.  I catch myself in it more often than my conscience likes.  So, when I condemn such exclusionary tendencies, I refer to mine as well as those of others.  May God deliver us from this sin.





Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 2, 2011 

Adapted from this post: