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


Proper 9 | OT 14, Cycle B

THEME OF THE DAY:  God and His people get in the trenches.  Providence, Social Justice, Justification By Grace, and Sanctification are the doctrines which best express this theme, implicit in all the texts.

Psalm 48
This Korahite Psalm is a song celebrating the beauty and security of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion (the oldest and highest part of the city).  Recall the Korahites were a group of Temple singers (2 Chronicles 20:19).  They may have collected and transmitted a number of Psalms attributed to them.

The Lord is praised as the God of Jerusalem, its sure defense in providing refuge (vv.1-4).  The text’s claim that the city’s Mount Zion is the joy of all the earth.  Reference to the mountain being in the north is a Hebrew play on words for Canaanite Mount Zaphon, a divine dwelling place in Canaanite mythology.  The Hebrew word for “North,” tsaphon, resembles the Canaanite name of the mountain (v.2).  When in the last days Gentile kings unite to attack the city, it is prophesied that they will be routed.  The ships of Tarshsish to be shattered refer to the Phoenician colony of Tarshish (vv.4-8).  The appearance of the term Selah after v.8 is a liturgical directive likely calling for an instrumental interlude at that point.  This insight regarding the steadfast love [chesed, or mercy] of God causes rejoicing in the ceremonies of The Temple (vv.9-11).  A call for a procession about the city’s walls concludes the Psalm.  God is said to be our guide forever [nahaq] (vv.12-14).       

Application: This text suggests sermons on God’s involvement in our cities and other political realities – a most appropriate Word in view of the recent July 4 celebrations.  He is our loving guide in all things in life.  Providence, Sanctification, and Social Ethics might get attention when guided by the Psalm.

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


Psalm 123
This is a prayer for deliverance from enemies, a group lament.  The Psalm is also a Song of Ascent (a pilgrim song [or plea by an oppressed class in Israel], so named because one needed to ascend Mount Zion to get to the Temple in Jerusalem).  It begins with an act of submission to God’s Will.  The group pledges to look to the Lord until He has mercy [chanan] (vv.1-2).  The actual prayer follows: God is petitioned for mercy in view of all the contempt and scorn experienced by the people from the contempt [buz] of the proud [yannah, or those who oppress] (vv.3-4).

Application: Sermons on this Psalm might focus on submitting to God’s Will (Sanctification and Providence).  Prayerfully anticipating God’s special concern and mercy for the oppressed, this is an excellent opportunity to proclaim God’s preferential option for the poor (Social Ethics).

2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10
The origin of this Book as a distinct text derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint), which divided the story of Israel’s monarchy into four sections (1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings).  This Book is probably the result of two or three sources: (1) Early traditions about Samuel and Saul; (2) Editor-molded materials brought together into a connected history, implying a critique of the events, deeming kingship as problematic, and so must be set under the rule of God and Samuel His Prophet; (3) Incorporating the previous strand into the more Deuteronomistic (D) history (the result of sweeping religious reforms under King Josiah in 621 BC).  The role of this last source not surprisingly entails that a central theme of the  Book is the struggle to remain obedient to Torah, to be God’s covenant people, and to inherit divine blessings.  This Book especially relates to the reign of David as King of Israel.  And so it is appropriate that in this text David is anointed king over all Israel and makes Jerusalem the capital.

With the death of the last of Saul’s heirs (4:1-12), the tribes of Israel reportedly came to Hebron (about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem) to make David (already king of Judah [2:1-11]) king of the whole nation of Israel.  They note his military victories and the Lord’s Will.  Yahweh has designated him as the one to feed them, they claim (vv.1-2).  David makes a covenant [berith] with the people before the elders anoint him (v.3).  This seems to have been a covenant not like the one between God and Israel, which is an agreement between parties of unequal status, but in this case one among equals (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp.129-130).  He is said to have been thirty years old at the time and to have reigned forty years (a Biblical expression for “a long time”).  Seven of these years are reported as his reign in Hebron only over Judah and the remaining 33 in Jerusalem over Judah and Israel (the Northern Kingdom) (vv.4-5).  Several intervening verses (6-8) describe David’s conquest of Jerusalem, defeating resident Canaanites (the Jebusites) (see I Chronicles 11:4-9).  David’s interest in the city seemed to be a function of its neutral position between Judah and Israel, and so was an ideal capital for the united Hebrew nation.  It is reported that he occupies the whole city and calls the stronghold the City of David (v.9).   It is also said that because Yahweh was with him he became greater and greater (v.10).

Application: Several sermon options emerge from this Lesson.  David offers a model for leadership, with his willingness to covenant with the people, to subordinate his authority (Ministry, Social Ethics).  Also we are reminded that the more we are with God, take Him into the trenches with us, the greater we become (Sanctification).


