Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Sunday May 22nd 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Lord to Lord” (Acts 2:34-36)


Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

Divine Service: 930 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11 am

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Oftentimes the split second a Christian says, "The Holy Trinity," eyes start to glaze over and people can think, "doctrine, dogma...whatever." This is the response of the sinful mind; the response of those who cannot discern the things of the Spirit. These things -- sacred teachings from God's Holy Word -- seem so foolish and "religious." We know they aren't foolish and drab, but are they relevant?

After answering the typical questions like, "Is 'Trinity' even in the Bible?" or "Why is this so nonsensical and illogical?" we can finally start to talk about what is REALLY important: The Holy Trinity is about actually knowing God. To know its significance is to know our loving and gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is to know HOW His love reaches us; it is to know HOW we are saved from sin and death; and it is to know HOW He is still with us today.

Tomorrow is "Holy Trinity Sunday." Come, let us gather to be blessed through the reception of Christ's Word and Sacraments!

Also tomorrow we install our newest staff member who is excited about serving all of God's people at Saint Paul's: Mrs. Beth Vecera (wife to Chris). Beth is our new Administrative Coordinator who will be keeping regular office hours for us Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 3 pm.

In addition, Rev. Dr. Scott Ashmon will teach part 2 of his presentation on Luther's "On Christian Liberty."

Once again, Divine Service with the Holy Sacrament and the proclamation of Christ's Word is at 9:30 am and Sunday School/Bible Study is at 11:00 am.


Pastor Mueller and I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow morning!


In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,


Pastor Espinosa

Sunday May 15th 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: Pentecost! The Gift of the Holy Spirit!


Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

Divine Service: 930 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11 am


Dear Christians,

One Christian writer referred to the Holy Spirit as "the half-known God"! He is not the power of God, the "presence" of God, the emanation of God, etc. The Holy Spirit IS God, the third person of The Holy Trinity, our Great God. Without God the Holy Spirit we have no faith, no life, no salvation, no church. Without the Holy Spirit we would never know our Savior Jesus! Thank the Holy Spirit! Praise the Holy Spirit! Bid Him to come daily to fill you! You may since you are baptized and have already been gifted with Him! You received Him when you were baptized! God is with you!
Acts 2 is fascinating. This is the basis for the sermon. It speaks of the "last days," what are these? It speaks of visions, dreams, tongues...what are these? It speaks of the moon turning to blood, blood, fire, vapor...what is all of this referring to? God's holy Law and life-giving Gospel will be proclaimed and we will also teach about these things! Come and be equipped!
We also celebrate the holy baptism of Micah Maher. Congratulations to Maher family! We rejoice with them. Micah is receiving the seal of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit!
We also receive the Holy Sacrament. The very body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We receive this glorious medicine for forgiveness, life, and salvation!
Also, Dr. Scott Ashmon will teach a study after Divine Service on Luther's "On Christian Liberty" won't want to miss this! We are being blessed with an outstanding teacher on a very important topic!
I hope to see you in God's house!
In Jesus' Love,


Sunday May 8th, 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church: “Real and Lasting Unity Found in Jesus” (John 17:20-26)


Dear Christians,

Doesn't watching the news nowadays just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside while witnessing so many examples of disunity?! Tomorrow the Scriptures reveal and give us the opportunity to proclaim our UNITY. This is a sermon I'm excited to proclaim! We need to hear it in a time and in a culture that goes the other way.
Tomorrow we also administer the Holy Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation!
ALSO: we have a special gift for all of our mothers since it is Mother's Day!
Let us celebrate our lives in Christ and once again receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacrament to strengthen our faith and to keep us in Jesus!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa
p.s. Tomorrow's adult bible study is a single study I will present on "The Unity Of The Old and New Testaments" and then on May 15th and May 22nd, Rev. Dr. Scott Ashmon will present Luther's "On Christian Liberty."

