Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow Sunday March 29th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: Confirmation!

28Mar/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

There is no Bible Study or Sunday School tomorrow due to our Confirmation reception!

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)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow is one of the most important days at Saint Paul's since our first official restart Sunday on April 10th, 2011. We will witness the confirmation of 14 young confirmands! What an amazing gift from God we will get to witness! The Lord promised, "Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32) They will confess before YOU and we will have the opportunity to be inspired in hearing the faith that we all confess and which prepares us to properly receive the Holy Supper.
This promises to be a very holy, sacred, and joyous occasion.
Your support of our confirmands is very much appreciated. Please pray for them as they prepare to make their good confession:
1. Henry Kim
2. Caroline Kim
3. Shane Perry
4. Joshua Levering
5. Katherine Espinosa
6. Bryan Espinosa
7. Michael Panichi
8. Catherine Loy
9. Doug Cavanaugh
10. Sean Cavanaugh
11. Joshua Bradford
12. Faith Ackley
13. Bethany Dawn
14. Lily Binoya
_________
Also: We need help for our Holy Week and Easter CHOIR!!!! Please help us...all ages may participate!

Our first rehearsal is this coming Thursday evening at 5:30 before the 7 pm Maundy Thursday service at the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University.
That's Thursday, April 2nd at 5:30 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel...we would love to include YOUR voice.
Please contact our organist/choir director Karissa Lystrup if you have any questions:
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tonight at 7 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine: “The Sign of Mystery” (Luke 23:33)

25Mar/15Off

Dear Christians,

Tonight is the LAST Wednesday night service in the season of Lent. Next week is Holy Week and whereas we will have a Maundy Thursday service and a Good Friday service, our Wednesday nights wrap up tonight. I'm kind of saddened by that...these have been a special blessing. I hope you'll venture out as we continue our sermon series on "The Sign of the Cross." Tonight we meditate on "The Sign of Mystery."
Please invite a friend. I hope to see you at 7 pm tonight.
May the Word of Jesus permeate our hearts this Lententide!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor
p.s. On Weeknights we meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

Service Time: 7:00 pm!

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

  1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road
  2. Turn right onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

  1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4
  2. Turn left onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

Sunday March 22nd 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Greatest Priest” (Hebrews 5:1-10)

21Mar/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am

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)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What a phenomenal blessing we have: we still live in a country where we are free to gather out in the open, in broad day light to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no entrance fee or cover charge. We are welcomed into the household of God and given the saving and powerful Word of Jesus and His precious Sacrament that He Himself gave to His Church. We gather also so that we may encourage one another and share His love. We gather in share in mission and ministry...we are so blessed!

Tomorrow we will focus on a book -- actually a letter (though some designate Hebrews a "sermon") -- which is an amazing portion of God's Word that teaches so much more about our Lord Jesus Christ. In tomorrow's rich text we learn that Jesus our Savior is also our Priest. The word is about the one who "stands in the middle" between God and us. He is our "middle man," he is our High Priest, the Greatest Priest. Let's gather to become more equipped in our understanding as to why this office of Christ is so important!

Invite a friend, or two or three! We want to share the love of Christ and the saving Gospel with all!

Also a few reminders:

  1. We need your help for Choir!

Lend your voice to St. Paul's Choir as we prepare musical offerings for Holy Week!  Contact our Organist and Choir Director, Karissa Lystrup for more info. All ages are welcome! (Email: klystrup@yahoo.com, Cell: (714) 420-0291)

  1. Tomorrow after Bible Study and Sunday School is Confirmation at 3:00 pm. This is our LAST Confirmation class before Confirmation Sunday on March 29th. We need at least one parent present for the first 15 minutes of the class!
  1. TODAY -- Saturday, March 21st -- the high school group gets together at Jim and Vickie Hauter's at 24972 De Salle Street at 4 pm. We are watching the DVD "God's Not Dead" and of course there will be FOOD! Please come! I can't wait to hang out with our awesome high school group!!!

In Jesus' Love,

Pastor Espinosa

Tonight Wednesday March 18th 2015 at Saint Paul’s Gathering at Good Shepherd Chapel Concordia University at 7:00 pm: “The Sign of Decision”

18Mar/15Off

We meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

Service Time: 7:00 pm!

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

  1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road
  2. Turn right onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

  1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4
  2. Turn left onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tonight we continue our sermon series on "The Sign of the Cross," and this evening's focus is the cross of our Savior as "The Sign of Decision." In the face of the cross of Christ, decisions must be made; decisions are made! Come and hear about which decisions lead only to despair and which decisions are the core of our hope and peace.

Please invite a friend, we gather in the Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine at 7:00 pm.

Also, please help us recruit for this year's choir at Saint Paul's. Please contact Karissa if you're able to help!

Here's an announcement from Karissa: Lend your voice to St. Paul's Choir as we prepare musical offerings for Holy Week!  Contact our Organist and Choir Director, Karissa Lystrup for more info. All ages are welcome! (Email: klystrup@yahoo.com, Cell: (714) 420-0291)

In Jesus' Love,

Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow March 15th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Eternal Life” (John 3:14-21)

14Mar/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am

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)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

God wants you to be certain of the greatest gift He has given to you: ageless life, endless life, overflowing life...eternal life. But...
1) What has moved Him to give you this gift?
AND
2) What guarantees this gift?
And when I say "guarantee" I mean it. The Christian has no need to doubt their eternal life. The Christian has every reason to celebrate their eternal life...even in the face of the most difficult circumstances in this world.
Tomorrow you will hear about the indescribable love that the Father has for you and the powerful assurance you have of His love through the saving work of your bother and Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, to top it off, you will receive the body and blood of Christ to fill you with -- once again -- with this very eternal life.
Invite a friend to hear the saving Gospel tomorrow.
I look forward to seeing you in God's house tomorrow morning!
Here is the manuscript of tomorrow's sermon:

