God doesn’t vary, but he does change

The lessons appointed for Sunday have me remembering one particular interview with the Bishop’s Advisory Commission on Ministry. I remember the day vividly.  I had driven up from VTS, and the BACOM met in the rectory of Saint Andrew’s Church, Harrisburg while the Standing Committee held their meeting in the nave.  I arrived about an hour early (one never knows what traffic will be like between DC and Harrisburg), so I waiting through the lunch break of the two groups.  It was a long, exhausting afternoon of interview, waiting, interview, waiting, meeting, waiting, and driving.  They were all like that, though.  The reason I remember this particular interview in the midst of all the others, is that in the course of one meeting the the BACOM, I was both too conservative and too liberal for members around the table.  My pro-Windsor stance on the Anglican Communion meant I was bolting for some proto-Anglican denomination, while my willingness to allow a vestry-member who “believed in God, but not the god of the Old Testament” to take a leadership role in Bible study meant I was at least on the level of Marcus Borg, if not John Spong.

Too conservative?

Too liberal?

Yes, both.

The lessons for Sunday are both too conservative and too liberal, all at the same time.  In the lesson from Mark, Jesus changes the game by changing the rule of law. Yet in Deuteronomy, we get the strong word from Moses, “You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.”

Too liberal?

Too conservative?

Yes, both.

I enjoy living in that tension, but I understand that for many people… most people… almost all people, the tension between the two too’s can be too painful.  Fundamentalists like the structure that comes with the literal interpretation of rules.  Fundaliberals like the position of intellectual authority that comes with the literal interpretation of openness.  I don’t live there, but I get that many people do (even if I think we’d all be better off if we gave it all up).

Still, if you find yourself dissatisfied with the bipolar nature of contemporary politics and religion, I offer you, of all things, a word from the Epistle of James, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  For the conservative, I offer you this word, “God doesn’t vary.”  God’s basic character doesn’t change, God is always love.  For the liberal, I offer you this word, “God does change.” In every act of giving, the giver is changed.  For those comfortable in the middle, God doesn’t vary, but he does change.

Too liberal?

Too conservative?

Yes, probably, both.

4 thoughts on “God doesn’t vary, but he does change

  1. Fundaliberal – perceptive.
    But aren’t both these terms relative to th eperspective of the other. I recall moving from one diocese to another only to discover I was no longer a conservative but a liberal. In short, the context we should listen to is God’s. Where it only that easy.

  2. From the Center for Excellence in Preaching, “It is fascinating that the action [James] calls for is dual, in fact, polar, the opposite poles of religion in our Christian world today. Pure religion is about getting involved with the real needs of the world (represented here by orphans and widows) and staying away from worldly pollution. Often we think we have to choose one pole or the other. So, large parts of the church are passionately involved in social justice causes, while other parts are deeply committed to personal holiness issues. James is balanced. Pure religion is about both public justice and personal morality. To think otherwise is to be deceived. The Word calls for both.”

  3. In the words of a (now) old rock song: I’m stuck here in the middle with you.
    But it’s a comfortable ambiguity.
    Your last 3 sentences really nail it for me and there’s nothing ambiguous about them.

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