Sunday, May 1st, 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today is the Sixth Sunday after Easter which is to say that the Easter season continues: the time of resurrection, the time of new life, and the time of hope which is certain and true. But have you noticed that while we continue in our hope in the risen Christ that our common experience in this life fights against hope? We confess life, but the world throws death at us! We confess hope, but the world stirs up fear and sorrow!
Our Gospel tomorrow is John 16:23-33. In this Scripture our Lord is recorded as saying at verse 33: "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
The answer to the world's counter to our faith is to counter back -- yes, we are indeed in a good fight -- with the Word of Christ. His powerful and enduring Word says that we may take heart that we are in Christ who has overcome the world. This is why we abide in the Word; this is why we faithfully receive the Holy Sacrament; and this is why we remain steadfast in prayer.
"Take heart," Jesus says, "[for] I have overcome the world."
Pastor Mueller and I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow morning.
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Holy Week Special Services


Maundy Thursday, 3/24: "The Last Supper: A Place of Forgiveness"
Good Friday, 3/25: "Golgatha: A Place of Simple Love"

Easter Divine Service is March 27th at 9:30 AM. Please join us for an Easter Breakfast and Egg Hunt right after service at approximately 11 AM.

Tomorrow Sunday March 20th, 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, “When the Wood is Green” (Luke 23:31)


Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

Divine Service: 930 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11 am


Dear Christians,

We launch into Holy Week tomorrow! Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday. Why did Jesus enter into Jerusalem? Why was He hailed with "Hosanna!"? The answers to these questions are totally relevant for us today. Do we really know the significance of the "green wood" for the sake of those of us very aware of our "dry wood"? Do we know how to shout "Hosanna!"?
Let us gather to receive the Gospel proclaimed and to receive the Body and Blood of the Green Wood tomorrow morning...let us receive His life; the life which permeates His people: all of you!
This is Palm Sunday! This is Passion Sunday! Holy Week is upon us! Let us gather!
3 quick notes:
1) Google expanded spam service last Wednesday and it has effected the Lenten devotionals, not only by virtue of bulk mail, but also regarding pre-set type. I'm working on a solution. Sorry for the interruption. Please go to to access devotions.
2) We are taking memorial and thanksgiving orders for Easter Lilies. Please fill out a form tomorrow morning, or send me your requests for memorials and/or thanksgiving via my email: We are asking for $15.00 per lily to cover the cost of the flower + some profit to support the youth group.
3) Ray Hulett is trying to organize our group going to the FREE Catechism Convocation on Saturday, April 9th. Please contact him at This will also help us report to the conference how many they should expect from our congregation.
Thank you and I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow morning!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at Good Shepherd Chapel, Concordia University Irvine at 7 pm: “The Trial: A Place of God’s Will” (Luke 22:63-23:25)


Tonight we worship in the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine at 7:00 pm. CUI is located at 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, CA 92612


Dear Christians,


It's hard to believe that tonight is the last Wednesday evening service in Lent, but we hope that you will join us and perhaps even invite a friend! We gather at 7 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine.


We have been journeying through "Places of the Passion," and tonight we journey into "The Trial: A Place of God's Will" (Luke 22:63-23:25). Our Savior permitted Himself -- as part of His holy passion to save us -- to enter into and to endure His trial. It was a miscarriage of justice and already an ordeal full of denial, rejection, accusation and pain, but it was also a holy place, because in this place God's will was being fulfilled and we were being rescued from sin, death and the devil.


Let us gather in this Vesper's service to receive the Word of the Lord.


In Jesus' Love,


Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow — with TIME CHANGE — Sunday March 13th at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Christ our Cornerstone” (Luke 20:17-18)

Remember to spring ahead one hour this evening...time change, time change, time change!

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

Divine Service: 930 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11 am

Dear Christian,

So Jesus my Good Shepherd, I get that; Christ my Savior, I get that; Jesus the Way to God, I get that, but "Christ my Cornerstone"?????
Tomorrow morning we clear it up and it is a marvelous revelation of what the Lord is to you and all of us in His body the Church!
Come and receive the Lord's body and blood as well. Once again, you will receive His forgiveness, life, and salvation!
Here's the manuscript:

“Christ our Cornerstone”

(Luke 20:17-18)

Rev. Dr. Alfonso O. Espinosa


Introduction: Sometimes rejection can be a really painful thing.