“Eternal Life” (John 3:14-21)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loved you so much that He gave His life to save you, so now you are saved; now you are forgiven no matter what. Amen. My relationship with my father was inextricable. People talk about how easy and common it is for children to idolize their dads (esp. sons towards their dads). Kids do that. He was easy for me to idolize. Though he had only a high school diploma, he made his way through the world in becoming a world-class journeyman mechanic. If it had an engine and wheels, he could fix it. Tractor, big rig, truck, car, motorcycle...it didn’t matter...God really gifted him. He could stand back and examine two things: the sound of an idling engine and the tint of the exhaust...just from these two things, he could diagnose in a way that to this day I find astounding. He had been a U.S. Marine. He was strong; a man’s man. But then we grow up and the idealizing starts to fade right? We all understand, but I have to say that even to this day as I am almost 50 years old, I continue to marvel in the gift that God gave me in my father. The physical strength and endurance; the skill in mechanics are not so much the focal point, however, but now I think more about other things...he worked like crazy to support his family (he quite simply taught me to work hard and not pay a second thought to it), but he was always giving...and he was so fantastically generous; he was gracious. Why? Was it because I was such a great kid? Well actually, no, I wasn’t. Whatever motivated my dad, I am quite sure it was not because I was so well behaved and a poster-child for warming your parent’s heart. I have the unsavory reputation in my immediate family, that I – the youngest child – was for the most part responsible for my parent’s grey hairs. My grandmother called me (in Spanish) “diablo” (I know, way too much information about your pastor), but imagine how funny for some of my family members who know that diablo became a pastor! But my father was always pouring out his love which was way beyond anything I could possibly have earned. That is what amazes me about my father. I still want to be like him.

 

And while I know that he did not actually grasp the Gospel of Christ – in his understanding -- until his later years, I think about how unbeknownst to me I was receiving a living picture of the Gospel itself from my father even from a very young age. He wasn’t afraid to discipline me and that he did, but he never, ever led me to question whether or not he loved me. I’ll never forget when I was so sick that I was delirious as a little boy, and yet I can remember his carrying me into the doctor’s office in the middle of the night as I was burning up with scarlet fever; I’ll never forget our hiking in the mountains when I was still a boy and my tripping and falling and tumbling down...he leaped down and dug his heels into the steep slope and caught me. I’ll never forget being in college and my car breaking down before descending the grape vine and I couldn’t believe how fast he got there...and he was so adept at mechanics, I was able to drive the car home after his make-shift repairs and he really didn’t even get on my case. He “just” loved me. Even when he called me a “knuckle-head,” he was still loving me!

 

I have realized that the Lord gave me a glimpse, just a little tiny glimpse of the Gospel from my other Father, my ultimate Father...and your ultimate Father. Why does He love us so...why? You sin, He still loves you; you rebel, He still loves you; you forget about him; He still loves you; you wander away, He still loves you; you try to ignore Him, He still loves you. Why does He love us so? Why? We can’t give an adequate answer...He just does. He is love (1st John 4:8 & 16). No matter how many times you’ve screwed up, He still loves you. But we need to understand that this isn’t cheap talk. This isn’t “paint God the way you want to paint Him so that you can tell yourself that He loves you (whether or not it’s actually true),” no way. This is absolutely the case. This is a real state of affairs: your Heavenly Father – THE Heavenly Father, Maker of heaven and earth – actually and truly loves you this way. This is an objective fact.

 

How do we know? The “how do we know” is the answer; it is the Gospel, the Good News, the wonderful, wonderful Good News. I’ve been handling, teaching, preaching on John 3:16 for a long time, but I’ve got to tell you that this text from God’s Holy Word NEVER ceases to amaze me. As I prepared for today’s sermon I thought and still think: “No wonder we call this “The Good News,” the saving Gospel. It is beyond sweet to the soul; it is the anchor to our peace; it is our confidence that we will live beyond the portal of physical death; it is our assurance that no matter what, we are loved by the Lord of Life and that therefore we have life that by definition can never cease. You Christian – soak it in – right now as you trust in Jesus Christ, you have in your possession eternal life.

 

The Word of God says at John 3:14 that the Lord Jesus had to be lifted up on the cross. It uses the word “must” and this little word shows the compulsion within the heart of God towards you. He saw that you were in big trouble. He knew it and in-spite of your sin that causes you to want to do your own thing, He made Himself send His Son because He loved and loves you.

 

But is this Gospel really for you? Yes and here again, no need for speculation or guessing. Verse 15 says “That whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This wording “whoever” is an expression of a universal situation. “Whoever” is another way of saying “everyone” or “anyone”...salvation is extended to all. Are you part of the “all” amongst humanity? Are you human? If you could answer “yes” to either of those questions (hopefully to both those questions, J), then yes, you are included. And as you believe through the power of this Good News that opens hearts and minds and literally brings light into your soul and truth into what you know; then the Scriptures are here teaching: you HAVE eternal life. It’s already yours. This is not a future prospect or potential gift. You’ve got it right now as you believe in Jesus Christ! And when combined with the whole sentence in the original language it means, “that [you] may keep on having eternal life.” And it’s not about how strong or weak your faith is. What matters is in WHOM your faith is in; that is what counts and when the answer is Jesus, then that’s it...through that ONE thing (Jesus!) you HAVE eternal life. That’s a fact. This is your confidence. This is your security. This is your salvation! “Whoever believes in [the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith,] may have eternal life. [John 3:15] Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ’s merit.” [FC SD VII 70-71]

 

God loved you so much that He desired to give you life that never ends and He accomplished that – and proved His love for you – by giving you Jesus. And when you trust in Him, you HAVE – here and now – eternal life. And man is this life something to get excited about! The apostle John makes a huge deal about this wording. In His Gospel he describes this gift to you called “eternal life” about 17 times. This is special life, not just any life...not mere animation, not mere biology, but ageless life; endless life, beginning now and lasting forever life. And this life – this phenomenal gift that is yours – teaches us about the big picture. This life cannot be scathed by physical death, because this life has conquered ALREADY the greater death. You see physical death is just the symptom of a greater death. You know about symptoms. If you’re sneezing, coughing, have a fever...you have the flu. The real problem is not the sneezing, but the real problem is the flu. Physical death is a symptom, the real problem is sin that leads to death that is permanent separation from God...THAT is what the everlasting life of Jesus has already fixed. So someone might say, “Then why do we who believe still have to experience physical death?” Answer: our physical death is a left over from our former condition. Here’s an analogy: the caterpillar has a new life coming, but it must still experience its cocoon before it becomes a butterfly (the cocoon becomes a left-over of the caterpillar life)...don’t be afraid of your “cocoon,” it’s just a “cocoon,”...you haven’t seen anything yet! Your Savior couldn’t be held in that tomb...His cocoon couldn’t hold Him! You’ve only just begun to live. Therefore, Christians despise death. We look down on it, because the evil one tries to distract us by it...he tries to raise fear through it...but this is the truth Christian: when you physically die, you will keep on living...fully you; fully saved; fully secure; full of life because you have received the special life, the ageless life, the eternal life through Jesus Christ!

