🌊Make Waves of Change this Giving Tuesday

Navigating the Waves: Your Chance to Make Waves of Change this Giving Tuesday!

Picture This: Standing on the edge of the Red Sea, facing challenges, and trusting in the divine hand that guides us toward the promised land for the Institute of Lutheran Theology. As we navigate these waters, your support becomes the wind in our sails, propelling us toward a brighter future.

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🌟 Encouraging News: Our sails are filled with the winds of progress. Enrollment is surging, faculty is top-notch, and the vision of the Center for Congregational Renewal is becoming a reality. We’re on the cusp of something extraordinary.

📜 Our Clear Mission: We’ve asked the Lord for guidance on two critical missions—to cultivate a new generation of pastors rooted in Holy Scriptures and Lutheran theology and to provide immediate assistance to congregations in need. The answer is clear: renew and reinvigorate right thinking and preaching to stand against the tide and bring hope to churches across North America.

💰Financial Crossroads: Yet, we stand at a financial crossroads. The pressure is real, and we’re on the verge of budget cuts that could hinder our progress toward God’s calling. ILT needs your support now more than ever.

🤲 Join the Quest: I stand with you in this quest. Foreseeing our financial challenges, I’ve chosen to volunteer my time, foregoing any salary from ILT. My commitment to ILT and its promising future has never been stronger.

🚀 Your Chance to Make a Difference: Will you join me in the quest to bring right thinking and preaching back to congregations across North America? Your generosity can make a significant impact. Our goal is to raise $250,000 over the next two months, and every donation, big or small, contributes to our shared journey.

🙏 Pray and Act: Take a moment to pray and consider making a generous gift today. Your contribution will help us navigate these waters and steer toward a future where hope and renewal abound.

Let’s make waves of change together!

Yours in Christ,
Dennis Bielfeldt, Ph.D.

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The First Sunday of Advent

This shout of acclamation has been given a place in the liturgy of our service of Holy Communion.  There, we know it as the “Sanctus.”  There, it is the song of the people as they anticipate the Words of Institution… an anticipation full of joy and of an eager hopefulness that their reception of the body and blood of their Lord will indeed be blessed—that is, fruitful… fruitful unto their salvation.  To bless something is to commend it to fruitfulness.  To bless is a prayer for the productivity of whatever is being blessed.  To interpret the people’s shout under this rubric is to hear the “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as a cry of confidence that the one bearing the name of the Lord is indeed fruitful and productive.  This Lord’s fruitfulness delivers abundant salvation.  His profligate productivity establishes the people in the forgiveness of their sins.  For now, all this abundance and fruitfulness is a matter of faith; the experience of its glory awaits us.  The very voices who shouted “Hosanna!” as welcome to their king, days later turned to shouting, “Crucify him!” when their king disappointed them by suffering humiliation without any visible or tangible evidence of glory.

Prayers from those frustrated by having to live in humility rather than glory as they await the coming of their king…

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, grant that I remain in humility as I await the appearance of my glory when He comes again in glory.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, hold me in a confident faith, enduring and humble, during these days of my baptism.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, as I endure the humility of this sin-broken world, and the persistence of my sinful self, keep me from taking pride in my piety and trusting in my righteous deeds.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, deliver me into the hands of my neighbors that I would be of some use to them in the acquisition of their daily bread.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, as I would lack for my daily bread provide me with neighbors who will deliver that bread to me.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, keep the Institute of Lutheran Theology in the humility of knowing Jesus and Jesus only.  Father, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, as you sent your Son so has your Son sent us, during these days of my baptism place your Word on my lips so that I would deliver the Bread of Life come down from heaven to my neighbors.  Father, hear my prayer.

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The First Sunday in Advent, December 3, 2023

Who comprehends the Lord’s pardon?  Struck by its incomprehensibility, we are left with Nicodemus’ question, “How can these things be?” (Jn. 3:9).  “Seek me,” says the Lord… “Call on me,” says the Lord… “Forsake your ways… return to me,” says the Lord… the unflaggingly faithful Lord calls his people to him, not to receive judgment and punishment, but to receive compassion and pardon.   Indeed, who can understand it?

The Lord himself reassures us in our inability to comprehend his faithfulness.  He announces, “My ways are not your ways…” “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” (vs. 9).  Nothing in this sin-broken creation prepares us for the Lord’s mercy.  No relationship on earth exudes love and faithfulness like our Lord’s claim upon his people.  That divine mercy and compassion are too good to be true.