  1. And I’m not speaking of the pain of being rejected when you really want something. In basketball if a defender blocks a shot attempt, we call that a “rejection!” In that case, it’s the shooter who has to swallow his pride, but rejection is infinitely magnified when our dream job is given to someone else or -- even worse -- when someone we love rejects us. All of these things can be construed as bad, but I’m talking about the rejection going the other way.
  2. Sometimes we are presented with a choice and with full awareness, volition, willingness, and perhaps even with gladness, we choose to reject something that comes our way.
  • In 1995, I returned a call to go to a very large congregation in Edina, Minnesota. I know that if I had accepted that call, my life would have taken a significantly different path. Just a year later, I received a call from this congregation. I don’t see how I would have connected to Saint Paul’s if I had gone to Minnesota.
  • Around the same time, I resigned my commission in the U.S. Army. If I had become a full-time chaplain in the Army, I would have made it just in time to serve during the Iraq War.
  1. Back in college, Traci was confronted with a choice she had to make: whether or not to accept or reject me when I proposed to her. I’m sure that if you ask her, she will tell you how ecstatic she is -- to this very day -- that she didn’t let me get away. J
  2. The truth is that I thank God that she said, “yes!” How I thank God that she did not reject me! I honestly believe that she is the only woman who could possibly withstand living with this man who is preaching to you and yet still love him at the end of the day! J
  3. There are, however, instances that our volitional choice to reject can turn out to be a catastrophic decision.
  4. Sometimes when we reject, it can spell our doom.
  5. I know that this simple concept might mess with us Lutherans. We are clear about biblical doctrine:


  1. God chooses us, we do not choose Him. This is clearly taught in John 15:16 where Christ is recorded as saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
  2. It is also true that our very faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Indeed, it is the very work of God (John 6:29).
  3. Now this Scriptural teaching often invites the assumption that since God is responsible for salvation, that He must also be responsible for reprobation or condemnation. But God did not elect Pharaoh or anyone else to be damned (thank God!), but reprobated them on account of their rejection of Him!
  4. Remember that God desires all to be saved (1st Tim. 2:4) and that Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16 & 1st John 2:2).
  5. But rejection is not on God. Remember the words of Luke 13. Jesus cried out to Jerusalem: “…how I longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing!” God is warning us in our Gospel about rejection…don’t reject Him!


  1. So dear Christian yes, you may be wise to reject a free offer for an ocean cruise on Carnival. You may be wise to reject the invitations of certain visitors who come knocking on your door offering another testament of Jesus; and if you’re married, you should always reject any and all temptations to be unfaithful. The list of good rejections abound don’t they?
  2. But today’s Gospel is a powerful warning that there is one thing in our lives that we can never reject and what is humbling is that this message is as much for you today as it ever was. We are never supposed to arrive to a place in our lives where we assume that we are no longer in danger of rejecting. We are always in danger because of our sinful flesh and our sinful hearts which are tempted to reject the One that we need more than anything else every, single day.
  3. And let me put as simply and as clearly as I can: If you reject Christ, if you turn from Him and His Word, your life will turn into a complete and utter disaster.


Part I: So Jesus told a parable.


  1. In today’s sermon I’m not going to focus on the parable itself, but what the parable sets up. I should, however, mention just a couple of things from the parable:
  1. Like last week’s Gospel, Jesus knew that His enemies were listening to Him to try to trap Him. They were the religious leaders of Israel.
  2. They were the tenants who were supposed to take care of God’s vineyard (Israel), but they were unfaithful. God, therefore, sent His Son to the religious leaders, but they rejected Him. That is, they crucified Him.
  1. It is the part after this parable, however, that helps us to focus on the terrible threat of rejection.