 

Lenski: “He bestows it, he alone, but does this by kindling faith in us. Thus faith has life, and life is found where faith is. The faith that clasps the Christ uplifted on the cross makes us alive in and through him. A thousand evidences show the change from death to life, namely every motion of that life Godward, Christward, against sin, flesh, world. And this life is ‘eternal,’ it goes on endlessly unaffected by temporal death, except that then this life is transferred into the heavenly world.” (pg 257 in his corresponding commentary on John)

 

But again, how can you know; how can you be sure...because your Father loves you. And nothing compares to this love. We can’t find anything in this world – even in the midst of the most impressive human relationships – that even comes close to this love that the Father has for you.

 

John 3:16 is the only place in John’s entire Gospel where God the Father is said to love the world. (128 Kostenberger) And John 3:16 is where God’s love for you is truly astounding and beyond words. There is this word in the Greek...where in English it reads that God gave His “one and only” Son, that “one and only” is monogenas. This word stresses the greatness of the Father’s gift to you. In addition, whereas verse 17 uses the word “sent”...that God “sent” His Son for you, here in verse 16, the word is that God “gave” His Son for you...put these together. The Father, your Father, our Father...gave as in “gave up” and  sacrificed the love of His life; His Son from His very heart...His monogenas Son, His one-of-a-kind Son; His most cherished possession; His most beloved...He gave up THIS Son so that you would be saved from sin and death. It must have broken His heart...and YET, THAT is how much God loves you. It is astounding love; it is overflowing love; it is logic-defying love.

 

2nd Corinthians 5:19: “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

 

Romans 5:8: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

The Father sent His “one-of-a-kind” Son to show His miraculous, overflowing love...and Jesus Himself loved you the same way, but the Father also sent His Son out of His great concern for you. He saw your condition in sin. Luther is bold – as always – and completely accurate: “All men are already condemned and imprisoned to be damned eternally, but the Son of God was given to us to redeem us from that judgment.” (AE 22:380) Our Father saw that we were in critical condition. So He acted in the greatest love. I’ve testified about my dad’s love. I was a child. I was burning up with a fever...he acted; it was a critical situation. The Father saw you...you were burning up with a fever designed to keep you in condemnation; to consign you to eternal separation from God; to put you in hell... but on account of His overflowing love, He acted. He sent His Son to “save”...the original word is whole and complete salvation...for your soul and for your body; for all of you. On account of Jesus’ saving you from sin and death, now even your physical body will be completely restored!

 

But inherent in this Good News is an implanted warning: some people reject the life and light of Christ. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18) When my dad came to rescue me in my broken down car stuck in the mountains in Gorman, what if he had showed up and I said, “No thanks dad...sorry you made this long trip, but I don’t want your help!” What would you say to such a response to my dad’s loving help? As crazy as this might sound, this is what many people choose to do towards God. And we need to understand, this doesn’t put God in a position to conduct Himself in a vindictive or retaliatory way (so many folks don’t get this)...God still loves the one who even rejects Him...but God doesn’t force His love. Love is something by nature that is freely given and freely received. You can’t force love. If you did, it wouldn’t be love. But people choose to keep themselves apart from God’s overflowing love. They put up a barricade and say, “No thanks!” Lewis wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.” (The Great Divorce, MacMillan: 1946: 72) God is just, and in this case, He permits what is just, esp. when that is what a person wants.

 

But faith – which God gives through His Word – prevents condemnation. It thrusts a person from death to life. It releases the soul from prison. It removes a person from the pathway to hell. And here, just to use the word “hell” conjures up so many weird images, but fundamentally, it means to go on existing in a such a way that a person’s “replacement god” is what they get for eternity. Here, think of a little snap-shot: the Israelites once received bread from heaven – “manna” as it is called – and they started to treat the manna as more desirable than the Giver of the manna...so they got what they wanted: manna. Manna, manna, manna, endless manna...until they were getting sick over manna...this is a clue about hell. I’m not trying to make light of it. Trust me. It is the endless reception of selfish desire. It is insanity; it is depravity; it is getting sick of the craved thing...it is choosing the things of creation over the Creator. Have you ever realized that when you were a kid you loved to eat certain things, but now you can hardly stand that thing? Well think of that, but infinitely worse.

 

Lewis again gives us an interesting picture of what I’m trying to describe. Napoleon who was transfixed on military might, strategy, and victory had made his god known: his own power. He is pictured in Lewis’ theoretical hell this way: “Walking up and down – up and down all the time – left-right, left-right – never stopping for a moment.” (The Great Divorce p. 20) He is for eternity muttering to himself why he finally lost, blaming others, unable to stop his lust for absolute power, never resting, never content, forever frustrated. The Word of the Lord describes what we call hell this way in the very last verse of the book of Isaiah:

 

“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24)

 

What puts a person in this position? One thing: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (verse 19) And verse 20: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

 

Let me take you through a quick lesson: You may have noticed that the two verses use the word “evil” and “wicked.” We all have sin and when sin breaks out into action, it is sinful or to put it another way, it is “evil” (esp. when it occurs when we know better, thus we pray to the Lord, “deliver us from evil”), but what if evil itself is pursued? What if evil is acted out intentionally, deliberately, as a way of living? Then that is wicked or it is the verification of the investing in a “worthless” life. It is the unrepentant pursuit of evil. It is “active evil.” It is unobstructed. This is an important detail. That is, the wicked person intentionally lives in evil. This person is saying, “Jesus, no thank you, I reject your light and life; and I want to choose instead my way.” And such a life runs from the light of God, not wanting their way exposed for what it is.

