Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Sunday, August 28th: Discipleship


"Discipleship" is not just a biblical teaching of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, but it is also a popular buzzword in American Christianity that has taken on other shades of meaning. Oftentimes it is a word used to lean dangerously close to replacing the Gospel of Christ with a return to the Law as if to suggest: "Now that God has done His part in saving you and forgiving you, it is now time for you to get busy and engage in serious discipleship!" If we are not careful, we will commit the grievous error that occurred among the Galatians (O foolish, bewitched Galatians!). This Sunday -- the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost -- we are given what is perhaps the most important Scripture on "discipleship," Matthew 16:24 which reads, "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" And yet by virtue of our sinful nature, we haven't the power to lift one finger to 1) deny ourselves; 2) take up our crosses; and 3) follow Christ our Lord. It is the Lord Christ -- THE DISCIPLE who heard and obeyed the Heavenly Father -- who denied Himself, took up HIS cross and followed for the joy that was set before Him, namely to give glory to the Father and to save YOU and me and all sinners. This work of Christ, however, continues. Through Holy Baptism for example, He is the One who kills us, buries us, crucifies us so that we may daily rise up again in the grace of God through His powerful Word. Then in Christ, it is His life that permits -- in mercy -- our cross. That cross may be an illness, an injury, a hardship...perhaps it is your call to take care of someone and to bear their burden with them in fulfillment of Galatians 6:2 for example. And these crosses which we are not to go out looking for, are crosses placed upon us by the Lord as we live lives of faith. These crosses teach us to lean not on ourselves but on Christ, to fall into the arms of the One crucified and risen for us so that His life and His life alone marks our lives. We deny ourselves when we say to our sinful flesh: "I don't know you!" Instead we say, "I know Christ, I follow Christ, He is my life, He is my Savior, and He will lead me by grace to be His disciple!" We rejoice in the Lord and invite you to come worship with us! In Christ, Dr. Espinosa

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This Sunday, August 21st: The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Be Asked


In Matthew 16:15, we have recorded that Jesus asked His first disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" Before the Lord had asked this question, the disciples spoke of the diversity of answers coming from the general populace: 1) Some thought that Jesus was a great king who had come to threaten Herod's rule. That is a political figure, but still a man; 2) others thought Jesus was a great herald of the Messiah who would continue to prepare the way for the true Anointed One, but still a man; and 3) Yet others believed that Jesus was a great prophet who was legend and who perhaps may have been raised from the dead, but -- you guessed it -- still a man, and I should qualify that these answers were really saying that Jesus was merely a man. In the culture, Jesus was just one flavor of ice cream among many. As one theologian put it, "They thought well of him, but not well enough." This of course is our colossal problem. We think just well enough of Jesus to coax our consciences into qualifying His identity. But while we have grown past the straight-jacket of the Enlightenment which over-invested in the power of human reason, we have graduated into the season of postmodernism. People now believe that the good thing to do is to treat any personal opinion about Jesus as equally as valid and true as any other idea about the Christ. This won't do and the Christian faith offers so much more than mere opinion. God breaks into our lives through the Holy Spirit working through the Word of Christ and when this Word reaches us, it puts us into contact with Jesus Himself so that we may speak the divinely commended answer recorded in Matthew 16:16: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." This answer does not come from man's intellect or reason, but from God Himself. It is the answer of faith and it unites us to the single most important truth we will ever know, because it is in this truth that Jesus is He who forgives all our sins; and the One whose victory over death and the grave wins for us eternal life. May we rejoice in the gift of faith given to us when Christ is the rock upon Whom we are built! When Christ builds us poor sinners into the living stones of His Church and into His people built and equipped with the answer from God Himself for the most important question we will ever be asked. Let us worship the Christ, the Son of the living God!


Last Sunday, we were given the honor to celebrate in Christ the beginning and end of life in Christ. We administered the Sacrament of Holy Baptism for Alyssa Anne Orozco during the morning divine service, then that same afternoon Saint Paul's conducted the Holy Memorial for Martina Johanna Escher Clark, aka Omi. We thank the Lord for permitting us such service in the Name of the Lord through the ministration of Christ's Holy Word. We rejoice that the Lord baptizes His people and keeps them in the palms of His hands and then welcomes His children into heaven when they leave this earth. We are so blessed to be the people of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! Amen! Pastor Espinosa

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This Sunday: The Great Thing about Little Dogs!


