Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow Sunday, September 1st, 2013 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Lowest Place” (Luke 14:1-14)


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


I rejoice in the greater community of the Kingdom of God and the Communion of all Saints in the Christian Church in which Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine belongs. I have a greater sense of this reality this weekend as I preach Sunday, September 1st at Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dr. Martin Luther in the south side of Chicago. This congregation welcomed my dear daughter Danielle while she attended the University of Chicago these last few years (Traci and I and other family members traveled to Chicago to attend Danielle's graduation this past Friday). Preaching at this sister-LCMS congregation will be my way of thanking this faithful congregation for caring for Danielle during her undergraduate collegiate career as well as doing what is most important in conducting the Holy Ministry of Christ's Word and Sacrament to His people at DMLC.


This Holy Ministry will also take place here in Irvine as our pastor assistant, Rev. Dr. Steven P. Mueller conducts the divine service and proclaims the Word of Christ.


My sermon will focus on this Sunday's Gospel from Luke 14:1-14, "The Lowest Place." The Lord speaks an important warning to us about pride. We are called to humble ourselves and we are called to not exalt ourselves. It is one thing to have as your motive love or joy or thanksgiving, but it is entirely a different thing to act so that you will be noticed or praised or so that you will receive some kind of benefit. The Pharisee in the temple in Luke 18 thanked God that he was "not like other men." His motive was one of comparison and self-angrandizement; it was one of pride. He functioned for the praise of men and for his own status to be better than others. Pride is the source of all sin. And Jesus makes it clear that those who operate this way will be humbled. Put in the context of the wedding banquet wording which is a metaphor for the great judgment, this warning is terrifying.


The Gospel however comes out in the later wedding banquet section. Jesus will call "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." Those who are thus are aware that they are poor sinners who always exact themselves like you and me. Our only salvation is through our Savior who took the lowest of the lowest places on the cross of Calvary to cover us self-exalting sinners with His precious, atoning blood.


What is truly amazing, however, is that our Lord continues to serve us, even though He is risen, victorious, fills the heavens and the earth, and is indeed our most high and exalted King. He continues to come. He continues to serve. He continues to come to us lowly ones so that we would not be destroyed and abandoned in our sinful pride.


Receiving The Lord Jesus in the Holy Sacrament, however, is our assurance that The Lord Jesus Himself gives to us the benefits of HIS humility for us and in accord with our lives in Him and His life in us we begin to know the lowest place in our thoughts, words, and deeds so that we experience His love in and through us so that we treat others in such a way as not to consider ourselves better than them (in pride), but as others better than ourselves. Humility is an attitude that is forged only in Jesus. Thank God that He comes to you tomorrow through His body and blood!


In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,


Pastor Espinosa



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Tomorrow Sunday August 25th, 2013 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Struggle To Enter Through The Narrow Door” (Luke 13:22-30)


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Does God want us to be afraid? It depends. Some might want to say, "absolutely not, never!" After all, 1st John 4:18 teaches us that God's perfect love casts out fear! But then comes our Gospel for tomorrow morning. It is one of those Scriptures that doesn't get a lot of popular press! "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luke 13:24) Wow! Talk about an intimidating Scripture! Jesus came for all, but He teaches as clear as day that not all will enter into salvation. This is not -- at first glance -- comforting, but scary!
Tomorrow morning, we will sort this out in the sermon and lead you not to less assurance, but to greater assurance of your forgiveness, life, and salvation. At the same time, you'll be better equipped in knowing the Word of Truth.
Also, come to receive that which assures you that you will indeed enter through the narrow door, as the DOOR Himself will be opened to you and given to you in His very body and very blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Also: Tonight's YOUNG ADULT meeting at Pastor's house is beginning at 6 pm; that's 6 pm. All young adults (college aged-say 30ish) are invited. Come on over to pastor's. We're having bratwurst, hotdogs, and fruit! Come on over as we discuss a Greeter's Ministry at Church as well as Bible Study for 2013-2014.
Hope to see you all in God's house tomorrow morning.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Struggle To Enter Through The Narrow Door”

