Who? A sermon for Jun 17, 2018

A sermon by Rev. Blair Trygstad Stowe and Ray Trygstad
Sunday, June 17, 2018 at First United Methodist Church, Ontario, California and at Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville, Illinois. Variations in delivery before each congregation are noted in the text.

The scripture reading before the sermon is 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13.


This must be one of the most commonly asked questions in history. Anytime something needs doing, a job needs filling, a vacuum of power arises, or you need someone, the same question always comes up: Who? Who will do it? Who can we send? Who will run? Who will save us? Who will be my friend?


The people of Israel said “Who?…Who will be our King?” They didn’t have a king, but all the folks around them did, so they decided they just had to have one too. And the Lord answered their prayers; He told his prophet Samuel to anoint Saul to govern his people. Saul looked the part of a king. He was a tall man, a full head taller than everyone else. By the time of our story today, he was a war hero as well. He seemed to be everything the people thought a king should be. (Based on height alone, he could have been a university president, who as a group are far taller than the general population.)  But he was as it turns out, disobedient. And disobedience in Israel’s history seems to be God’s biggest pet peeve. So, the scripture tells us, “…the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Continue reading

No Longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female

A Sermon by Ray Trygstad
At Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville, Illinois, June 19, 2016.
Download as a PDF.

Promises. Everybody makes promises. We make promises to ourselves, often on New Years Day: “This year, I’m gonna lose 40 pounds.” “This year, I’m gonna not watch so much TV.” And some people get a little ridiculous: “I will not bore my boss by with the same excuse for taking days off. I will think of some more excuses.” or “I will find out why the correspondence course on “Mail Fraud” that I purchased never showed up.” Comedian Pete Holmes has the best formula for resolutions: “Forgot to make resolutions? Just write out everything you did last night and at the beginning add the word ‘stop.’” Simple, easy promises that all too often people do not take very seriously.

Fathers make promises. The promise of a parent is far more serious than a resolution. After church today, John and Lynn and I are heading up to the Warrenville Community Center to help present “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical.” Most folks probably think this show is about Mary Poppins, but actually it’s not. It’s about George Banks, the father of the family living at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. It’s about unfulfilled and even unexpressed promises of a father to his family, and Mary Poppins freeing George to be a full father to his children. Every Dad makes promises, and today on Father’s Day we thank our fathers for following through on those promises: the promise of love, a home, a family, and a launchpad to allow us to leave that home and family to make it in the world. Continue reading

Hubris: Lenovo and Superfish

From one of my favorite blogs, Techdirt, here’s a concise breakout of the Lenovo/Superfish/Komodia affair that came out in the media last week:

Last week it came out that Lenovo was installing a bit of software called “Superfish” as a default bloatware on a bunch of its “consumer” laptops. The software tried to pop up useful alternative shopping results for images. But in order to work on HTTPS-encrypted sites, Superfish made use of a nasty (and horribly implemented) “SSL hijacker” from Komodia, which installed a self-signed root certificate that basically allowed anyone to issue totally fake security certificates for any encrypted connection, enabling very easy man-in-the-middle attacks. Among the many, many, many stupid things about the way Komodia worked, was that it used the same certificate on each installation of Superfish, and it had an easily cracked password: “komodia” which was true on apparently every product that used Komodia. And researchers have discovered that a whole bunch of products use Komodia, putting a ton of people at risk. People have discovered at least 12 products that make use of Komodia. (Read more…)

This is sort of the perfect storm at the intersection of ethics and cyber security, as it is behavior that has compromised/breached the security of Lenovo’s systems, and the two other companies involved refuse to even acknowledge that what they are doing is nothing short of a cybersecurity disaster, but from an ethical perspective, is just plain WRONG. It is an amazing demonstration of the kind of hubris that we see in so many corporations today, complete with”ignore and deny” followed by “circle the wagons” and quickly descending to plain old fingerpointing. Only after being raked through the coals in the press did the lead player fess up and take responsibility, and the other players, the ones with the irredeemably broken business model, are still in the the deny everything and hope it will go away mode. Here’s how this went down in the trade AND popular press, in approximate chronological order…