Luke 20:17-18: “But he looked directly at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?’ 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”


Part II: We need to know about the Cornerstone:


  1. This is a unique reference to Jesus.
  2. Many teachers and commentators treat the term as being synonymous with a foundation. And while it is true that it is biblically correct to refer to Jesus as foundation that is not what is being said here. Jesus is also
  3. If Luke 20 were teaching Christ as our cornerstone in the sense of foundation, then this would be the image:



  1. Again, the idea is biblical enough, but this isn’t the image in Luke 20.
  2. The language goes back to the Old Testament. Psalm 118:22 says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”


  1. Once upon a time Israel was rejected by her neighbors, but Israel was lifted up and was destined for greatness.


  1. I’m being intentional to talk about greatness, because it helps us to visualize something greater and higher than ourselves. Something we would look up to.


  1. The idea is to look up at something glorious. When the Israelites became the cornerstone, people could look up at the glorious temple representing God’s presence among His chosen people!


  1. Thus, the cornerstone takes on a different character. It is not the foundation below, but the cornerstone above that governs every angle in the building itself.


  1. Here is a picture of a cornerstone:


  1. This is quite deliberate, because it explains a fundamental reason as to why the religious leaders hated Jesus and rejected Him.


  1. Jesus was bringing all the “angles” or “sides” together. To put it simply, He was calling Gentile sinners, outsiders, people without hope, people thought to be beyond redemption, He was calling people that the religious leaders were accustomed to rejecting. But Jesus brings all of His people together. Picture one side of the arch in the picture to represent the Jews and the other side of the arch to represent the Gentiles…they both rise up and are unified through Jesus! This was one reason Jesus was in turn summarily rejected by the Jews.


  1. Furthermore, the early church viewed Psalm 118:22 as evidence of the resurrection. To be the cornerstone above was to be the sign of the resurrected Messiah! “The Crucified is the rejected stone which in the resurrection is made by God the chief corner-stone in the heavenly sanctuary (Ac. 4:11)…(Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 1, 793).”


Part III and Conclusion: So what?


  1. This proper image of the cornerstone above dear Christians quite frankly confronts our pride.


  1. And according to this Scripture, “everyone will be broken or crushed.” (Just, Concordia Commentary Luke 9:51-24:53, 765)


  1. The cornerstone above confronts your pride dear Christian. And when this happens, we do one of two things:


  1. We accept Him by the grace of God.
  2. OR we reject Him.


  1. If we accept Him by His gracious work in us through the Word and Sacrament, then the Word teaches us that it is like falling on Him and being crushed. Our pride is crushed…and this is the key to spiritual healing and wholeness. We must die in order to live; we must become broken in order to become whole.


  1. When we see that Christ is above us, we must humble ourselves. We must confess our sin. We must see that our way is inadequate, and that our only hope is in Him…to trust Him to bring us to unity with God and with those others who know Him. To know that He does this because He’s conquered our sin and our death…He’s covered us in His blood and His refreshing water which drips down on us from above. We know this…you know this, because He died for you and because He rose for you!
  2. We fall…we repent…we know brokenness and as we bow before Jesus, He restores us. He heals us. He imparts His strength to us, our magnificent Cornerstone Savior saves us…saves you.


  1. But we must beware of the other possible response, that response is to reject Him…but if this occurs, we will go far, far, far beyond brokenness…we will be utterly crushed…we will be judged and condemned…then Christ will be a stone which obliterates and utterly destroys…not because this is what God wants (not by any stretch of the imagination), but because we would REJECT Him! May this never, ever be.


  1. Yes, there are some things we should reject…reject the temptation to turn from God’s Word, reject the temptation to turn from your marriage, reject the temptation to turn from loving and properly raising your children, reject things like this…but never, ever reject Jesus…and by holding to Him, you shall be blessed…because He has not rejected you, you are blessed!

