Everything in the readings this morning could be characterized as reflection on the adage, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians (1THES 2:1-8) about the suffering he and others endured at the hands of the Philippians who thought they were delusional or duplicitous in their teaching. In summary, he says, “We speak, not trying to please people but rather God, who judges hearts.” The Psalmist joins in, saying to God (PS 139:1-6), “You understand my thoughts from afar…even before a word is on my tongue, you know the whole of it…” The gospel acclamation is clear: “The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” None of this, however, can compare with the words of Jesus in Matthew (23:26) which are so stark as to be almost comical. He calls the Pharisees (obviously in a loud and displeased voice) “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!“
Each of these readings is about recognizing the important things in life and telling the truth, not so that we will be seen as more than we are or to judge others as less in order to get ahead, but so that all can come to know the Reign of God and live in integrity and peace together. Sometimes it’s easy to spot duplicity (as in the difference between a camel and a gnat) but sometimes – even in hearing ourselves talk – we need to be attentive to catch the white lies or quick, uninformed judgments. Today seems a good time to stay awake for that purpose.