Lenovo Joins the Malevolent Side of the Online Advertising IndustryGizmodo
Lenovo’s Superfish nightmare is a sign that marketing tech has gone too farVenturebeat VB News
Lenovo CTO Admits It ‘Messed Up’ Allowing Major Security Hole Onto PCsre/code
The biggest takeaway from ‘Superfish’: We need to push for “No OS” buying option.- Reddit /r/technology
Superfish admits installing root certificate authority to show ads on secure sitesThe Next Web
Lenovo backpedals on Superfish adware, says it’s working to ‘restore trust’ - Mashable
Here’s How to Remove the Ghastly Superfish Adware From Lenovo LaptopsSlate
How to remove the dangerous Superfish adware preinstalled on Lenovo PCs - PCWorld
Lenovo CTO admits company ‘messed up,’ publishes Superfish removal tool - PCWorld
Lenovo finally admits its sleazy adware ploy put its own customers at risk of being hacked – BGR
Lenovo’s Superfish security snafu blows up in its faceC|NET
Here’s How To Get Rid Of That Nasty Superfish Vulnerability On Your New Lenovo LaptopConsumerist
Lenovo has just released an automatic Superfish removal tool - The Verge
Bravo! Windows Defender, McAfee updates fully remove Lenovo’s dangerous Superfish adwarePCWorld
Lenovo Releases Tool To Remove The Sketchy Exploitable “SuperFish” Garbage It Pre-Loaded On LaptopsTechCrunch
Microsoft has updated Windows Defender to root out the Superfish adwareThe Verge
Windows Defender destroys Superfish – Slashgear
Department of Homeland Security urges Lenovo users to remove SuperfishMashable
U.S. Government Urges Lenovo Customers to Remove ‘Superfish’ SoftwareEntrepreneur
US government urges Lenovo users to remove Superfish, but the software maker denies security riskThe Next Web
CEO says Superfish is safe as US issues alert to remove Superfish from Lenovo PCsPCWorld
Lenovo CTO admits Superfish put users at risk, talks damage controlMashable
Lenovo slapped with lawsuit over dangerous Superfish adwarePCWorld
Or, just read the Techdirt complete Superfish coverage

Sadducees, Pharisees and Love

A Sermon by Ray Trygstad
At Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville, Illinois, October 26th, 2014.
Download as a PDF.

Twenty-two years ago this month, I became a professor. In all that time I have taught many courses in multiple subjects, in four different departments at my university. But of all of the courses I taught, the one I enjoyed the most was a history course. In our Gospel today Jesus engages in debate with the Pharisees, because they had heard that he’d bested the Sadducees. Before we examine the words of our Lord more closely, we’re going to have a little history lesson—because I like teaching history. But please, stay calm: there will NOT be a quiz.

Everybody has heard of “Pharisees” and “Sadducees,” and most Christians have a vague awareness that they were some sort of division within Judaism at the time of Jesus. These two groups represented philosophical, theological, liturgical, and cultural differences in Judaism during an era in Jewish history commonly referred to as the Second Temple period. This dates from the return of the nation of Israel from the Babylonian captivity when they re-built the temple, until the Romans destroyed the Temple in about 70 AD. So lets get some context here: who were these people? Continue reading

It is Well with My Soul

A Sermon by Ray Trygstad
At Center Valley United Methodist Church, Chatsworth, Georgia, October 19th, 2014.
Download as a PDF.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Since I’m here from the Chicago area, I am going to tell you a story of Chicago. This is a tale of a Chicago businessman named Horatio Spafford. Horatio had a successful law practice, had invested wisely in downtown Chicago real estate, and was a leader in his church. He was a friend of Dwight Moody (the founder of Moody Bible Institute), and a man who truly lived his faith. In the wake of the great Chicago fire in 1871, despite the loss of great deal of his own investments and the recent death of their son, Spafford and his Norwegian-born wife, Anna, dedicated themselves to helping those who had been impoverished by the devastation of their city. After years of laboring in the Lord’s vineyards, they were exhausted and decided to join Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey in one of their crusades in Great Britain and to take a well-earned vacation in Europe. Continue reading