It seems remarkable to read a Gospel account that actually depicts our Savior and Lord as seemingly: 1) ignoring someone asking for help; 2) avoiding someone asking for help; and 3) insulting that person asking for help by calling them a dog! Surely, every description we have ever heard of Jesus Christ as merciful and compassionate has just been thrown out the window! Not so fast. First of all, there was a reason for the Lord's hesitancy and it wasn't to be cruel to anyone. Secondly, the Lord wasn't playing a game so as to provoke the woman. Christ's hesitancy was legitimized by virtue of His clear mission to prioritize "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." She was a Canaanite and frankly, Jesus is found here juggling two projects at once: 1) He had to remind his disciples of His perfect obedience to the Heavenly Father and the fulfillment of God's promise to send a Messiah "first to the Jew" (Rom. 1); and 2) He had to also be completely consistent with the heart of God. Luther said that this woman caught Jesus at His own words and that further, Jesus "loves to be caught this way." Jesus had automatically made provision for mercy to be given to the Canaanite woman. How so? By calling her a dog. Words are always crucial to consider. This particular word was not the word for a "wild dog" despised and considered unclean, but the word was the word for a house dog, a little dog, a beloved pet; the word was one of affection and endearment. The little dogs are always provided for. What child will not hesitate to share their food with their little dog? My dog Henry is a pug and we don't call him "Henry" ("Master of the House") for nothing. In fact, he enjoys the house that I pay for more than I do (he's in it more than I am). He's got it made-in-the-shade. Jesus knew what He was doing. In the end, the woman grabbed on to what Jesus said and would not let go until Jesus blessed her. This is faith! Jesus said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs (Matthew 15:26)." The woman answered, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table (Matthew 15:27)." Confess like the woman did. Confess that you are a sinner, just a little dog desperate for the crumbs of God's blessings and then know that to such a one as this -- a confessing sinner -- Jesus will grant you blessings that overflow, life and salvation, and a change in status from a little dog to a forgiven child of God.

Update on "Table Talk" at CUI. We are taking a three-week break as the students at CUI get settled in for a new school year. We will let you know very soon when we will be starting up our on-campus Bible Study at Concordia University Irvine.

Also for this Sunday: The Holy Baptism of Alyssa Orozco! We look for to Alyssa's reception of the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)!

Come to Church so that through His Word and Sacrament Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:14).

Pastor Espinosa


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The Serious Dilemma of Doubt


In facing the serious problem of doubt, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (Matthew 14:27). This Sunday we look at this very real issue. On the one hand, we mustn't soft-peddle the fact that doubt is a serious threat to faith and whatever threatens our faith threatens our salvation in Christ. Doubt isn't our friend, but as one theologian put it, "Doubt is the beginning of unbelief."  At the same time, we cannot condone "Christian" attitudes which present true believers as stoically never being confronted with doubt. St. Peter is presented in this week's Gospel in Matthew 14 as very much experiencing doubt. The account is there not for us to criticize Peter, but to take heart in that the Lord understands His children. We do experience doubt. It is what flows from the hearts of poor sinners who need the Savior Christ! This is the human side of the equation which we cannot ignore or suppress. The Gospel this Sunday does not exist to condemn us for doubt, but to teach us what God does about our doubt. First of all, our Heavenly Father sends His Son Jesus to save us from all doubt; and secondly, we are taught about how -- in our lives with Christ -- to deal with our tendency to doubt not in order to replace His grace in Christ by returning to works of the Law, but by living in what the book of Hebrews describes: "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." Not to oversimplify, but the Word seems clear: when Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. This Scripture is not here for us to go out and test God with a bunch of weird self-serving experiments, but it is here to give us God's answer to what makes faith strong -- not faith itself, not anything we do -- but Christ and Christ alone! Dr. Espinosa

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