So yesterday we're all at the dinner table, talking about the morning's church service. The conversation turned to the sermon, titled "Unjust suffering," and offered by our fabulous pastor, Jack Roeda (happy 25 years, Jack!). The text was 1 Peter 2:13-25, a passage addressed to slaves about appropriate submission. Next week he's tackling the next pericope: submission of wives and women. Gee, good luck with that one, Jack.
We all agreed that Jack did a great job explaining what the passage says and proposing how it might apply to our lives. Yet we also agreed -- especially given the history of a troubling text like this one and others like it -- that sometimes it's important to articulate what the passage doesn't say. It means this, BUT not that. Deb was the one who encapsulated our thoughts so memorably: "I guess the sermon needed a bigger but." I'm going to be using that one in my preaching classes this year, I'm pretty sure.
And it's not a bad way of talking about those occasions in sermons or political speeches or, heck, English 101 papers when the possible objections are so near the surface that they need to be addressed. Deb says that from now on, instead of telling her students "You should add a section in which you refute possible objections," she's going to write, "This paper needs a bigger but."