Ezekiel 2:1-5
Ezekiel was a Prophet from a priestly family whose ministry to his fellow Exiles during the Babylonian Captivity extended from 593 BC to 563 BC.  Some of the oracles pre-date Jerusalem’s fall.  The original collection was rewritten and expanded by an editor.  The Book includes judgment of Judah for its idolatry and defilement of the sanctuary, the proclamation of God’s abiding Presence among the people, consolation and hope expressed in a proclamation of God’s unconditional care.  This text is the first of five commissions given to the Prophet.

Yahweh says to the Prophet, calling him son of man (ben, meaning mortal man], to stand on his feet and speak with the Lord.  These words lead to the Spirit [ruach] entering into him which places Ezekiel on his feet (vv.1-2).  Yahweh sends him to the people of Israel, a nation of rebels [marad] who with their ancestors have transgressed against Him (v.3).  They are said to be impudent and stubborn, and Ezekiel is charged to say to them, “Thus says the Lord.” (v.4).  Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know that there has been a Prophet [nabi] among them (v.5).

Application: This is text for preaching prophetic condemnations of injustices in America, helping the flock see that we have become a nation of rebels (Social Ethics).  Like Ezekiel, however, we can only proceed in such a ministry with the Holy Spirit and an awareness that there is hope in God’s Providential care (Justification By Grace).    

2 Corinthians 12:2-10
We continue this week again to consider an Epistle written by Paul to address relations with the Corinthian church which had further deteriorated during the period after I Corinthians was written.   As previously noted, Chapters 10-13 are so different in style and tone from the first chapters as to lead many scholars to conclude that they are the “severe letter” mentioned in 2:4.

In this Lesson we read an even stronger defense by Paul of his ministry.  He boasts by way of making the case for his paradoxical strength in weakness.

Paul begins by seeming to refer to his Damascus Road experience, being caught up to the third heaven ([triptois ourances] an expression for the highest ecstasy) (vv.2-4).  He wants to boast about these revelations but take no credit for them, boasting only about his own weaknesses (vv.5-7a).  He refers to his thorn [skolops] in the flesh (what it is, is not clear).  He concludes that it was given to him to keep him from being too elated and to have him boast of his weaknesses so the power of Christ [dunamis tou Christou] may dwell [episkiazo, or overshadow] in him (vv.7b-9).  This enables Paul to be content with weaknesses, insults, and persecutions.  For when he is weak, he is strong [dunatos, or powerful] (v.10).

Application: This text can lead to sermons that offer hope and comfort for those who feel weak and powerless, stressing that grace overshadows our weaknesses and inadequacies (Sin), that God gets in the trenches with us and takes charge of our lives.  Both Justification By Grace and Sanctification are themes to be stressed. 

Mark 6:1-13
As is well known, this Book is likely the oldest of the Synoptic Gospels.  Some speculate that the original audience was the church in Rome (esp. Gentiles), as it presumes readers unfamiliar with Jewish customs and Palestinian geography (see 7:2-4,31), but it also could have been written for Palestinian Christians.  The account is the story of Jesus’ rejection in his hometown, after sparking some astonishment [ekplessomai] in the synagogue by His teaching [sophia, literally wisdom] (vv.1-2).  He is demeaned for merely being a carpenter, the son of Mary and his brothers and sister known in town (v.3).  (No reference is made to Joseph.  But He is said to be a carpenter’s son in the parallel account in Matthew 13:55.)  Jesus responds by claiming a prophet [prophetes] is without honor in his hometown (v.4).  Only in Mark is it reported that Jesus could do no deeds of power [dunamin], except cure a few who were sick through the laying on of hands (v.5).  He is reportedly amazed [thaumazo, literally “marvelled’] at the unbelief of those who were present (v.6).  Apparently God can be thwarted, but not entirely, by our lack of faith.  He is concealed in the commonplace things of life.  (Many more details are given in the parallel Lukan account [4:16-30], and it is not as clearly stated that Jesus’ power was limited by unfaith.) 

What follows is a report of the instruction of the Twelve Disciples and their commissioning (vv.7-12).  The parallel accounts in Matthew (9:35; 10:1,9-11,14) and Luke (9:1-6) do not like Mark follow the story of His rejection.  Jesus urges them to shed extra belongings (including money) (vv.8-9), presumably so they depend solely on God.  The Twelve are commissioned to take up ministries two-by-two, with authority over unclean spirits [eksousian ton pneumaton], and they succeed in curing many (vv.7,13).  They are to preach repentance [metanoeo] (v.12).  Instructions are also given regarding the hospitality they should expect and the pointed disapproval they are to show (shaking the dust off their fee) to those who reject them (vv.10-11). 

Application: Several sermon options emerge from this text.  One possibility is to focus on Jesus’ rejection in His hometown, how often we take Him and God for granted since we have known them our whole lives, because they are always in the trenches with us (Sin).  And yet Jesus is still involved in curing us, even when we take Him for granted (Justification By Grace).  Another possibility is to note that Jesus and God take the consequences of our Sin, that our unfaith can thwart for a time the good He would do.  Evil is not caused by God (Providence).  Or preachers might focus on the call of the Disciples, how like them we have been called to get in the trenches with Him, to leave behind what we have and so will receive both the curses as well as the blessings others give to Jesus (Sanctification and Evangelism).