 

Have you sinned? Yes, you have. Have you committed evil? Most likely, yes, your sin has surfaced. But are you continuing in that evil with deliberate repetition, unrepentant and pushing away God’s call? Then there is a warning inherent in this powerful section on God’s Gospel. Upon further reflection, St. Augustine put all of this in perspective from the view of the Christian:

 

“He that does truth accuses his evil works in himself, spares not himself, forgives not himself, that God may forgive him: for that which he desires God to forgive, he himself acknowledges, and he comes to the light; to which he is thankful for showing him what he should hate in himself.” (NPNF1 7:86)

 

Dear Christians this is to be of great comfort to you: those who have eternal life are confident of eternal life not on account of themselves – no, how could that be the case when there are too many things within ourselves that we should very much not love, but hate? – but you are confident, rather, in Jesus! The Father’s great love has broken through...you recognize it, confess it, you take true comfort in it: it is a love that gave His very best; His one-of-a-kind Son...it is astounding love; it is overwhelming love and as you believe it, trust it, and hold it...something continues to happen: you receive eternal life, endless life, ageless life, overflowing life...life that will not be impeded by your upcoming little cocoon. You will not only continue to live, but live in the light of God. This light too, however, is also already yours...and it is known through the truth of God’s Word...in light you know what to confess, in light you know who to hold on to; in light you know you’re forgiven, you know what the blood of Christ has done for you...all condemnation is GONE! So John concludes, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out by God.” (21) Your “work” is to confess your Savior...this you are even now doing; your “work” is to receive His life...as you continue to do esp. as you receive once again this day His body and blood...your “work” is Christ’s work in you, your faith...no matter how weak, no matter how strong...it is faith in Christ...and this is why you know the greatest love...and this is why – dear Christian – you have eternal life!

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Jesus is Scheduled To Meet Up with Us Tonight Wednesday, March 10th at 7 pm Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, CA

11Mar/15Off

We meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

 

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

  1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road
  2. Turn right onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

  1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4
  2. Turn left onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Dear Christians,

This is the day we've been given...this day is all we have...we have a chance to worship in Spirit and truth tonight at 7 pm.
Hope to see you there. We continue our series "The Sign of the Cross"...tonight, "The Sign of Agony".
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

7Mar/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am

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)

 

Dear Christians,

So what is your "orientation"? I know, I know, a loaded word! Guess who is addressing it tomorrow in Divine Service?! We are not to dance around the hot topics of the time, but come and be prepared to be challenged. Come to receive Law and Gospel.

Also, come to receive Jesus' body and blood. This gift is for the life of the world...it is for YOU!

ALSO: Day Light Savings Time: spring ahead 1 hour. If you don't, you'll be an hour late to church!!!

Finally, tomorrow we are offering a brand-new adult Bible Study:

Worship: The Big Picture. The Divine Service has been used for most of the Church’s history. We follow it in worship every week, using several different musical settings. Our Sunday Morning Bible class, taught by Pastor Mueller, will look at why we use this service and how the pieces fit together to prepare us, aid us in receiving God’s gifts, and help us to respond in faith and gratitude. Bring your bulletin and Bible as we look deeper into the Divine Service.

Hope to see you in God's House and having conquered Day Light Savings Time!

Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Christ: Our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification & Redemption”

(1st Corinthians 1:30)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ who is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. Amen. Our life as the people of God – our spiritual and physical life; our whole life – comes from God. He has gifted you with life because He is love. That’s what love does: it extends and blesses life. The Lord of life who is love; loves you and extends life to you. That’s how much He loves you; and the fact that you are alive right now proves it! He gives you life and there is nothing else that compares with having life...we wouldn’t trade it for all the gold and diamonds in the world! But St. Paul in our epistle text this morning traces this amazing gift of life from God as having its basis in four things. And if you are going to truly be knowledgeable and thankful for what the Lord has given to you, you should know about these four things that form the pillars of your life and love! Without these, there is no life, there is no love. And that’s putting it mildly.

 

St. Paul teaches that your life from God is “in Christ Jesus” who has become your source of life and you know it and experience it in that the Lord Jesus gives you these four things: 1) His wisdom poured out from His Word, 2) the acquittal that you are freed from sin and death and now holy and righteous in the eyes of God, 3) the holiness that follows for us who live in the Holy One Jesus, and 4) full salvation from sin and death...you are now in a place, a status, a condition, a sphere that means you are safe not just for a while, but for eternity! “This happens, because of the righteousness of another, namely, of Christ” (Ap V 184, TLSB 1948).

 

Paul had to address these things because he was writing to Christians in a big city in Greece that was not unlike the big cities in the United States. The society there had a different view of what life was all about; it had a different view of what people should love and be devoted to. They had a different set of pillars for life and love. The world’s replacements to God’s truth were clearly seen in that culture as they are seen in ours today: 1) wisdom not from God’s Word, but from philosophy (“love of wisdom”) so that where wisdom was really found was through the “the debater of this age” (verse 20); 2) and as for being in a secure position and status, that was not known through God’s righteousness, but through status in the world itself...want to feel good about who you are? Then it’s all about your place in this world...says – of course – the world! For example, some Greeks had a good status via their pedigree; their “noble birth” (v 26); 3) and taking solace in God’s holiness was not to be admired; after-all you might be seen as a prude while missing out on the incredible pleasures of depravity...the world, however, not associating these things in a negative context, but in the context of power and success; and 4) and as for that which is lasting: it was the world itself in its Greek atomic foundations that was lasting, therefore hold to the “things that are” (v 28): the truly substantial things; the things of this world!

 

In contrast to this view, however, St. Paul states in verse 23, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” That is we must expect there to be great disparity between these two systems. Indeed, God’s ways appear foolish to those who do not understand them. So the Lord spoke through Isaiah the prophet: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Is 55:8)

 

There are times when we might have great reservations, doubts and overall incredulity that someone else might actually know what they were doing...you might have considered them foolish, naïve, unaware (or maybe a little unstable), but then they demonstrated that they knew exactly what they were doing and the end result was surprisingly effective. We shake our heads: “I didn’t see that coming;” or “I didn’t think that would work,” or simply, “I thought they were wrong.” People question God and His Word...and think their way is better. This is the great sin of our time as we build our towers of babel.

