“I give my opinion”

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Monday in the week of Proper 21, Year 1 (Pentecost 18, 2015)

1 Corinthians 7:25 ~ Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Wouldn’t it have been great if Paul had prefaced every letter with a comment like this: “This isn’t a command from God, it’s just my opinion”? Wouldn’t it be great if every preacher began his or her sermon in a similar way?

I know that’s contrary to what preachers are taught. I can’t remember in which seminary class nor from which seminary professor I heard it, but I do remember a comment being made that a preacher should steer away from saying, “I believe” or “I think” because the congregation “doesn’t want to know what you think; they want to hear the Word of the Lord.” Maybe so, but in all honesty the only thing I can give my congregation are my thoughts; I can’t give them “the Word of the Lord.” (It’s no accident that one of my favorite prophetic utterances is from Amos: “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees.” 7:14) So my sermons tend, in contravention of that professor’s admonition, to be liberally peppered with “I believes” and “I thinks” . . . .

Truth be told, after a quarter century of preaching, I am more tempted than I was when I started to preface every homily with Paul’s words, “I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion,” and end each one with my own, “But what do I know?”