Tonight Wednesday March 9th, 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal” (Luke 22:54-62)


Tonight we worship in the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine at 7:00 pm. CUI is located at 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, CA 92612


Dear Christians,

Tonight the sermon takes us to the courtyard just outside where Jesus was being tried (in the house of the high priest) and where -- in the courtyard -- Peter was. Peter had his own "trial" if you will.
From the outside looking in, it appears that it was all disastrous for Peter, but in the darkness, in his denial, in his failure, God did something for Peter. Peter commenced his journey -- provided by God -- for renewal.
Are you going through a dark time, a difficult time? Then hope will also be given you this evening. Bring a friend. Let us worship the LORD!
Also, please join us for choir practice. There will be a rehearsal after service tonight in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. We would be thrilled to have your help!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Sunday March 6th, 2016 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Parable of the Two Lost Sons and the Prodigal God” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)


Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

Divine Service: 930 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11 am


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After almost 25 years of preaching as a pastor, I am more amazed than ever before at the wealth of holy revelation that flows from the Word of Jesus. If I had 10 life-times, I would have more than enough material for preaching! God's Word is an incredible goldmine. We can never get to the point of saying, "We know it all!" But receiving the Word is more than an intellectual learning, but it is also a spiritual receiving through which the Holy Spirit forms our faith. Come to receive for this reason also!
Tomorrow is on a great parable that is almost always inappropriately referred to: "The Parable of the Lost Son" or "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." There are in fact TWO lost sons, not just one, and more significantly the most important figure in this parable is neither of the sons, but the "father" and if anyone is "prodigal," then it is the father whose grace is overflowing and indeed, costs him everything...but he gives and gives out of amazing love and mercy!
This is a picture of God's love for you...whether you relate more to the younger brother/son or the older brother/son (or to a little of both)!
Come to the feast -- God throws a feast for you and gives you His very best: the very body and blood of His Son -- and come to receive His Word proclaimed on this powerful parable!
I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow! He intends to bless you, because He loves you.
Here is tomorrow's manuscript:

“Parable of the Two Lost Sons and the Prodigal God”

(Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

Pastor Espinosa


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Today’s parable from Luke 15 is amazing and over many years now has remained my favorite parable in all the gospels and that’s saying a lot since all the parables are superb and priceless. Jesus taught these extended similes to illustrate what the kingdom of God and the very gospel itself is like in ways we can easily understand. Today I draw from a little book about this parable written by Timothy Keller entitled “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith”.


First of all, the parable is known popularly as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” but this is not a very good summary of the parable, because the parable is not just about one figure, but about three. There is not just one “lost son,” but two lost sons, and most importantly, there is a third figure, “the father.” The father represents God Himself and most assuredly is a spectacular picture of our Savior Himself: Jesus is the father and this is consistent with the rest of Scripture: to know Jesus is to also know the Heavenly Father!


But our popular way of referring to this parable likes the word “prodigal.” The word means “recklessly extravagant” and “having spent everything.” Again it is typically applied to the younger son, but there is nothing more extravagant in this parable than the love and mercy of the father. The father is the truly extravagant one, giving and spilling out a grace that is beyond all comprehension and that is greater than all expectations and normal customs. The prodigal love of the father is astounding; it is beyond measure. It is magnificent and over-flowing and it costs him everything. He gives everything to his sons. That is how prodigal he is!


But first things first: we need to know more about the two sons, they are the lost ones and in truth they mirror humanity. The first lost son is the younger son, he is the libertine, he breaks away from all tradition and morality; he runs from the system. He is going to be his own free spirit. He represents all of the “younger brothers” in our society and culture who go forth to find themselves and to revel in their independence. They often will be the ones who will criticize institutions, the moralists, the religionists, and the snobs who they see as being full of hypocrisy. The younger brothers answer to no one and are proud of it. They are the rebels. They are the ones with no boundaries and no obligations. They are free ones who do their own thing.


The younger brother, the young lost one, is clearly depicted in this parable. He is a disgrace to his family. He dishonors his father. For him to make the request that he made of his father was to essentially express to his father that he wished his father was dead, because this was when the inheritance was to be given. “Hurry up and die dad, so that I can

get what I have coming!” In addition, the way in which he asks leaves room for the possibility that this younger son is also rejecting the custom of the older brother receiving first and to that, receiving more as the eldest, but the younger son did not care. All he cared about was himself! And then he goes to a far country which in itself is part of the disgrace against his family and people, entering into the land of those who have compromised the faith of his fathers, and to make matters worse squanders his inheritance in wild living. When he comes into need he is working under the most despicable conditions working with animals his people would consider unclean and so hungry that he was willing to eat the pods that pigs ate, an absolutely filthy and disgusting proposition knowing what the pods are often mixed with. The younger lost son had reached that proverbial bottom of the barrel. His plan remains self-serving -- for his whole life is not to honor anyone, but only to serve himself -- he knew that if his father would hire him as one of his hired servants he could begin to earn a decent wage and begin to repay his father. But through it all, even with his plan, he was still serving himself…life was all about what he could get. He didn’t love the father for the father. He only loved what he could get.