 

This of course is our common experience while growing up as we considered the view and teaching of our parents. How many times did we say, “I don’t think they get it!”? They are too old or unaware. They’re wrong, but something can seem so wrong, but be totally right, and how often did this prove true about our parents? “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)

 

Ever wonder how people viewed Noah? The Scriptures do not reveal the public’s perception towards him, but what would you have thought? There must have been some who thought he was crazy. Or consider Job’s friends. They could not comprehend Job’s situation and insisted that Job’s suffering was on account of his own wrongdoing. They had no idea what they were talking about.

 

But these are examples of how so often we think we know, but do not. How often do we question God and His Word? Constantly! The wisdom of this age is perpetually put over the wisdom of God. This past week there was a flood of reactions and debate regarding sexuality and choice; and in some cases, it raised the ire of the world against the faith. The “wisdom” of the world has been thoroughly applied to the issue.

 

One of the reasons I enjoy listening to ESPN radio is because it provides a slight escape for me to get away from the “intensive” issues of life just for a little while. Let’s talk sports and chill! In all honesty, I personally believe that – for the most part – sports are a sign of God’s mercy to help relieve us from the other stressors of life (though even sports can start to go the other way). But the other day instead of talking sports, the ESPN commentators were thoroughly giving their opinions about Ben Carson (the retired neurosurgeon who has entered politics) who said that sexual orientation is a choice (so much for sports!). The way that their commentary expanded was extraordinary. Callers were calling into the show as I was driving to a Communion Call when a Christian called in and simply stated that while he was not in complete alignment with Carson about sexual orientation, that he nevertheless did “not agree” with certain orientations.

 

One of the ESPN commentators had a severe reaction to this. His question was simply, “How can we speak of ‘agreeing’ or ‘disagreeing’ with what someone is?” To their point, let me provide this example of what the ESPN commentator was trying to say: it is like someone saying to someone else, “I don’t agree with the fact that you’re short,” or “I don’t agree with the fact that you’re over 40,” or “I don’t agree with the fact that you’re Mexican or Chinese.” And then the ESPN commentator took it one step further: if someone has such a position as this, then they are “spreading hate” in the world. The ESPN deduction: many who claim to follow Jesus Christ are spreading hate. Now I know that I’m only talking about a radio show one day on ESPN, but let us be warned because this is the fundamental idea that is behind the deterioration of religious liberty: when people begin to believe that the Christian faith is a form of “hatred” then watch out!

 

Right now our high school Bible Study is discussing logical fallacies often used against the faith, and the whole point of our study is to ensure that one has a thorough understanding of the issue at hand and to see how that issue can be misrepresented in a variety of ways. The entire “debate” on ESPN was most unfortunate and they should have stayed on analyzing the Laker’s (even in the midst of this dismal and sad season for the purple and gold).

 

You might recall if you were in attendance last Sunday, however, that we spoke of the difference between sin (singular) and sins (plural). Well, we do indeed make choices for things that are against the will and Word of God all of the time. However, it does not follow that these choices do not extend from our core being (though this is not to say that God’s creation is no longer good, it is, but what has impacted its core is not). Sin impacts our entire being: body, mind and spirit. On account of this, as Christians we probably waste a lot of energy getting upset about those in the scientific community claiming the discovery – for example – of genetic causes for all kinds of things: including the predisposition for alcohol or even for example the predisposition for anger. I am not assuming that these possibilities are true or false, but what I am saying is let’s say that it is absolutely scientifically proven that these things are true, then what would this do to the doctrine of original sin? Answer: nothing at all (in fact some theologians might argue that such a discovery would further substantiate the doctrine, though I personally warn any theologian from using science to verify biblical revelation...that’s a slippery slope even if – at the time – they seem to be in alignment). Be that as it may, original sin teaches that sin has come into the world and as a result, our entire being has been impacted. We do not commit violations against God’s will and Word purely out of choice, but we make those choices on account of what we are: sinners. And no, the ESPN analysts did not mention any of these things!

 

In other words look at these two statements and try to determine which one is wrong and

which one is correct from a biblical perspective (the question being asked after sin came into the world, Genesis 3):

 

“People choose to commit sins because they are sinful (by condition).”

 

OR
“People are sinful (by condition) because they choose to commit sins.”

 

Jesus put it this way (note what I’ve highlighted): “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19-20a)

 

What came first the chicken or the egg? Well if the chicken is the internal core heart of man, then the heart of man came first and if the “egg[s]” are the sins we commit in thought, word, and deed (what we do and do not do), then the sins follow.

 

The other problem, however, that has arisen on account of man’s wisdom instead of following God’s wisdom is that even in the Church we take a false step since there is such a thing as what is true and what is false to assume that our call is to embrace an “us vs. them” viewpoint. This is wrong. First of all, none of us have down any moral issue – much less our sexuality – where it needs to be in full alignment with the will and Word of God.  We must remind ourselves that sin has different manifestations; it “comes out” and is “expressed” in a variety of ways, but it is still there. From this perspective, I am no different than any other sinner. And if this is what we truly believe then the “us vs. them” mentality must die. There is no room for it in the Lord’s Church.

 

As St. Paul clearly says: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1st Timothy 1:15)

 

So this is the great irony: the world in its wisdom wants to say that the Christian faith is divisive and spreads hatred; but the truth is that – properly understood – the Christian knows from God’s revelation and Word that true faith brings unity and inclusiveness (we are all in the same boat having the condition of sin) but we also confess that God sent His Son for all people and for all sin (again we are still in the same boat but now in receiving grace). Jesus died for you and He died for all you know regardless of what they do or how they live or their various quote “orientations” unquote.

