Oh, by the way

Pastoral Messages | May 12, 2022

It’s like an afterthought at the tail end of a conversation. A side note. A parenthetical remark. Oh, by the way …

A couple that just spent an hour with me in a pre-marriage session, has the woman saying to me upon leaving: “Oh, by the way, have we told you yet that we’re pregnant?”

A colleague of mine stepped in to chat one day, typical of our warm relationship. At the end of 15 minutes, she said: “Oh, by the way, I’ve decided to accept a new job and wanted you to know.”

Exchanging pleasantries with a guy at the church door one Sunday morning, and preparing to greet the next person, he turned me and said, “Oh, by the way, I’m having open heart surgery this Thursday.”

Oh, by the way. Four words for casually introducing totally new (and often serious) information. I understand the value of reticence. Unloading everything on someone else all at once isn’t the only or even the best definition of honesty. If Aristotle is correct that virtue is about “doing the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, to the right extent, in the right manner, and for the right purpose,” well, maybe oh-by-the-way-reticence has its place.

One of three scenarios is probably at play. A person who uses this four-word tool may be thinking, a) “I don’t want to bother you with details of my life,” b) “I don’t really know how to bring up a subject that’s sensitive or that may hurt you,” or c) “I hope you understand that I’ve only brought this up in an incidental way because I’m trying to calm myself down and be non-anxious.”

Interestingly, there’s no evidence of Jesus ever saying, “Oh, by the way …” His operating preference seemed to be more direct, usually deploying big questions in the center of conversation: “What are you looking for?” Or, “Why are you so afraid?” Or, “What is it you want?” He seemed to have more than a casual or anecdotal way of communicating. There’s obvious gravity to his way.

If it should ever happen to you that something embarrassing is suddenly encompassing you, like, say, with your pants, where someone comes up to you and whispers, “By the way, your fly is open,” here’s your rejoinder: Just say (with a chuckle) What do you mean, BY THE WAY! This is serious stuff. Nothing parenthetical about it. Thank you. Thank you so much!

-Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

4 Comments on “Oh, by the way”

  • jerry zinn

    May 14, 2022 at 11:54 pm

    You might know the key 6 words to a happy marriage. “yes Dear, you are absolutely right”
    Tongue in cheek, but some truth to this one as well. BTW –good sermon last Sunday!

  • Duane Larson

    May 12, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    BTW, you nailed this one. Invoking Aristotle too as an interpretive forerunner to Jesus!

  • John Heath

    May 12, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    By the way, it’s hot outside.

  • Larry Price

    May 12, 2022 at 3:05 pm

    Pastor Marty…..It’s amazing how you can take a simple phrase and give so much relativity and make us think. Thank you !!

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