Notice in verse 1 of Luke 15, the Word describes some of whom Jesus spoke to: the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to Jesus. These were the younger brothers. The rebels and open sinners.



But notice then in verse 2, Jesus is not only speaking to the people who could relate to the younger lost brother, but Jesus was also speaking to “the Pharisees and the scribes”. These correspond to the older lost son.


The older lost son is not an iota better than the younger lost son, but probably in a more dangerous situation. The older lost son was proud and he represented not those without morals, but those with morals. They were the moralists. They were not those who had rejected religion, but the ones who embraced religion. These were the moralists and religionists. They were not the ones who avoided church, but the ones who went to church. They were not the ones who constantly did “bad,” but the ones who constantly – in accord with their outward acts – were always doing “good.” These good, moral and religious people are represented in this parable by the older lost son. When he gets news of how the father welcomes the young rebel son, the older son has a fit. He is full of anger, bitterness, and resentment. He hates the father for what he has done. Remember how the younger lost son disrespected the father? Well the older lost son does the same! He does not speak to the father with respect, but just says, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat [meat was very expensive and rare in this time and place], that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours [he can’t even call his own brother “brother”!] came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” (vv 29-30)

The older son was just as lost as the younger son: both of them were living not out of love for the father, but out of concern and love for themselves. Neither honored the father; both lived for their own benefit and gratification. The younger lost son lived for himself by ignoring morality; the older lost son lived for himself by trying to constantly keep it; the younger lost son lived for himself by rejecting religion; the older lost son lived for himself by trying to be religious; the younger lost son was libertine for his self-gratification; the older lost son was disciplined and self-controlled for his own prestige and power. Both of them demonstrated what truly makes sin, sin. It is not simply a matter of breaking laws, but it is more basically a matter of not loving God at all, but doing all for the love of self.


And this must have convicted the Pharisees and the scribes who were grumbling at Jesus. These people did not care for the love of God, but cared only for themselves. Jesus repulsed them, because the very sinners that they strove to avoid, Jesus was embracing. Jesus was not honoring their self-honor; Jesus was not rewarding their great “goodness” and discipline. Jesus did not respect their great religious lives. Jesus also saw them as lost.


How do lost older brothers behave? Keller gives this wonderful illustration in his book: “If, like the older brother, you seek to control God through your obedience, then all your morality is just a way to use God to make him give you the things in life you really want. A classic example of this is the bargain that the young Salieri makes with God in Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus.” (p 39)


I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of. “Lord, make me a great composer! Let me celebrate your glory through music – and be celebrated myself! Make me famous through the world, dear God! Make me immortal! After I die let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote! In return I vow I will give you my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life. And I will help my fellow man all I can. Amen and amen!” (pp 39-40)


“He begins a life under this vow to God. He keeps his

hands off women, works diligently at his music, teaches many musicians for free, and tirelessly helps the poor. His career goes well and he believes God is keeping his end of the bargain. Then Mozart appears with musical gifts far above Salieri’s. His genius had obviously been bestowed on him by God. Amadeus, Mozart’s middle name, means ‘beloved of God,’ and yet he is a vulgar, self-indulgent ‘younger brother.’ The talent God lavished so prodigally on Mozart precipitates a crisis of faith in the elder-brother heart of Salieri. His words are remarkably close to those of the older son in the parable:” (p 40)


It was incomprehensible…here I was denying all my natural lust in order to deserve God’s gift and there was Mozart indulging his in all directions – even though engaged to be married – and no rebuke at all! (p 41)

“Finally, Salieri says to God, ‘From now on we are enemies, You and I,’ and thereafter works to destroy Mozart.” (p 41)


But in Shaffer’s play, God is silent, but this is not the case in Luke 15 that reveals the true gospel and the true father.