Our skepticism convinces us that the Lord’s faithfulness simply exceeds our capacity to trust it.  “Surely,” we think, “there must be a catch… The Lord cannot simply up and forgive sins, can he?”  So, in our skepticism, we fall into one or the other of the two traps that Satan sets around the Lord’s faithfulness.   The first trap convinces us that our skepticism is true.  God does not simply up and forgive sins.  No, he does not.  We must add some work of our own:  sorrow, repentance, amendment of life… whatever the trap contains.  The second trap convinces us that it is certainly true:  God does indeed up and forgive sins.  In fact, since that forgiveness stands over our entire lives, there is no need even to admit to our sinfulness.  We say to ourselves, “I like to sin; God likes to forgive; it’s a match made in heaven.”

Not so fast, God does indeed simply up and forgive.  His pardon is so exceedingly abundant, it’s incomprehensible.  This pardon… this compassion… this love from God is (as Paul preaches) only available in Jesus Christ.  Not in that “something” you must add… not in your assumption of pardon… only… only in Jesus Christ!

Table Talk:  Discuss the two traps and how you have succumbed to them.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, keep your Word Jesus Christ plentifully available to me that in him I would not only be pardoned but be kept from the traps Satan has laid for me.  Amen

Isaiah 55:6-9

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call upon him while he is near;

7 let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Introducing Table Talk II

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Table Talk II, marking a new season of thought-provoking discussions and spiritual exploration.

Unlike our previous seasons, which followed a three-year lectionary, Table Talk II will now embrace a one-year lectionary. The first one will be sent out in our Monday Morsels email newsletter on Monday, November 27.

In this email, we’ll share the reasons behind this exciting shift, offering insight into how this change will enhance our collective journey of faith. Thank you for being a valued part of the Table Talk community, and we look forward to embarking on this new season together.

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Table Talk’s New Chapter

After twelve remarkable years exploring the three-year lectionary, we’re excited to celebrate this milestone and dive into a new historical chapter. Starting this Advent, Table Talk II embraces the rich narratives of the one-year lectionary, a time-honored tradition that has graced the church for centuries. As it has come down to us, it customarily receives some modifications provided by the church body publishing it. This particular version of the historic one-year lectionary is drawn from the Lutheran Service Book commonly used in Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregations.

Reasons For Taking Up This Historical Liturgy

In our ever-changing world, innovation is the norm, and the three-year lectionary was a groundbreaking testament. Yet, the one-year lectionary offers a unique perspective. Beyond continuous biblical narration, it annually repeats crucial scripture texts, weaving them into the fabric of the church year’s themes and fostering a tradition that deepens over time. It aligns with the timeless concern for preserving past traditions, echoing Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:3. This repetition becomes a shared language, fostering conversations, supporting beliefs, and providing solace in troubled times. As the saying goes, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

Another compelling reason for taking up the historic one-year lectionary: It offers Martin Luther as a guide, with traditional readings preached by Luther himself, found in Luther’s Church Postils and House Postils.

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Appreciation for the Trinitarian Essence of the One-Year Lectionary

We can visualize the one-year lectionary as a Venn diagram, with intersecting circles marking the Time of Christmas, Time of Easter, and Time of the Church.This unique structure, with Good Friday/Easter at its core, guides us through the church year’s flow. With a heightened focus on penitence and repentance, it aligns with Luther’s call for a life of repentance. Get ready for a distinctive journey from Advent to an Easter resolution in Christ, including the special Sundays leading up to Easter, Septuagesima (70 days), Sexagesima (60 days), and Quinquagesima (50 days).
Download the Venn Diagram

Resources for Use with the One-Year Lectionary

Ready to explore the One-Year Lectionary? Your first stop is the ILT website under the Table Talk tab for the reading list, OR you can download it by clicking the button below.
Download the One-Year Lectionary

Check out Rev. Randy Asburry’s insightful presentation for a deeper understanding.
Download Rev. Asburry’s Presentation

For further exploration, consider print resources like:

  • Planning the Service: A Workbook for Pastors, Organists, and Choirmasters by Ralph Gehrke (CPH, 1961)
  • The Sermon and the Propers (4 volumes) by Fred H. Lindemann, again published by CPH (1958)

Asburry also recommends the online gem, Lectionary Central, a goldmine for sermons by Martin Luther on the texts we’re about to delve into.

Christ The King Sunday A

07 reaction of the righteous and the unrighteous.  Jesus has previously delivered this reassurance to his disciples, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44).  This reality is echoed in Jesus’ call to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father…” (Mt. 25:34).  The reality reflects that the Father’s blessing… the Father’s drawing… comes prior to the works of charity.  Another reality is echoed in Jesus’ dismissal of those on his left… the goats…, “Depart from me, you cursed…”  This reality implies that the cursing of the goats took place prior to their lack of charity. The reality of the blessed, the elect of God versus the reality of the cursed, those whom God has not elected draws forth a question from your lips, “What must I do to be among the elect of God?”  The answer?  “Show up!”  Show up in that only place where Jesus can be found “for you!”  There, in the physical presence of the body of Christ… there, where the church is established by the preaching of the gospel and the giving of the sacraments… there, God elects you… God draws you to Jesus… God, the Father blesses you… From there, God sends you out to be busy among your neighbors, feeding them, clothing them, visiting them, and ministering to them.  Unbeknownst to you at the time, the presence of your Lord Jesus is hidden among them.  Surprise!  You have fed, clothed, visited, and ministered to the very Lord of your salvation.