Click here for future days.

Get LSN Delivered to your Inbox for FREE!
First Name:
Last Name:
  • SermonSuite Special
    Robin Lostetter
    To Choose Weakness
    How many times have we as preachers or teachers encountered the question “Are you willing to die for your faith?” And how many times has that question rung hollow for those of us living the good life in the United States of America? Teens in my confirmation classes, for example, have continued to play with poorly hidden smartphones and made eyerolls at their more sophisticated peers. The question might apply in some far-off land with an unpronounceable name, but not for Christians in Everytown, USA.
         But the shooting of nine innocents on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, may change the context for that question. Amid questions of “to carry or not to carry” and newly raging gun regulation debates, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 becomes highly pertinent. Every time worshipers step into a church sanctuary, the tacit understanding is that one is entering a non-combative zone (except for theological debate) and “sanctuary” from outside attacks. June 17 -- though not the only incident of a violent attack inside a church building -- is the herald of a public change in that perception.
          How do we interpret this “new normal” for American Christians on the Fourth of July holiday weekend? In a country of rugged individualism, Second Amendment pride, and a rate of gun violence higher than most industrialized nations, it is counterintuitive to choose weakness. What meaning will it carry if we choose not to arm our pastors, elders, or ushers? If we choose not to use metal detectors or pat down those attending Bible study? If we choose weakness? The members of Mother Emanuel’s Bible study group showed Judeo-Christian hospitality to Dylann Roof and welcomed him into their discussion of sacred text. Their weakness nearly changed his will to violence. What can we learn from June 17 and its aftermath? Will we choose weakness and hospitality, or will we choose guns? Are we willing to die for our faith?...more
    Who Wuda Thunk It?
    In 1969 the New York Mets won the World Series, becoming the world champions of baseball. Riding the strong arms of Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, and "Terrific Tom" Seaver, the Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles. Many baseball experts considered the Baltimore Orioles to be the best team to come down the pike in years, but the Mets beat the Orioles in convincing fashion. Just a few years earlier, the New York Mets had set records for losing 120 games in a single year. They were called the "amazing Mets," because they found a new way to lose every day. They had been the epitome of futility, but in 1969 they won the World Series and earned the title the "Miracle Mets." The headline in Sports Illustrated quoted former Met manager Casey Stengel in his classic "Stengelese" when he said, "Who wuda thunk it?" "Who wuda thunk" that the New York Mets would be World Series champions?...more
    Frank Ramirez
    Victory in spite of
    Each one of this week's scriptures can be viewed as victory as God's will is done, yet these stories are also paired with sadness, defeat, disability, and/or pain. As I like to put it, no one rides free.
         David fulfills his destiny from the time he was anointed king as a boy, but his friend Jonathan is dead, and a price has been paid. Paul rises to the third heaven and though he is reluctant to brag about it, his ecstatic experience is paired with an affliction which despite his prayers he is not healed from. Jesus commissions his disciples who cast out evil spirit and anointed many with healing, but his ministry to his hometown was a total failure.
         Do we triumph because of our disappointments, failures, and disabilities, or despite them? David is king, Paul's joy buoys his ministry, and Jesus is fulfilling the work of the kingdom as God wills, but there is true sadness and heartache standing behind each story. That indeed is part of what Paul himself is suggesting when he says that God's strength is proven through his weakness!
         How can congregations be challenged to acknowledge pain as an integral part of growth and failure as providing the seeds for future success? Any one of these texts might be mined on this basis, yet weaving them together might prove the point even more strongly!...more
    John Fitzgerald
    The Shepherd King
    2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10

    We come to Worship this morning with thoughts of America’s birth in our mind. This nation has maintained a noble experiment in liberty since it’s Declaration of Independence first unfurled on July 4, 1776. Over the years several representations of freedom have become popular with citizens of this fair country. The Statue of Liberty remains our most powerful symbol of freedom and liberty. It is appropriate to consider a famous poem mounted on the base of this iconic statue....more
    Janice Scott
    Whenever I am weak, then I am strong
    I recently heard a Christian testimony. In some respects it was a moving account of the ways in which Jesus had worked in the speaker's life and it seemed to reveal a deep faith, but as a listener I was left feeling a little inadequate and slightly resentful.
         One of the major problems with testimonies is that the listeners are often left feeling inadequate, for who can compare with the wonderful spiritual experiences which are described by the speakers?...more
    Cynthia Cowen
    Telling About Jesus
    Object: Your most favorite video
    The Point: Tell others about what has brought great joy to your life.
    The Lesson:  Girls and boys, it brings me joy to be able to share this time with you. Thank you for joining me. This is my most favorite video. (Briefly tell the video story and why it is special to you.) ...more

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

Great Links