Sunday sermons for 'Everyday Saints'Steven D. Tangen, retired pastor of Dickinson’s St. John Lutheran Church, has compiled 50 of his sermons into a newly published book titled “Sunday Sermons for Everyday Saints.”
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Steven D. Tangen, retired pastor of Dickinson’s St. John Lutheran Church, has compiled 50 of his sermons into a newly published book titled “Sunday Sermons for Everyday Saints.”
The title is associated with a conversation he had with a woman who was removing wallpaper in the church basement.
It got him to wondering about other challenging jobs — the teacher in the classroom, the rancher checking cows during a March blizzard, the auto technician or the waitress serving coffee.
Tangen described these people as the everyday saints who are serving others; and in doing so, building up the body of Jesus Christ.
“The primary task of pastors is to equip the everyday saints to do their work in the world, including jobs that I consider to be among the most difficult jobs in the world like removing wallpaper,” he wrote.
Tangen was pastor of St. John Lutheran Church for 30 years, serving from 1976 to 1986, then returning to the parish in 1989 to serve until 2010. He also was pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, Wash., and St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minn.
During his years as a pastor, Tangen estimates writing 2,000 sermons — the first 15 years with a typewriter and the last with a computer.
In the preface to the book, Tangen wrote that he wanted readers to see the sermons, not as about the preacher, but rather about Jesus and the everyday saints who make their way into Sunday’s sermons.
Tangen said the process of writing a sermon includes studying the Scripture passages for the week, prayer and reflection.
“Perhaps the biggest factor was an awareness of what’s going on in people’s lives around me that week,” he said.
Tangen would start writing the sermons on Wednesday and conclude just in time for the Thursday worship service.
“I’d write right up to deadline because I would change my mind,” he said.
Two reasons motivated Tangen to write the book — peoples’ comments suggesting he write a book and a retired friend who suggested he needed a project to stay intellectually busy.
He said the hardest part of the project was the editing — reducing the 12-minute sermons into chapters and checking for grammar and spelling mistakes. Selection of the sermons was easier.
“I kept notes of which sermons I provided as copies,” Tangen said. “Every month or so, people would ask for a written copy. The others were sermons I had a special affection for.”
He started many sermons with personal experiences at home with his wife, JoAn and their children, Erica, Ashley and Jonathan.
“The sermons attempted to connect the presence of Jesus in everyday lives and everyday events,” he said.
Of all the messages, the sermon on dying was one that most impacted Tangen.
“I really came to a peace with my own mortality — it’s a really powerful promise,” he said.
Another favorite sermon is titled “Joe.”
“It’s about a conversation with a neighbor girl who called me Joe,” Tangen said. “I liked being Joe. I’m always Dad, Steve or Pastor Steve, but in the backyard, she saw me as unique and called me Joe.”
He used the conversation as a spin-off about a Scripture passage Peter wrote long ago, “You are a royal people, because God through Jesus Christ calls you his ‘beloved ones.’”
The book can be read in one or two sittings, but it’s meant to be read one or two sermons a week, he said.
In retirement, he and his wife continue to live in Dickinson or spend time at a family cabin in northern Minnesota. His next project is to write a history of family experiences at the cabin.
A book signing is 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Dickinson Area Public Library. He will do a reading at 3 p.m.
Church secretary Bev Olheiser, appreciates how the sermons are grouped according to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.
“I love the book, of course,” she said. “I worked so long with Pastor Steve that each one of the sermons has a meaning for me. I read it in two nights, I couldn’t leave it alone.”
Pastor Lisa Lewton added, “It’s fun to read through them to see the connection he had with the people and the way he related to the congregation through his preaching.”
Proceeds from the book will go to the St. John’s Trust Fund. The books are $15 ($19 if shipped.) They may be picked up at the church at 146 Sixth Ave. W., during the book signing or by calling the church at 701-225-6747.