(Luke 13:22-30)

Pastor Alfonso O. Espinosa

            Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Luke 13:24: “[Jesus said] Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” And from Luke 13:30: “And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” In speaking of these words from Luke 13, Luther remarked: “It is to frighten the greatest saints (Buls, Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, 46).” Evidently, God clearly intends to frighten! Now this seems counter-intuitive to the Gospel and frankly contradictory to other parts of Scripture. For example in 1st John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Who could blame you if you’re now just a little confused? Here’s the summary so far:


  1. Jesus taught that many people will not be able to enter through the narrow door for salvation. That’s scary!
  2. Jesus also taught that those who are “first” – people who should be in the perfect position to have eternal life and salvation – will not be saved and will be treated as “last.” Again, scary!
  3. Luther says that these Scriptures are designed “to frighten the greatest saints.”
  4. However, 1st John 4:18 speaks of God casting out fear. Consider also such passages as Romans 8:1 teaching that there is now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus! Furthermore, Jesus tenderly and compassionately calls you to Himself: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” How can it be said that Jesus wants you to be afraid?!
  5. But these two biblical ideas remain and both are true:
    1. God wants you to be afraid AND
    2. God does not want you to be afraid.


Not only does this seem to contradict basic logic, but it doesn’t settle well in our souls.


             My daddy was so loving that I knew I always had access to him. And as a little boy I was bold to climb on him when he sprawled out on the living room floor; or hold onto his arm hanging over the sofa; or playing “barber shop” with his hair when he came home from work (he seemed to enjoy my spraying a little water into his hair as I combed it back…I think he found it relaxing). In all of these scenarios, I simply never feared my daddy. Love had cast out all fear.


           But there were entirely different instances when I did what I should not have done. One time, he disciplined me after I tried to put back into place that which I had no permission to use. He saw the evidence and called me to come outside. I’ll never forget, I came out a little nervous thinking, “How could he possibly know what I did?!” But this was my dad; he had his way. Traci has told our kids that she has eyes at the back of her head…and sometimes I think it is true! God definitely helps parents be parents!


           Well, my dad called me out and said, “So, do you want to tell me about your little escapade?” And I said – in all truth and sincerity – “what’s an escapade?” My ex-Marine dad half-grinned (sort of) while making it clear that he was not pleased – even as I knew I was busted – and told me to go back inside, get a dictionary, look up “escapade,” and then come back out. It was an ingenious move, because it prolonged my trepidation. I was having one of those experiences I never wanted to have again. And I look back and I realize that in that instance I was afraid.


In that particular instance, under those unique circumstances, I think he wanted me to be afraid.


            So, my dad did not want me to be afraid and he did want me to be afraid. It all depended on the circumstances in my relationship with him, and he was an awesome dad!

        Similarly, we need to understand the circumstances of Luke 13. Jesus was – so to speak – addressing a very dangerous spiritual escapade that sinners play around with.

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa
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Tomorrow Sunday August 18th, 2013 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Jesus Saves and then Division, Division, Division!” (Luke 12:49-53)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you for your prayers for a good vacation! The Lord blessed our time as family, esp. in getting to hang-out with my future-son-law (Simon Volkmar marrying Danielle on September 14th) who is preparing to become a Lutheran pastor in Germany with the

Independent Evangelical—Lutheran Church
Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche (SELK)

