Faith Stories--Pastor Greg Berger

By Hope Schreiner

 

 

Hello Messiah family! A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with our very own Pastor Greg Berger to talk about his faith journey.

 

As many of you may already know, Greg Berger came to Messiah in July of 2000. He had been serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hooper, Nebraska for six years when he felt God calling him elsewhere. A friend of his who was a pastor in Omaha said that Messiah would be a good church to look into, so Greg talked to the bishop at the time, and the rest is history. He said, “It’s always about just trying to follow the Spirit’s lead in these kinds of things.”

 

What Greg admires most about Messiah is the sense of family. He said, “I think that speaks a lot to why I’ve been here for 20 years. It’s [family] just all over what we do.” He mentioned Messiah’s relationship with the South Sudanese, saying that our sister parish in Tanzania “wasn’t just a project that we were going to do as a church. It was really about the relationships.” He also spoke fondly of Reggie and Walter, two refugees from New Orleans who came to Omaha on a plane of 160 or so others. Years later, Greg contacted the refugee coordinator, and she was surprised to find that he had stayed in contact with Reggie and Walter, saying that Messiah was the only organization that remained connected to the evacuees. Greg chuckled and said, “Well, of course! They’ve become our family. Like I said, it isn’t a project; it’s about relationships.”

 

When asked about how he best connected with God on a daily basis, Greg said that he learned something from his pastor when he was in Auburn. He said, “It isn’t so much a particular practice, but it’s just that sense of awareness that God is always with me. All my conversations, in a sense, include God. I know that God’s listening in. Something pops in my head, and I’m kind of like, ‘Okay, God, is that a nudge from you? Is that something I should be paying attention to?’ Also, being able to walk out to the mailbox and say, ‘Wow, God, you really gave us a cold one today!’ It’s that ongoing conversation.” Greg also mentioned that he does breathing prayers and practices Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”) which is reading scripture in a meditative and contemplative way. Lastly, he laughed and said, “Going outside and mowing the yard is a kind of physical prayer, a movement prayer. Some people do that with dance or yoga or tai chi, but my movement prayer is digging in the yard or mowing grass.”

 

Greg has felt God’s astounding presence most notably when in community with others. He said, “When you’re in a group where you’re sharing something or praying together, you’re experiencing grace through community.” He also somberly shared that the most powerful place he experiences God’s presence is when he has the distinct honor of being present at someone’s death. “I think it’s because all of our walls and our ideas and our presuppositions about how things should be just get crushed, you know? And there’s kind of nothing there except to just experience God’s presence.”

 

There are many people in Greg’s life who have had a significant impact on his faith journey, most notably his old pastor in Auburn. Through him, Greg learned about God’s constant and comforting presence. He taught Greg to live by faith in everything he did, every day. He was also the first person to tell Greg that God was calling him to the ministry. Greg also said that, most recently, he has a great deal of respect and admiration for the ELCA bishop Brian Maas. “On the one side, he’s very vulnerable, and on the other side, he is such an intellectual, and the way he thinks through things is really helpful to me in my leadership and my faith life.”

 

There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, but when asked to pick his favorite, Greg did not hesitate to pull one out. He laughed and said, “Well, of course, I don’t just say it because it’s the easy one, but John 3:16 is really just the whole thing in one verse, in one sentence really. That God so loved the world that he gave his only son. And that really encapsulates everything about scripture in one verse.” He also recited a verse from Romans 8: “It’s Paul saying that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. And that is always something I cling to, especially on the bad days, on days when I’m filled with doubt and questioning. That there’s nothing, not even my doubts or questions or struggles, that can separate me from God’s love.”

 

 

If you want to share your faith story with the people of Messiah, please email Hope at [email protected]