Richard Burkey: “They see [God] as an old grandfather who you come up to when you need something.”
7929 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa
Pastor: Richard Burkey
Formation: Concordia College, Austin, TX; Concordia College, River Forest, IL; Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO.
Years Ordained: 31
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Richard Burkey: It’s almost like a birthing process. I’m always working on it and have it at the back of my mind. But I sit down on a specific one and it’s anywhere from 8 to 20 hours. Some weeks the Spirit moves and some weeks the Spirit says you need to wrestle with this a little bit longer, grow and develop.
SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?
PB: God’s purpose for people’s lives. It’s general enough to talk about what Jesus can do for you and specific enough to realize that God is at work in our lives. God put us all here for a purpose, and it’s interesting to see how life works out that way. We think the things that happen are coincidences and we look back and realize that God was intentionally working there in our lives.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PB: People are growing in their distance from God. They see him as an old grandfather who you come up to when you need something, and they miss the beauty and power of his presence at work in their lives. Purpose is my big thing; they miss God’s purpose for their lives. We think we know best and if we’re wise we look to God and see that he knows best.
SDR: Why Lutheran?
PB: When I was in college it got confirmed for me. I appreciate the Lutheran emphasis on grace and that we build our faith on God’s word alone. I appreciate the wrestling we do with issues with the word and with the Holy Spirit. I appreciate that God calls us to do great things and that happens by God’s gracious power at work in us. We didn’t have to earn it but we sure are invited to express and experience God’s love.
SDR: What’s the mission of your church?
PB: Our tagline is “Developing dynamic disciples for Christ.” So, we try to create environments where people meet with God and the Holy Spirit shows up.
SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?
PB: Typically when I least expect him to be there. I know God is always there but he just surprises me anyway. We have a preschool here at Christ Lutheran and sometimes I’ll have lunch with the preschoolers. One day a preschooler said to me, “Pastor Burkey, Jesus really loves you.” I wanted to say I went to seminary and got a couple degrees and knew all about that, but instead with great enthusiasm I said, “That’s just awesome!” Here was a preschooler telling me about Jesus’ love. God’s at work there. Then, in my own life, I find it the most amazing thing of all when he shows up.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PB: We go to be with Jesus and we call that heaven. Then there’s hell. Those who received the gift of Jesus go to heaven; those who reject the gift, they don’t have to have it, unfortunately, and they go to a place called hell. Hell for us is life without God.