 

When I speak to a person with a different orientation I am speaking to a fellow human being that Jesus loves. My goal is not to differentiate based on “orientations” (we should not be dragged into the world’s terminology even as I address this issue). That person – whoever he or she is standing in front of me – has a cross on their forehead (thanks to Pamela Hansen – member of our congregation -- for bringing this illustration to Bible Study last Thursday night) and is God’s call to me to love. So our goal is not to see an “orientation” as if the person was a Martian, but to see a neighbor for whom Jesus died and rose and someone I am called to love as Jesus (Matt. 25)...a fellow human being on planet earth! To both of us...to me and to that other person the Lord examines our heart, our being, our core...and sheds light on what we are to confess. I have all kinds of “orientations” that are inconsistent with God’s will and Word and others by God’s grace that are right on, and regardless of what I might claim as being my reason for the ones I need to confess – genetics, personal taste, personal preference, habit, choice, or “just the way I am,” etc. – I am called to repent from anything that is not in alignment with God’s will and God’s Word.

 

But this simply takes us to the next challenge: God’s Word. And we must not be surprised: so many view the Word itself as foolishness. And in our core being -- where sin has invaded -- that means that we also to some degree consider portions of the Word of God to be foolish. Oh, believe me, it’s not the politically correct thing to say in Church right! It’s supposed to be everyone else who has a problem with the Word of God, not me!

 

But if this is how the Word incarnate (Jesus) was construed (being rejected and resisted even by his closest followers in the 1st century), then why would it surprise us that the Word – in Scripture and in Sacrament – would not also suffer the same assault? Jesus the pure Word was “a stumbling block” to Jews and folly/foolishness to Gentiles (v 23). For heaven’s sake, His own disciples misunderstood time and time again! Many Jews had a mental picture of Messiah-Christ as a mighty King, so: “Hate to tell you this, but being dragged off to be crucified isn’t exactly padding your resume. It’s really not all that impressive. You were supposed to conquer not be conquered.” The word “stumbling block” in the original is skandalon...it’s where we get our English word “scandal”...it is a cause for offense. From the world’s perspective He didn’t meet the criteria for King. He failed and the claim that He is the King is frankly offensive to the world. The world – which relishes man’s version of strength and power – views faith in this Jesus therefore as a sign of weakness...a crutch for weak people.

 

The “things that are” are those things truly recognized by the world as substantial, the “keys” to success, the substantive things, the things that truly impact the world, the things of greatness in the eyes of the world; actual things that make a difference in the world today. The possibility of a new NFL stadium in Carson...that’s among the things that are...now that would be something! Imagine all the revenue that would be raised?! This wisdom and strength of the world says, “Those who say that money can’t make you happy, have never had a lot of it!” Christians are weak-minded people who make excuses for not succeeding. Christians keep other people weak by blaming sin for failure and Christians keep others weak by saying that we must depend on God. But – says the world – even the teaching of “God” (especially a personal God) is a human construct intended to give the Church as an institution control of other people. It is as Marx said, “the opium of the masses.”

 

But Christian, St. Paul wasn’t buying any of this baloney and neither should you (it’s all smoke from the so-called “wisdom” of the world). St. Paul wasn’t buying the “opium” of the world’s propaganda and neither should you. The wisdom of the Scriptures reign supreme -- and this is why (along with the Lord’s providential preservation of His Word) -- the Holy Bible remains the all-time best seller in the history of the planet! Truth doesn’t fade away, but the only way we discover this wisdom is through Christ who authored the Scriptures. Christ spoke through Solomon centuries ago, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” (Eccl 5:10)

 

“Andrew Carnegie became one of the wealthiest men in the world when his steel company, the forerunner of U.S. Steel, became the most profitable business enterprise in the world. Early on in his success, at only age thirty-three, Carnegie took a ruthless evaluation of his own heart and produced a ‘note to self’ memorandum:

 

Man must have an idol – the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money. Whatever I engage in I must push inordinately therefore should I be careful to choose the life which will be the most elevating in character. To continue much longer overwhelmed by business cares and with most of my thoughts wholly upon the way to make more money in the shortest time, must degrade me beyond hope of permanent recovery. I will resign business at Thirty five, but during the ensuing two years, I wish to spend the afternoons in securing instruction, and in reading systematically.

 

...[t]he candor and self-knowledge in this note is remarkable...Nevertheless, despite his insight into his own heart, Carnegie obviously did not ‘resign business’ two years later, and many of the very character-degrading effects he feared worked themselves out in his life...Andrew Carnegie knew that money was an idol in his heart, but he didn’t know how to root it out. It can’t be removed, only replaced. It must be supplanted by the one who, though rich, became poor, so that we might truly be rich.” (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York: Dutton. 2009. 69-71)

 

And here Timothy Keller’s words are just absolutely true because he is simply returning to Scripture, the Word of God. So we struggle with all of our orientations, with all of our pride, and with all of our idols, and no matter how hard we try to fix ourselves we fail, “because [these problems] can’t be removed, only replaced.”

 

But here we’ve come full circle, because what the Word of God is presenting to you Christian isn’t a “fix it” plan or the “17 steps to success” plan, but it is a revealing; a making known; and a declaring that your life and love is intensively the work of God. He doesn’t do some of it and then wait for you to complete it; He doesn’t do most of it and wait for you to top it off, but according to His Word, He is gracious to give you life and love entirely through Jesus. These words in 1st Corinthians are intended for us to view Christ as our everything. When I was a teenager there was a love song by Andy Gibb (younger brother of the Bee-Gees) entitled, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” (I would sing it to you, but that would cause you pain, so never mind). But the idea behind that title “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” is troublesome for any romantic relationship. It may have had a certain appeal to someone head over heels for another, but what a disastrous idea...imagine trying to play God for another person? It doesn’t work! But the words do apply to One. Jesus says in effect, “I AM your everything” and we sing the hymn for example, “Christ the Life of All the Living!”...and He is. He is our wisdom, He is our righteousness, He is our sanctification, and He is our redemption.

 

He speaks to you today as your great prophet, teaching you His wisdom; inculcating His Word into your heart and into your mind so that the Word of Christ permeates your thoughts more and more. This is the common experience of growing in faith. You become full of God’s Word and as a result, you become full of God’s wisdom. But I’m not just describing a quantitative thing, but a qualitative thing. This particular wisdom; this particular knowledge gives peace; it fills your heart with what is consistent with life: the cancelling of guilt; the covering of shame; and the calming of fear...knowing why you’re right with God. It is on account of Christ!

