7111 La Jolla Boulevard, San Diego
Membership: 70 individuals
Pastor: Mark Dahle
Born: Seattle, Wash.
Formation: Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Ill.; Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash.
Years ordained: 15
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Mark Dahle: Typically about three months out, I start looking at the topics and planning for what the content will be.
SDR: Can you think of a time when you gave a homily that completely flopped?
PD: One of the things about flops is that I know I can’t tell whether it was a flop or not by how I feel about it or by the apparent reactions of people. I preached a sermon here at La Jolla Lutheran where one of the members had his arms crossed the whole time and he was sunk down in the pew with a scowl on his face, and I was so discouraged that I just about quit several times in the message, just looking at this guy. Afterwards, he said that was the best sermon he had ever heard.
SDR: Are there things you’ve learned to stay away from in your sermons?
PD: I don’t avoid any topics, except that our church is filled with people of every political party — and that’s by design — so I don’t preach on political parties. But I do preach about what the Bible says about every issue.
SDR: What is your main worry as a member of the clergy?
PD: We are praying for the nations right now, and we recently focused on praying for Mexico and locally one of biggest things going on is the drug violence and Mexico’s fate as a nation as the drug cartels aim at judges and politicians and people trying to help that society.
SDR: What is the most prevalent sin you observe or hear about from your congregation?
PD: A lot of times people have something that they’re designed to do but they don’t have the courage or faith to do it, so they work on lesser things. One of the things this does to people is it causes them to feel empty because they’re missing out on their true purpose and that results in a need for various addictions to fill the void. Not living up to our potential is probably the biggest thing I’ve observed.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PD: Jesus taught that there is life after death and that not everyone has the same experience after death; that some people are quite happy in life after death and others are in pain because of choices they have made during their lifetime. So much of the focus of our messages here is on helping people to make choices that they will be happy about, not just today but over the course of their lives and at the end of their days. Jesus taught that some people’s experience in the afterlife will be happiness — and Jesus talks about feasting as a common illustration of a place of great joy. He was speaking to a culture which didn’t have enough food and in our culture maybe that illustration makes less sense. But feasting for many people is one image of how great life after death can be.