Please keep this faithful partner church of our own church body (LC-MS) in your prayers and also please keep Simon in your prayers in his ongoing studies in preparation for the holy ministry.
I am also ecstatic to be back! I look forward to seeing you and serving you tomorrow with Christ's Word and Sacraments!
I was blessed to attend two great LC-MS congregations on August 4th (Grace Lutheran in San Diego) and August 11th (Our Savior's Lutheran in Pacifica), but I am even more excited to be back in the pulpit to proclaim God's Word to you, God's precious flock at Saint Paul's in Irvine!
Luke 12:49-53 is a challenging text. Jesus who is of course the Prince of Peace and who has won for us "the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7)" Himself teaches in this text that He did NOT come to bring peace, but division! We will teach on this important text tomorrow. Invite a friend and let us continue to grow in our saving faith.
Come also all you sinners thirsty to be assured of the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins. Come and receive the body and blood of Your Savior whose life is given to all who trust in Him and recognize His true presence in the Holy Sacrament!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

Jesus Saves and Then Division, Division, Division

(Luke 12:49-53)

Pastor Espinosa

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. “Welcome back from vacation pastor. You’re just in time to preach on Luke 12:49-53!” As one commentator described it: “It is not a pretty picture. Human beings would like…constant peace among men. But it will never be so. It is a grim picture which Jesus gives us (Buls, Series C Luke-John Sundays after Pentecost, 41).” A particular word is highlighted in our Gospel this morning and might easily be construed as that which paints this section of Jesus’ teaching as down-right depressing: “division.” Jesus says three times in this short pericope:


Verse 51: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”


            Verse 52: “For from now on in one house there will be five divided…”


Verse 53: “They will be divided, father against son and son against father…[etc.].”


There is an immediate need to clarify what our Lord Jesus is not saying. He is not saying that His purpose for coming was in any way to harm any person. “Hence Jn. 12:47: ‘I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.’ That Jesus comes to bring about the ruin of any man is a thought which is wholly foreign to the New Testament (Barth, Church Dogmatics III.2, 60).” Though it must be said that our Lord did indeed come to destroy something (but not any person):


1st John 3:8b: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”


To destroy the works of your arch-enemy…not you! Our Lord was and is teaching that upon accomplishing His saving work, there would be “a temporary though necessary transition (ibid, 60)” in the world that would consist in people being divided. The word itself is straight-forward and simple: it means what it says. As a result of the saving work of Jesus, people come down on one of two sides: people are either for Christ or against Christ, period. Some see and others are blind; some are lost, some are found; some follow Him, others reject Him. And this divide will be evident even within families who otherwise share the most important things in life, but ironically will not always share what is most important.


In Matthew’s parallel account, the Lord says that He came to bring a sword (Matt 10:34). Think about it: if a sharp sword does its job, then division is the inevitable result. Jesus was describing how people would respond to Him. And while it is politically correct to avoid religious division, such universalism is in itself proof that what Jesus prophesied has happened and is happening.


Saint Paul was straight-forward about the necessity of what happens -- even within the visible church -- in the wake of the saving work of Jesus:


1st Corinthians 11:18-19: “18…I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”


Division is also the result of real discernment and a condition in which (by God’s grace) you are kept protected from false teaching. Reza Aslan’s best-selling book Zeolot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth which hit #1 on heaps praise on Jesus for being a bold revolutionary whose crucifixion shows the man of history as opposed to the resurrection which shows the Christ which for him is essentially a fabrication of the church. In making his case, I read his criticism of the words recorded in 1 Cor 15:4: “that…he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Aslan argues that while this may be what the Christian tradition teaches, that it is not what the Old Testament taught and that the words “in accordance with the Scriptures” are inaccurate. This is the reason he writes that the Christians had such a hard time convincing the Jews of their message.


Aslan writes this way because at the end of the day: while he would again give Jesus all kinds of praise as a man, he rejects that Jesus is the resurrected Son of God. Jesus has come and has divided. Psalm 16:10 in the Old Testament states: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” St. Peter preaches on this Scripture in Acts 2 and says of it: “[David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption (verse 31).” The Old Testament Scriptures do teach the resurrection of the Christ, and Aslan misdiagnoses the primary reason why Christ is rejected. More on this in a second.

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa
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