Edward Snowden: Point/Counterpoint

My friend and colleague Bill Slater did a presentation before an overflow crowd on Edward Snowden at IIT’s ForenSecure ’14 conference this morning. In his truly excellent and well researched talk, Bill echoed some opinions of the NSA and members of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees as to the “extreme dangers to national security” posed by Snowden’s disclosure’s about the NSA’s abuses. I felt compelled to offer a counterpoint to Bill’s position on some things in his presentation so I stood up and presented my view that Snowden is a genuine whistleblower who has cast a sharp and bright light on systemic and gross abuses of the Fourth Amendment by the NSA. I also pointed out that Snowden is only in Russia because he was in transit when the U.S. revoked his passport, and that all of the data in his possession was turned over to journalists before he left Hong Kong. Finally I discussed how seriously I take my oath to the Constitution, and how disgusted I am by those at the NSA who have taken the same and have abrogated that Oath so egregiously. It was a good session, a good discussion, and despite the appearance of dispute, Bill and I are still friends!

Favorite The Verdalsraset and the Trygstad Farm


Looking south at the Stiklestad Church, Stiklestad, Norway (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia)

Recently I discovered that the place where my last name came from no longer exists–literally.

Here’s the back story: on the 25th of February, 1827 Andreas Gunderson was born to Gunder Baardson and Anne Andersdotter in Stiklestad, Norway. Stiklestad is a very small village within the municipality of Verdal, in Nord-Trøndelag; it is most noted as the site where King Olaf (later Saint Olaf) was killed in battle during a peasant revolt. (We figure my ancestors were probably among the revolting peasants.) Anyway, Andreas married Ane Taraldsdotter and worked the family farm, the Trygstad farm. Andreas and Ane had five sons, who grew up in the late 19th century when for the first time in Norway, common folks were taking surnames instead of just having a patronymic. Their sons were Gustav Andreasson Trygstad (b. 1856), Bente “Ben” Andreasson Holst (b. 1861), Thomas Andreasson Holst (b. 1865), Anton Andreasson Trygstad (b. 1867), and John Martin Andreasson Trygstad (b. 1871). Three sons took the name of the farm as their surname, while the other two took the name Holst. Anton died in 1891 at the age of 23, and all the rest of the brothers emigrated from Norway: Gustav to Sweden and the other three to the United States. The youngest, John Martin Andreasson Trygstad, was my great grandfather. He came to Minnesota in 1901 and settled in Palo, a very small town–sort of like Stikelstad–near Aurora, Minnesota, where he raised six sons and two daughters, and passed away on March 1, 1942.

Why did the sons of Andreas Gunderson leave Norway? It is perhaps in part due to an cataclysmic event that was so significant in the history of Norway that it has it’s own name: the Verdalsraset (literally, the Verdal slide). Late on the night of May 18th, 1893, a large portion of the north bank of the Verdal River gave way, creating a mudslide estimated to contain 55 to 60 million cubic meters of mud, burying 9 square kilometers 3 to 5 meters deep in mud. 112 people died in the slide, with another four dying from injuries over the next several days, bringing the total death toll to 116. There is an old map of the slide, created by the Norwegian government shortly after the event, that shows the extent of the area buried by the slide (see below). Clearly shown on the map, near the eastern edge of the slide, is the Trygstad farm. My great-grandfather had left before this time–probably because he was the youngest son–to become a constable in Bergen. But the rest of his siblings all left within a few years of this event. Andreas Gunderson stayed on to die in Stiklestad in 1910.

All this new knowledge of my family is because I stumbled across a massively complete genealogical website assembled and maintained by a distant Holst cousin of mine, Tom Moren. His site, http://morenfamilytree.com/, has the most information I have ever found on my family. Thanks, Tom! (Unfortunately the site seems to have gone down since my original post. Darn this Web thing anyhow!)

An excerpt from the Verdalsraset map showing the slide area (in olive green), Trygstad, and Stiklestad

An excerpt from the Verdalsraset map showing the slide area (in olive green), Trygstad, and Stiklestad

(Repost from November 15, 2009 with updates and corrections)