This father is amazingly outspoken and pro-active for the sake of love and for the sake of mercy…towards both sons. And this is true of how He loves you, whether you are a younger son or an older son, it does not matter. His love for you is unconditional.


For the younger son, the father is willing to give up his life for his younger son from the beginning. Tearing apart his holdings and property while he is still living. He is already giving his life away to his younger son and then – in spite all of the dishonor the younger son brought to the father – the father would keep a look out for his younger son! “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v 20) In this culture, a boy could run, a young man could run, even a woman could run, but for the dignified leaders of the land to lift up their robes of honor, probably exposing his legs, in order to run, this was an incomprehensible picture. The father did not care. It was not about his own honor. All he cared about was his son. He ran to his son before his son could run to him, and he wrapped his arms around his son and kissed him, with all compassion being poured out of his soul. And then the younger son tried to put forth his plan and proposal to become a hired servant, but the father would have nothing of it! “’Bring quickly the best robe, and put in on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (vv 22-24)


The father poured out everything he had for his lost younger son. He loved him with an everlasting love and super-abundant love. The younger son would not be a hired servant, but would be identified like the father, sharing in all his wealth, so that all that was the father’s would now also belong to the lost younger son.


But the father was the same with the older lost son. What an insult to remain outside this celebration of life and restoration for his lost younger brother. The older son was too proud, too resentful, too angry. He was rejecting his younger brother and he was dishonoring his father to remain outside, effectively saying to his father and to the world: “You’re wrong to do this and I publically take a stand against you!” But see what the father did! The father came out and entreated him. He came to his older son in the middle of the feast to say and to show how important he was to him. And he entreats his son! He essentially calls to him in humility and then reminds him of his total and utter commitment to him: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (v 31) I repeat these words of the father: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours!” What words of affirmation, and of love and mercy! In-spite of the dishonor and anger of the son and while the older son would not even call his father “father,” the father still calls the son “son” and then reminds him that all that belongs to him, he gives to this son. This is prodigal. This is extravagant. This is boundless grace.


And this is your Savior. He is your father. When you are as the younger son who rebels, he throws a feast for you and gives you His body and blood; and when you are the older son who is too proud, He is humble for you and comes in Divine Service to entreat you, to call you, to serve you and to make all that is his, yours. He gives you the kingdom.


What will we do with this parable? It is for us to get past reducing religion to what we do and do not do. And while these are important, they do not encapsulate our sin and neither do they encapsulate our faith. Our sin is rather seen in how we serve ourselves and avoid loving God. Our sin either serves our wild rebellion or our resentful pride or both. But the Lord does not permit these things to stop him from coming to you, from running to you, from going to you and entreating you, from – again – throwing His great feast for you. Here it is [point to the Holy Sacrament]. This He does for you out of the greatest compassion. He loves you that much. In response is true faith that is formed by this amazing gospel, this magnificent good news: this faith seeks to love God for God, for His mercy, for His compassion, for His love, for His grace; and to do what we do not for ourselves, but for Him and for our neighbor. In faith, we say no to the lust of the flesh because we love the Lord more than we love sin, because now we truly know how great the love of God is.


When we have that, we need nothing else! When we love God since He first loved us, then we have no need to judge and look down upon our neighbor, we have no need to contribute to the divisions in our world. Why? Because we realize just how much the Lord has forgiven us and if the Lord has forgiven us all things, then how can we hold anything against and over anyone else? We have been given new lives, new identifies, and a new love…and why? All on account of our Prodigal God, the Lord Jesus Christ whose blood has covered our sin and purchased for us new lives guaranteed through His glorious resurrection for us. We now live for Him while crucifying the younger brother in us and drowning the older brother in us and instead holding to our Savior Brother, our father, our Lord, and the One Who has set us free to enjoy God’s embrace, His feast, and His entreaty. “Thank you Jesus for loving us so! May we now live for you!”

In Your Service and to Christ's Glory,
Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine