Sermon preached by Fr. Allen On October 8, 2023, The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.
I am sure all of us here are familiar with that psychological phenomenon known as the “doorway effect”? It’s the phrase coined by psychologists to describe the frustrating experience of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do, get, or find. Personally, I blame this effect for why I’m not a better Christian. I mean for forty years now I have been following Jesus, listening to powerful sermons, attending great retreats, and participating in wonderful bible studies, yet I have struggled to put any of what I learned into practice in the real world. Why? The “doorway effect.” As I was leaving those buildings, a passed through the door and all previous intentions totally slipped my mind. It is just as God said to Cain back in Genesis, we need to know that sin is crouching at the door desiring to rule over us (4:7).
I know I’m not alone, because even in our gospel lesson (Matt.22:34-46), we have a Pharisee, having to ask Jesus, “What’s the greatest commandment?” They too, after years of training, study, and commitment to keeping the commandments, walked out of their synagogues into the real world and had to ask: “Why did we come here? What is our purpose?” And Jesus says, “To love Yahweh with all thy will, being, and ability, and to allow that loving relationship to characterize the way you engage with others. Don’t you remember?”
Why does this happen? Because there are malevolent spiritual forces right outside the door ready to provide alternative purposes for us. Our collect summarizes them as “the world, the flesh, and the devil” (the triple threat we have been saved from according to Paul in Eph.2:1-3).
- When we say, the World, we mean the parts of creation at enmity with God, the things of God, and the will of God as its Creator. Nothing of this world is inherently evil, or wrong, in and of itself, (it was created good) but it can become such when used in ways contrary to God’s instruction and will, which typically happens when perceived through lenses of desire and pride.
- It’s here that maleficent spiritual beings (e. fallen powers, principalities, rulers, demons, etc.) misuse all that is in the world to deceive us into consuming our lives in an autonomous pursuit of perceived needs, attractions, and prideful attainments (cf.1Jhn.2:15-17).
- When we say, the Flesh, we mean unaided-human-effort apart from any power of the Holy Spirit, and as such it is what offers sin a foothold in our lives. It is to function from, and act upon, our mortality (YOLO, if I don’t do it now, I never will; God and neighbor need to understand).
- Here, humanity finds itself at the mercy of incurvatus-in-se motivational systems driven by personal desires for feelings of pleasure, religion, power, ego, and/or inner pain (Gal.5:19-21).
- And, then we have, the Devil, who takes advantage of both. He is the spiritual power that pushes against God’s kingdom from being realized among His people. He is behind the dark-current that is flowing against the kingdom of God and His ways, preventing it from taking root or finding footing. His campaign of lies, and influence over cultures, are what cause people to say to God, “We can’t do that in our situation,” or “Your ways are not enough for our situation.” He controls “the pattern of the world,” its systems of pride, apathy, and hate that the world wants us to fit into and that the Scripture calls us to resist.
So, this is what is always crouching outside the door, desiring to rule over us, and we pray today for the grace to both discern the threat they pose, and to withstand the temptations they offer contrary to our created and redeemed purpose. We want to remember why we entered this world: No longer letting the World rule over us with it corrupted forms of love (“love is affirming everything a person feels”), twisted identities (“humans are products of blind, unguided evolution”), and alternative realities (“subjective preferences trump objective truth”). No longer letting the Flesh rule over us as it tries to get us to think: “If it feels right, then it is right” or to “Follow your heart; God will be fine with your left-overs.” No longer letting the Devil rule over us as he attempts to trick us in to putting our throne equal with God’s so that no one including God can judge us for doing what we want and everyone must move out of the way and worship the ground we walk on. We come for the grace to let Christ rule over us. For “the hour…