Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company is a free website that provides brief yet probing exegetical commentary for:

  • Pastors who need inspiration and idea starters for their sermons
  • Church musicians who want to coordinate music and hymn selections with scriptural themes
  • Anyone who wants deeper insight into each week’s lectionary passages

These background notes cover every assigned text in the Revised Common Lectionary for each Sunday and major observance throughout the year.


Writer Mark Ellingsen

Mark Ellingsen, Pastor, Theologian, AuthorMark Ellingsen, author of Lectionary Scripture Notes, is a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and a professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated magna cum laude from Gettysburg College and has received four degrees from Yale University. He has authored many titles, most recently Lectionary Preaching Workbook for CSS Publishing Company….read more


Reformation Day, Cycle A

Freedom! The texts and the festival invite consideration of our freedom from the law (Sin, Justification by Grace, and Sanctification as Spontaneous Good Works).

Psalm 46
A Korah Psalm (one of the songs attributed to professional temple singers [see 2 Chronicles 20:19]). The reference in the psalm’s preface to Alamoth is uncertain. We do know that this is the psalm (especially v. 1) that inspired Martin Luther’s famed hymn “A Mighty Fortress.”

God is said to be our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble. We need not fear [yare], for he subdued all others (vv. 1-3). This may be a reference to what God will do in the last days. The promise is made that Jerusalem will endure forever (vv. 4-7). Reference to the river making the city glad is an image for the service of blessing. Reference to Selah after verse 3 probably is a direction to insert an instrumental interlude at that point in the psalm. The establishment of God’s kingdom will bring peace (vv. 8-9). We are urged to be still and know that the Lord is God (v. 10). These words may be a divine oracle of salvation, giving God praise for his observance of help against enemies.

Application: Sermons on this hymn might examine our fears and troubles (Sin) with the assurance that God is still our refuge (Justification by Grace). Opportunities are also provided to consider the atonement (the Classic View, whereby Christ and God defeat the forces of evil)…click here for the rest of this installment

Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!

All Saints Day, Cycle A

This is inspired by the saints and the love of God. The festival and the assigned texts focus on the Christian life (Sanctification), with an appreciation that this does not happen apart from God’s work on us (Justification by Grace). There are also eschatological elements/themes to be explored in relation to these themes.

Psalm 34:1-10, 22
This lesson is a thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble, traditionally attributed to David when feigning madness before Abimelech, whom he ultimately overcame. (In the actual event reported in 1 Samuel 21:10-15, David tricks Achish, King of Gath.) We have previously noted that many scholars have concluded that references to David in the psalms may have been a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects and so of all the faithful (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 521). In that sense this song is about the help we can count on from God in the midst of our troubles. The psalm is acrostic, with the first letter of each line following consecutively the order of the Hebrew alphabet.

The lesson begins with a brief hymn of praise, referring to blessing [barak] Yahweh at all times (vv. 1-3). The psalmist claims to have sought the Lord and been delivered (vv. 4, 6). Yahweh’s angel [malak, referring both to a messenger and to Yahweh's power] camps around all who fear [yare, referring to obedience and proper relationship with God] him (v. 7). We are told to taste and see that Yahweh is good [tob], and those who take refuge in him are blessed/happy [ashere] and are never in want (vv. 8-10). The style here is typical of teachers of Hebraic wisdom (Psalms 1 and 37). The Lord is said to redeem [padah, which also means "free"] the life of his servants not condemning those who take refuge in him (v. 22).

Application: Sermons on this song might depict the Christian life (Sanctification) as taking refuge in God. These saints are never in want and are blessed (which entails their happiness). The character of happiness in Old Testament times, reflecting on how we might find happiness today in holiness and right relation with Christ, could receive further attention…click here for the rest of this installment

Proper 26 | OT 31 | Pentecost 21, Cycle A

The marvelous things God’s word does. The texts permit us to focus on what God does (Providence and Justification by Grace) and how that changes us and our world (Sanctification and Social Ethics). Some of these themes permit attention to the celebration of All Saints Day commemorated just the previous day.

Psalm 107:1-7
This psalm is a group thanksgiving for pilgrims who have come to Jerusalem for a festival. God is first praised for his love (v. 1). The redeemed [gaal] of the Lord should concur, for they were gathered from north, south, east, and west (vv. 2-3). Reference is made here to the Babylonian exiles. Then groups of verses follow offering thanks for deliverance from various dangers. Verses 4-9 are thanks for deliverance for those who traveled across the desert. In their hunger and thirst (v. 5), those traveling in the desert cried out to Yahweh, and he delivered [natsal] them (v. 6).