 

And in this wisdom you are led to what is most important to know: His righteousness. Through His suffering and death for you; He has dealt with your sins; His blood covers your condemnation; His life is now yours; His perfect robe of righteousness is put on you; you now wear royal clothes; your pedigree is from Jesus’ righteousness for you. And in this righteousness, you are given all the gifts of the Kingdom of God. God considers you differently now...not on account of you, but on account of Christ! As you now wear the garments of Jesus (and there’s no doubt that you wear them because they were put on you at baptism!), what is His is yours. The Holy Spirit is His, so now the Holy Spirit is yours. The Holy Spirit – through the Word and Sacraments of Jesus – leads you to live in the active life of Jesus who is your holiness and who is now your life.

 

In spite of any inconsistent orientations you still battle, in Christ you are now also holy and yes, you serve Him by serving your neighbor...that is, you share His love. This is sanctification in action. And finally, Jesus is your new status. He is your redemption. You’ve now crossed over from death to life (John 5:24), you now live in the realm of real life, lasting life, eternal life, overflowing life, life that is with the Lord of Life leading you every single day. What a great place to be!

 

I once met a woman in L.A., I visited her to share the Gospel with her. As I began to share, she interrupted, she wanted me to know that she wasn’t “one of those Jesus’ freaks.” Ouch! I went on to share anyway, but I think of her to this day since that conversation in the summer of ’88. It’s one of those characterizations, those false labels, those false conclusions that the world offers to put upon your faith...in this case, it isn’t an intelligent position against the truth, but a “to the man” attack. If you believe that Jesus is your everything; your all in all; then you’re a freak. I’ve had many years to think about that. She was in fact calling me a freak, but I still love her and I must say that at the end of the day, I don’t mind the insult. But why not?

 

Because on His way to His saving cross and then upon that saving cross, the Lord Jesus Christ was ridiculed and mocked because He put upon Himself everything from my life – and your life – that is worthy of criticism or ridicule: “You mean you’re dying for that freak Espinosa? You are actually going to do this for that weak Mueller? You mean you’re going to suffer and give your life for those foolish people at Saint Paul’s Irvine?” And they spat on Him; they mocked Him; they killed Him. And He took it, so that what was considered to be a scandal would be shown to be the truth: Messiah died and because He was and is Messiah, He also rose; so that what is considered foolish: the teachings of a Jewish man who died in his early-30’s as cursed and guilty would turn out to be the teachings of a man whose words cannot die...they just won’t go away...thank God because they are the source of your life; they are your assurance of God’s love...they are your guarantee that Jesus is your wisdom, your righteousness, your sanctification, and your redemption. Thank God! Praise God! Amen!

 

In Jesus' Love,

Pastor

Tonight Wednesday March 4th 2015 at Concordia University Irvine, Good Shepherd Chapel 7 pm: “The Sign of Understanding” (Luke 22:54-62)

4Mar/15Off

We meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

 

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

  1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road
  2. Turn right onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

  1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4
  2. Turn left onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This is a great text in God's Word and I'm excited to get to preach on it. We are now on the third installment of our series: "The Sign of the Cross." Tonight is "The Sign of Understanding." Have you ever gotten "a look" that just spoke volumes? As He was about to be crucified, Jesus gave Peter a look...what was that all about and why is it good news for us? Come and find out. Bring a friend to our beautiful evening Vespers Service tonight at 7 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel at CUI.
Hope to see you there!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Sunday March 1st 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “When Disciples Are Rebuked” (Mark 8:31-38)

28Feb/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am

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)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

The Lord bless you as we continue to journey through Lent, today -- Saturday, February 28th -- being the 10th day of the 40 days. Tomorrow is the Second Sunday in Lent (recall that the Sundays are "in" Lent and not "of" Lent as Sunday always marks the Day of the Resurrection so that Sundays are not counted as part of the 40 days). Nevertheless, the Gospel for tomorrow is rich in the theme of Lent. It is a humbling text! In Mark 8:31-38 St. Peter stands for us all as a true believer, a true disciple of the Living Lord Jesus Christ who speaks in two ways; in two radically different "languages" so-to-speak: Peter spoke words of God and then in practically the same breath spoke words of the evil one. How can this be? It's seems untenable, illogical, utterly contradictory, and grossly inconsistent! That's right...and this state of affairs describes us too!

If this is so -- and it is -- how then can we ever be saved?! We are saved because of the True Disciple and know that He is Jesus Christ. He followed God not for Himself (as He was already perfect and pure), but He followed God for you and for me. This Disciple, THE Disciple followed God so that WE would be saved!

Tomorrow, we will thoroughly get into this fascinating and crucial text that leads us to true humility for our Lenten journey, but don't worry, it will also lead us to the splendid Gospel that keeps us strong in the grace of God!

Most importantly, we will receive the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ. At Saint Paul's we receive Holy Communion every, single Sunday, because this great gift is God's rich assurance and guarantee that the Gospel is most certainly for us...for you and for me! In this Sacrament of the Altar the True Disciple Jesus incorporates you into Himself so that there is no doubt that in Christ, yes, you do follow God!

This portion of tomorrow's sermon is all Law and no Gospel, but it is an important catechetical introduction teaching us about "sin" (singular) and "sins" (plural). A teaching that is frequently neglected nowadays:

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered and was crucified for us to save us from sin and death. Amen. Today’s Gospel based on Mark 8:31-38 is a stunning section in the Bible. Why? Because St. Peter gave the best answer one could possibly give in rightly, accurately, and gloriously identifying Jesus. Based on his answer: “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29), case closed: Peter knew Jesus. But when Jesus went on to the rest of the story: not only verifying WHO He was, but for WHAT REASON He had come, this is where Peter got lost. And not just a little lost mind you, but totally and utterly confused! So much so that when Peter responded to the LORD explaining His mission he did not speak as he had before with words of God, but this time he spoke with words from Satan!

 

This is the stunning scene: after Peter rightly and boldly confessed Christ’s identity, Jesus – in Matthew’s parallel to our Mark text – actually tells Peter that his confession (his words on Christ) were from God. (Matthew 16:17) Peter had just spoken God’s word, but now in respect to the WHAT of Jesus (as in WHAT would the Christ do?) the LORD makes clear that Peter was now speaking not for God, but for the devil!