Prayers from one constant in his attempts to achieve his election rather than simply receiving it from the Father…

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Deliver this election to me as your Word fills my ears, washes over my head, and feeds my mouth.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Bless me with your choosing that I would be in the company and fellowship of all the others you have called out with your choosing.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.    As I am in the company of these saints you have chosen, grant me the comfort of their conversation and consolation.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  From the blessedness of this company, send me into the world where I might serve my neighbor by feeding, clothing, and ministering to them.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Grant me the anticipation that the serving and ministering to those neighbors of mine would finally be revealed as ministering to my savior and Lord himself.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  So hold the Institute of Lutheran Theology in the proclamation of your Word that it, too, would deliver your election to its students.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

Heavenly Father, you elect… you choose… you draw… all things through your Son, Jesus Christ.  So work upon me in these days of my baptism that I would show up again and again to that place where Jesus Christ can be found “for me” and in that receiving of your Son “for me,” I would know your election once again.  Grant me, Lord, the reality of your choosing me.  Amen

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Christ the King Sunday A, November 26, 2023

The thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel begins with the Lord commanding the prophet to “prophesy against the shepherds of Israel (vs. 34:1).  The Lord gives Ezekiel the indictment against the shepherds (and by shepherds, the Lord means the leaders of the people both religious and governmental).  They have fed themselves and not the sheep (34:2).  They eat the fat sheep and clothe themselves in wool but do not feed the sheep that provide these things.  The shepherds… the leaders… do not strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost.  The Lord’s sheep, scattered hither and yon, have become food for the wild beasts.

In the text before us, the Lord is giving those so-called shepherds the boot.  The Lord is taking over their position.  He will be leader… he will be his sheep’s shepherd… he will rescue his flock (vs. 11 & 22).  Yet, the Lord is not content to indict merely lax and incompetent shepherds.  The Lord also indicts by “judging between sheep and sheep” (vs. 34:17).  These bullies of the flock have used their strength to seize and consume the good pasture and to claim and drink the clear water.  Even worse, they have despoiled both pasture and stream for the rest of the flock (vs. 34:18-19).  The Lord rectifies all this insult and injustice, taking the shepherd’s position for himself and then bestowing it upon his servant David (vs. 23).

Consider again the parable of the Lost Sheep told by Jesus in the fifteenth chapter of Luke.  Consider it in light of what you have learned from this chapter in Ezekiel.  Consider that the “lost sheep” had not wandered off because of its own moral failings or other sinful behavior.  Consider instead that the “lost sheep” was there in the wilderness because the assigned shepherd had failed or because the strong sheep had bullied this weak one into lostness.  Consider that, though the parable might be such an indictment as the Lord prophesied through Ezekiel, the Lord still rescues his flock through the Son of David, who is  Jesus Christ, the very Word of God himself.

Table Talk:  Discuss how the shepherd/sheep imagery clarifies you.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, keep me in the care of my good shepherd, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

11 For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice…

…20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2023

Do… do the commandments!  Why?  For very temporal and earthly benefits: life and children, and possession of the promised land (vs. 1).  The Lord tested his people, the Israelites… he tested them in the keeping of his commandments.  That keeping was their discipleship.  A connection exists between the two words “discipline” and “discipleship.”  Each word has the same root… the meaning of instruction or training.  Discipleship means learning from an exterior source, a source like a teacher or a leader, or by specific philosophical constraints.  Discipline, on the other hand, comes from an inner motivation to obey rules or a code of conduct.  Such obedience can be called self-control or correction.  Disciples need discipline and discipline produces disciples.

In his disciplining of his people, the Lord humbled them, led them to hunger, and then fed them on manna—which heretofore had been entirely unknown to them (vs. 3).  His people came to know the truth:  that they lived solely and entirely by the Word of the Lord (vs. 3).  The whole of the forty years wandering in the wilderness was to prepare them to live in the land where the Lord their God was leading them.  This land was not wilderness and desert; it was a good land, fertile and lush.  This land was not scarce and desolate; it was abundant and fruitful.  The discipline acquired during the sojourn in scarcity would be practiced by the people as they lived in abundance.  Even in that abundance, the people would continue to live solely and entirely by the Word of the Lord.