Application: With this song, preachers have occasion to examine ways in which we are endangered (Sin) as well as tragedies of hunger locally and nationwide (Social Ethics), along with the proclamation of God’s love (Justification by Grace) and Atonement (the Classic View, whereby Christ and God defeat the forces of evil)….click here for the rest of this installment

Click here for future days.

Get LSN Delivered to your Inbox for FREE!
First Name:
Last Name:
  • SermonSuite Special
    Leah Lonsbury
    For All the Saints
    Matthew 5:1-12; Matthew 23:1-12

    Many of us will be celebrating All Saints Day this Sunday, pausing to honor the lives of the members of our congregations who have died in the past year. But what is it exactly about a person that makes them a saint? William W. How gives us some ideas in his famous hymn “For All the Saints.” Saints, according to How, are those who profess their faith before the world; bless the name of Jesus; find shelter in God; look to the Lord in their faithful, bold, and “well-fought fight”; win the victor’s crown; and shine in glory.
         Those sound like some pretty tough standards to live up to, right?
         What if our saint standards weren’t based on the Platonic ideal of perfection but looked more to our scriptures for guidance? What does Jesus say about what makes one great? Who will be exalted in the kin-dom Jesus is creating? Who will be qualified to be called blessed and known as saints? Who will be rewarded with God’s mercy and called children of God?
         It’s not who we might think.
         Join us this week as we uncover some hidden and perhaps surprising saints whose work often goes unseen, unappreciated, and unrewarded. Just as Jesus warned his followers it would, this saintly work brings with it persecution and great personal risk. This All Saints Day we should all be paying attention, because despite our flaws and imperfections, God through grace is busy making us this kind of saint as well.
         Be ready. Next stop... sainthood.

    The Lamb
    Have you ever heard of a man named Polycarp? Don't feel badly if you haven't. Polycarp's not exactly a household name, at least in most houses.
         Yes, it's an odd name, to our ears anyway. The name conjures up for most people today a product that's manufactured from something made of plastic that tastes like freshwater fish. In the history of the church, the name lived through one century after another, and the person who bore it gave good reason for people to keep on mentioning the name....more
    Ron Love
    White grave markers -- white robes
    The Arlington House was a mansion built as a living memorial to George Washington by the first president's adopted grandson. The estate was built on a 1,100-acre tract of land across the Potomac River from Washington DC. Decades later a distant cousin, Robert E. Lee, became the resident of the home. Between 1841 and 1857, Lee was away from Arlington House for several extended periods while serving in the Mexican War and then as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his alma mater. In 1857 Lee returned to Arlington to join his family and to serve as executor of the estate. Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Anna, lived at Arlington House until 1861, when Virginia ratified an alliance with the Confederacy and seceded from the Union. Lee, who had been named a major general for the Virginia military forces in April 1861, feared for his wife's safety and anticipated the loss of their family inheritance, so he moved to a new residence. Following the ratification of secession by Virginia, federal troops crossed the Potomac and took up positions around Arlington. Following the occupation, military installations were erected. In punishment for his allegiance to the South, the land was then made into a cemetery so Robert E. Lee would never be able to claim the Arlington House as a residency again. The Arlington National Cemetery was established on June 15, 1864....more
    John Fitzgerald
    Wearing Masks
    Revelation 7:9-17

    A lady went to the local post office on trick-or-treat day and by chance saw a little girl from her neighborhood. The girl happened to be wearing a ghost costume for Halloween. The lady pretended to be frightened upon this encounter and let forth with, "Oh my, I see a ghost." Upon hearing this, the little girl took off her mask and exclaimed, "Don't be afraid there is just a little girl under this mask."...more
    Janice Scott
    Priorities, energy and work
    When my father was dying. he started to give away all his possessions. None of us, including him, knew at the time that he was dying. In fact although we knew he was ill, we didn't realise quite how ill he was. He was always a tidy and methodical person, but around that time he began to sort out all his business and to give things away with a wild abandon which I found quite refreshing to witness....more
    Cynthia Cowen
    True Happiness
    The Point: Happy and blessed are the children of God.

    The Lesson: Welcome, girls and boys. I am happy that you came up to share this time together.
         I brought some pictures of people. You don't know them. But they all have something in common....more

Author of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen

Great Links