Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LCMS): The Second Sunday in Advent, December 9th, 2012: “That Your Love May Abound” (Philippians 1:9-11)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is good to be back from Germany! Traci and I had a wonderful trip (with Traci’s dad Larry and his wife Meme). The tour — “In the Footsteps of Martin Luther” — was hosted by Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, the president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN where I attended seminary. This was for me not only a time for rest and quality time with my wife, but it was truly a special opportunity for continuing education and a chance to appreciate more than ever the heritage of our Lutheran tradition. As Lutherans we worship God and trust in Christ alone. We do not follow Luther. Having said that, I’ve never been so amazed and inspired by this servant of the Lord, through whom the Lord worked so powerfully. I quite simply know of no other tradition which emphasizes and celebrates the pure, simple, and powerful Gospel of Christ as the Lutheran Church does. I marvel over the fact that the Lord permits me to serve as one of His servants and I thank you again for the sacred call you’ve extended to me! It is good to be home so that I may continue to serve you through Christ’s Word and Sacrament!
It is a great blessing to be in the season of Advent which means “Coming.” For us Lutheran Christians we enjoy this first season of the Church Year to prepare for the High Feast of the Nativity (Christmas). I am so grateful for this time! The world around us is in a big hurry to get to the world’s version of “Christmas” (which has already begun): a time of filling oneself with the things of the world; it is the time in which we spend the most money, eat the most food, and drink the most drink. It is easy to lose the meaning of Christmas along the way. This is why Advent is so precious in helping us to slow down, step back, and prayerfully prepare for the great gift of our Coming King Jesus!
Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Advent. I am preaching on the Epistle text which is Philippians 1:9-11. I’m fascinated by the text as it reminds me that Advent Christians, Christians who are prepared to meet the Coming King are filled with — are abounding in — love. But often times “love” is left hanging in a very ambiguous way. How is this love created, defined, motivated, and informed? What of this love? In the text tomorrow we learn that this love of the prepared Christian abounds “with knowledge and all discernment.” This is what we will delve into, this is what we will study and receive into our hearts and minds through the proclamation of the Word of Christ! In addition — and as always — we will receive the precious body and blood of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, keeping us in the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.
Before Traci and I left for Germany, one of our sisters in Christ at Saint Paul’s encouraged me to look straight up in the Berlin Cathedral and see the magnificent image of the Holy Spirit in the center of the dome above. It was exciting to actually have the chance to do so. Surrounding the dome — in the German language of course — were the words of the Beatitudes of Christ. These images reminded me of what occurs in the divine service: God comes to us by His Spirit and the Word! This is what will happen again tomorrow morning. Let us gather in great joy with ready hearts to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Just a couple of reminders for tomorrow:
1. Parish Council meeting right after Bible Study and Sunday School
2. 1:30 pm Confirmation at my house
Here is a little excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon:

And this leads us to the fruits of knowledge and discernment. Paul’s love was knowledgeable of the Word of God and the Word of God insured him that the Lord uses the difficult times to work great blessings, the Word of God gave him discernment to know that the Lord uses hard times to the glory of Jesus, to lead people to Christ. Love for Christ and love for people is easy to celebrate when you know that you will be blessed even through the hardships and even through the valleys of life. Paul had the example of Joseph who was sold as a slave in Egypt; he had the example of Daniel who served while Judah was in exile and Paul had the example of the prophets who were rejected and yet filled with astounding strength to endure. Paul had the knowledge and discernment of God’s Word to see through his circumstances. Most importantly, he kept before him the wisdom of the Gospel that the world considers foolishness: that Christ Himself who appeared to be most desperate and weak was saving the world unto Himself.

In Your Service and To Christ’s Glory,

Rev. Dr. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., pastor, Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

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