Sermons by “Pastor Torgerson”

Lead in Faith

It’s okay to admit that you don’t really know what just happened for the past five minutes. You heard a lot of names and places and situations that might have sounded very unfamiliar, and you may be left wondering what on earth King Sennacherib of Assyria and his Rabshakeh, or King Hezekiah and Isaiah son of Amoz have to do with you and your life. Allow me to give you a brief background on the situation, and allow me also to promise that this has a lot to do with you, your life, and what God is calling you to do.

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It’s Not About Money

It’s always about money. Having enough, not having enough, looking like you have enough, needing more, keeping what’s yours and taking what isn’t, it’s what we are always talking about and thinking about. The root of all evil, that around which the world turns, time is money, money is power, it’s about money.

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I Promise

Let’s start with a survey. Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a promise. You may leave your hand up
if you have never, ever broken a promise. It appears that humans have a little trouble keeping their
promises. Maybe this is why we have trouble believing promises. Not only have we broken our own promises,
we’ve been on the receiving end of a broken promise.

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What is the number one wish that we have for ourselves and the people we care about? To be happy. Whether it’s our expressed desire for our children or a parting platitude to an ex-boyfriend, we so regularly say “I just want them to be happy” that we don’t even think twice about it any more. And so, when someone pitches happiness to us, we do not question it. We accept it. Because ultimately, we want it.

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The Jesus Test, Part 2

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? If you don’t, I encourage you to find one. A favorite Bible verse is something you can return to time and time again, regardless of the circumstances. It’s something that you have memorized that you can recite when you’re happy and grateful, when you’re sad and anxious, or when you’re struggling and lost. It is a verse that you can share with someone in the elevator when they ask you about what you believe. It is a piece of scripture that summarizes for you what your faith is about, and what your relationship with God truly means.

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The Jesus Test

Let’s take a quick survey. Consider the events of the past several weeks. Murder and terror in Iraq and Syria at the hands of terrorist groups. The spread of Ebola throughout West Africa and the threat of infection in our own country. Ongoing military campaigns in Gaza and Syria. Escalating tensions between Russia and the Ukraine. The tragic and terrible death of Officer Scott Patrick. Violence, aggression, and rioting following the death of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri. And these are only the events on my heart and mind that I can list right now. So think about the news that you’ve been getting lately, on the nightly news, on the front page of the paper, in your twitter feed, and tell me: does it feel overwhelming? In fact, why don’t you honk your horn / raise your hand right now if it feels like it’s too much.

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What Do You Say?

A few weeks ago, I was gathered with fellow worship leaders Pastor Aune, Kathy Andrews, and Lisa Griffin to plan a year’s worth of worship at Augustana. It is a tall task to sit together and envision what our worship lives will look like together through an entire year, and as we work together we also suggest new ideas and re-envision old ones. As I was suggesting one idea, the always-sage Kathy Andrews asked how it might work from a liturgical and theological perspective. I explained how I thought it would work, and I’ll admit I stretched a little to make the point. She noted that I could probably find a way to make anything make sense. She joked, “If we said we should have a zebra in worship, you’d find a way for it to work.” At which point, I explained that since zebras are white and black they do a good job of representing both our pure, sinless selves and our dark, sinful selves and were actually a very liturgical animal.

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My People

The story of Esther is one of the great stories of the Bible. It has intrigue, humor, danger, and victory. It is the story that sets up the Jewish festival of Purim, which is marked with great celebrations and public readings of this very story. But there are a few things that this story doesn’t have: namely, it has no mention of God. Martin Luther once said that he wished the book did not exist at all for this reason. However, if we were without Esther’s story, we would be without a story of themes that are central to our faith, even if our faith is not specifically named. The story of Esther is a story of boldness in proclamation, of unified identity with all believers, of confidence in God’s guidance, and ultimately, salvation.

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