So, now, to you…  You have known times of scarcity and times of abundance.  You have known both wilderness wanderings and sojourns in secure, abundant places.  The Word of the Lord, Jesus Christ, has been your companion in all those times and places.  He constantly and continually holds you in the discipline and discipleship of living solely and entirely by “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (vs. 3).

Table Talk:  Discuss the ways you have lived by the Word of the Lord in times of both scarcity and abundance.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, lead me into thanksgiving for times of scarcity as well as times of abundance.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost A

Our twenty-first-century ears hear the cursing of that miserly, fearful, and overly protective slave as justified and appropriate.  Who did he think he was, that he should refuse to multiply the talent he’d been given?  Those first-century ears though, they heard this as a scandal.  Their hero… the one-talent slave… the one who didn’t deprive their neighbors of a living… he who followed the law… their neighbor who was normed by cultural restraints and the teaching of the rabbis… their hero received a curse and a casting out.  The owners of those first-century ears would have been struck speechless at the casting of their hero into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Perhaps, then, given such consideration, we will realize that this parable isn’t about the talents and their multiplication.  The talents are simply a device to describe those who operate outside the law and social convention and the one who operates inside the law and within social convention.  In that distinction, Jesus is portrayed as that hard man, greedy enough to reap where he did not sow and to gather where he planted no seed.  Here is the harsh scandal:  the master of his domain operates entirely outside of the legal scheme… outside of the honor/shame system… outside of the safe and acceptable teachings of the tradition.  Furthermore, the master judges and condemns the very one who stands within the legal scheme… within the honor/shame system… within the safe and acceptable teachings of the tradition.  The Apostle put it this way: “For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Ro. 3:28) This distinction is so stark and scandalous that Paul would say that one can be in Christ, or one can be under the law but you can’t be both under the law and in Christ at one and the same time.  Christ is your life; the law is your death sentence.  The law puts you as deep in the dirt as was that one talent given to the miserly slave.  It is the death of you.  And it will not stop accusing you until the dirt is thrown in your face when you return to the dust from which you came.

Prayers from one whose ears are stopped up by the legal scheme… filled with evaluations of honor and shame… obstructed by the safe and acceptable teachings of the tradition…

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Deliver me Father from my confidence in works of the law.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Deliver me into the salvation of your Son.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Deliver me from the safety of my tradition and culture.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Deliver me into the certainty of your Son for me.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.    Deliver me from bondage to sin, death, and the power of the devil.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Deliver me into the kingdom of your Son.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

Heavenly Father, your Son is not safe for he works outside of, and apart from, the law.  Grant to the Institute of Lutheran Theology that it preaches and teaches Jesus Christ, him crucified, and him alone.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen

xemeaino

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost A, November 19, 2023

“What’s it worth to you?”  Maybe I just didn’t have the right kind of friends, but I heard that demand from them quite often during my adolescence.  I’d make a polite request to see or share whatever new toy or activity they were enjoying, and their rejoinder would demand an exchange of value for value.

This world broken by sin has three ways in which we give and receive goods and services from one another; there’s 1) giving and sharing; 2) trading and purchasing; 3) coercing and taking.  The first delivers value with no thought of return.  The second exchanges value for value.  The third takes away value with no thought of compensation.  You do them all; it is the way the world works.

We would be mistaken, though, to reason that God must work this way.  The prophet Zephaniah makes it extremely clear that God is not much interested in trading or purchasing—not much interested in exchanging value for value.  The Lord rejects silver and gold, property and wealth.  God’s wrath is no respecter of persons:  from the lowest to the highest “the whole earth shall be consumed.”

No, our Lord’s interest is not exchange but redemption.  As we learn in the catechism: “he has redeemed me a lost and condemned person not with silver or gold but with his own precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.”  Such redemption lies outside of reason; it belongs to faith alone.

Discuss:  Consider various times you’ve demanded payment; do you have any guilt?

Pray:  Lord, hold me faithfully in Jesus and his redemption of me.  Amen

Zephaniah 1:7-18 (14-18 published here) English Standard Version

14 The great day of the Lord is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;

the mighty man cries aloud there.

15 A day of wrath is that day,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

17 I will bring distress on mankind,

so that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the Lord;

their blood shall be poured out like dust,

and their flesh like dung.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold

shall be able to deliver them

on the day of the wrath of the Lord.

In the fire of his jealousy,

all the earth shall be consumed;

for a full and sudden end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

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Monday Morsels goes beyond the typical newsletter—it’s a source of enlightenment and communal connection. Pastor Timothy Swenson’s Table Talk is a free weekly devotional aligned with the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) used by SOLA Publishing. It serves as a resource for personal reflection, family devotions, and congregational use, extending God’s teachings through the lens of Jesus Christ.

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