 

Again, this is so shocking a state of affairs that is appears unfathomable; the implications rattle us so that it’s easy to repress its traumatic impact; it is so unsettling that it’s almost as if we ignore the seismic contradiction, the cosmic inconsistency, the duplicitous destructiveness of the situation: the believer – and in this case – the apostle, and not merely the apostle, the leader of the band (even as Peter was assuredly speaking for them all) spoke for God and -- in practically the next breath -- spoke for Satan. The same guy. One man speaking holy and saving words in the one instance; and in the next instance, the same man speaking destructive and evil words.

 

How can this be? One reason is that all of us underestimate -- like Peter did -- the article of the faith on sin. We have this really nasty habit of reducing this article of the faith called “sin” to bad behavior or the lack of good behavior (called “sins”). When we mistakenly reduce our sin (singular) condition with what we do and don’t do – our sins (plural) – we inevitably lose track of our actual diseased condition. How easy it is for us to become blind in any given situation when we feel confident about our actions while forgetting that we still have this horrific problem in us called “sin” (so that in one instance we are speaking the words of God, but in the very next instance we are speaking the words of Satan)?!

 

Our sin-reductionism puts us in the prime position to do this! Sin is the deeper root problem. It is a disease, a sickness that permeates our nature; it is what makes us sinful – as our Lutheran Confessions state – from “head to toe;” it is what makes us towards God “recalcitrant donkeys.” It is the incurvatus en se condition, that condition of being turned or curved inward. We are turned in and curved in to love ourselves, and turned in and curved in so that we stray away from loving God...in fact our curved in and turned in condition makes us love ourselves and love what we want. As a result, it is not that we simply do not believe in God in this sin condition, but in this state we actually hate Him. Peter hated Jesus so much – though he thought with all his might he was saying the right thing – that he was willing to destroy the very mission Jesus was conducting to save you and me (and Peter) from sin! In truth, we are just like Peter: we do both; we speak for and against our Holy God. This is the stunning part of all of this. This is what we are!

 

But this is nothing new and we are blessed in our Christian tradition to confess our condition this way every time we start our liturgy; our worship. Notice the wording that we used today. Let’s read it together and I ask you to take note of what parts are about your sin (singular) and what parts are about your sins (plural). We read together:

 

I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

 

Note that in this morning’s confession, we are confessing both aspects: both our sin (singular) and our sins (plural). It is at the very beginning and the very end of this particular confession of sin that we confess our sin (singular)-condition with the words:

 

  1. “I, a poor, miserable sinner.” This is a confession of condition. We are by nature sinful and unclean, so that by nature we are poor, miserable sinners.
  2. “A poor, sinful being.” Our being (singular) is such that we are continuously committing sins (plural).

 

This is the core of our confession at the beginning of every Divine Service and is part and parcel of properly preparing to receive The Lord’s Supper. And just as it took God The Father to reveal to Peter WHO Jesus is; it takes God the Father to reveal to us what OUR sinful condition is all about. It is a terribly pessimistic article of the faith. It is not what people are looking for. People don’t go looking for churches in hopes that the pastor will tell them that they are an awful, God-hating sinner. It’s not usually on the top of anyone’s list for finding a church home...we want good music and meaty sermons (maybe), but do we actually go out looking for this revelation about our sin?!

 

Things came to a head with some former members in another congregation. They finally had to speak up! “Pastor, why do we say this about ourselves?! The Holy Scriptures say that we’re born again! The Holy Scriptures say that we’re a new creation! These words about being a poor, miserable sinner no longer apply to me! I was ONCE blind, NOW I see; I WAS Lost, but NOW I’m found! Again, I’m a new creation! In Christ, I’m no longer this despicable image! So why do we still confess this?!” Great question and whenever I get questions like this, I quickly pass them on to the other pastor! <smile>

 

So I answered the question. Our conversion, our crossing over from death to life, our being born again, and becoming a new creation in Christ are all descriptors of your most definitely receiving a new nature. It’s true! You are a new creation. You now have a living faith, with new thoughts, new desires, and new impulses. This is God’s gift to you through His Word which unites you to the Living Christ. This is a fides viva...a living faith, that is a saving faith and not the so-called “faith” of the demons (James 2:19), which is a cold and dead intellectual faith that is worthless (leaving one to live in fear as the demons do). Your faith, however, is living as you have been enabled by God to trust in Jesus and the forgiveness of all your sins (plural) AND the forgiveness of your sin (singular) condition...this too does the blood of Jesus cover!

 

Such a faith, such a condition, Peter had. He was a child of God and by the grace of God – again – He was able to accurately and powerfully confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Children of God cannot speak this way – genuinely in faith – without the Holy Spirit enabling them to speak this way (1st Cor. 12:3b).

 

But here we run into being sure that we do not succumb to a logical fallacy called the fallacy of “excluded middle” or an “either-or” fallacy. In this case, the frustrated parishioner was stuck on two options:

 

EITHER we have ONLY the ONE nature!

 

OR we have the OTHER nature!

 

What was missed was a third option. What is the third option? The third option is that we might – and indeed we do – have BOTH! Just like Peter did!

 

Even Ezekiel’s words of removing the old heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19) is not an immediate eradication of sin in the life of the child of God, but is the introduction of a new spirit that is enabled to follow God just like Peter did (even as we await the day that is to come when our hearts of stone will be completely eradicated...and yes that day will come, but it is not yet...for now, it is not an “either-or,” but a “both-and.”

 

Dear One, come to our worship tomorrow and you will hear the Gospel that fills out the rest of the sermon! You are always welcomed to Saint Paul's!

 

In Jesus' Love,

 

Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D.

Tonight Wednesday February 25th 2015 at Concordia University Irvine: Past 2 of our Lent Series: “The Sign of Peace” 7 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel!

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We continue our special Lenten series entitled, "The Sign of the Cross," with the 2nd installment called, "The Sign of Peace."
These are shorter and beautiful services of the Word of Christ in the inspirational Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine at 7:00 pm. The address is 1530 Concordia West in Irvine.
We would love to see you there. Please invite your friends.
Let us remain in the Word of Jesus and have our faith fed and nourished!
Hope to see you tonight!
In Jesus' Love,
Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine