Mark Menacher of St. Luke's Lutheran Church
5150 Wilson Street, San Diego
Pastor: Mark Menacher
Formation: Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI; Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH; University of Goettingen, (West) Germany; Theological Seminary, Leipzig, (East) Germany; (PhD) University of Manchester, England
Years Ordained: 22 years
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Mark Menacher: I guess I’d give the standard Lutheran answer: justification by faith alone. It represents the pure gift of God’s grace; there is nothing we can do or say or earn that will affect our salvation, so when it’s faith alone, we’re given a gift, which was given to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PM: The lack of knowledge in scripture and basic theology by both clergy and parishioners. The Christian belief is based on the word…. The communication of that word is part of our verbal human process, and so if we’re not communicating and understanding that word, we’re not going to know what the faith is, and then we’re not going to have faith.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PM: From about the sixth grade on, I felt called. My friends wanted to be policemen and firemen; I was the odd one out. It’s something I tried to avoid at every step and ran out of avoidance mechanisms. So I succumbed to the study of theology, but even after that I did my best, like Jonah, to run away from the calling. I went to Wales [vs. a whale] for ten years and so didn’t quite run away from the calling there, either. From a young age I was convinced that nothing’s more important than communicating the good news of Jesus Christ, and that’s never left me.
SDR: Where’s the strangest place you found God?
PM: I attended an unofficial seminary in East Germany before the [Berlin] Wall came down back in the 1980s. The visit was based on a Lutheran World Federation scholarship to get a few American seminarians behind the wall to study in an unofficial seminary, a remarkable thing back in those days…. Living in the East Bloc, initially I was naively thinking I’d do my bit to undermine communism, but when I got there I quickly realized the church was undermining communism much better than I was going to. By existing, by doing what its mission was — it preached the gospel in an atheistic environment. It also allowed church and non-church groups inside church properties to function. So there were little pockets of freedom inside the church. Those pockets of freedom were incubated…. Out of prayers for peace grew the demonstrations that eventually brought down the Berlin Wall.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PM: For those with faith, we will be with Christ more fully than we are now, and we will be with him forever. The fate of those who don’t have faith would be left up to God. What we do know is that in the promise we were made in scripture, those who believe are recipients of his grace and salvation. The fate of those who wouldn’t believe is something I can’t tell, but would be left to God’s discretion....