5106 Zion Avenue, San Diego
Pastor: Richard Zuber
Born: Meriden, Connecticut
Formation: Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut; Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Years Ordained: 25
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing a sermon?
Pastor Richard Zuber: Usually I don’t write sermons out but put them together throughout the week. I spend an hour to an hour and a half on Saturday evening jotting notes down and coming up with an outline. I would say my sermons are very scriptural — I try to preach the Gospel text. My foundation for preaching comes from the Lutheran understanding of grace. I try to incorporate grace, which I believe is the unconditional love of God, into every sermon. Also, as Lutherans, we hold that God’s grace carries with it both accountability and responsibility. The accountability is not only to God but to each other, and our responsibility is in caring for each other.
SDR: Which of the Ten Commandments does your congregation have the hardest time keeping?
PZ: I see all of us falling into each category, but the struggle I’ve seen in my congregation is in trying to put their belief in God totally into their life, lived outside the church in the main realm of their working experience, bringing what they hold true in their hearts to fruition in their everyday life. So, in all that, every commandment is broken in one way or another. I’ve never been ten-for-ten, by the way.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PZ: I became a pastor out of a strong love for the church. It’s my second career. I’ve been around the block a few times, and I saw the hope of the world centered in the love of Christ that’s expressed in the church. I still hold that to be true. I saw the church as the heart of God and I wanted to be directly a part of that.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PZ: Our mission is outreach to the community and to the world. We’re developing a strong servant ministry, which means we’re dedicating ourselves to the service of humankind. We offer community meals throughout the year — and two regularly around Christmas and Easter. We open our doors and see the community in all its variety. Everyone’s welcome. We also have outreach directly to New Orleans for five years, helping the city rebuild. We’re also reaching out to Tijuana, Mexico, and building housing in that region.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PZ: I believe that eternal life is best described as the relationship God has with us throughout our lives. Each phase of our life has a relationship with God, but when we die we will come into the full relationship with God. If I need to point to a destination, I think we will find our lives in the heart of God. When we die, we will see with the eyes of God, hear with the ears of God, and love with the heart of God. We enter into that relationship. How that looks, I can’t say. As for Hell, when Martin Luther was asked that question, he said, “I believe in Hell, but I believe more strongly in a God that will not put anyone there.”