Monday, March 02, 2009

'The Transfiguration of Our Lord' or' Casimir Pulaski Day'

So, about a week ago I preached on the Transfiguration at my internship sites in Knoxville, Tennessee. I ended up preaching on the Elisha/Elijah text. This text describes the journey of Elisha alongside of Elijah, during Elijah's last days on earth, before he is swept up into the heavens by a whirlwind.

As I prepared to preach, I was drawn to Sufjan Steven's song, 'Casimir Pulaski Day.' The songs tells the story of someone's journey alongside of a girlfriend's last days with cancer. Here's the song on Austin City Limits:

[Pretty sweet winged outfits, right? Does anyone know if Augsburg produces a similar product?]

The back and forth exchange of dialogue between Elijah and Elisha ('Stay here' - 'I will not leave you') even seems to be mirrored as Sufjan sings:

"Oh the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you."

But one verse towards the end of the song I find particularly powerful:

"Oh the glory that the Lord has made
and the complications when I see his face
in the morning, in the window."

It seems to me that in the narrator's Elisha-like journey, he experiences the fullness of God's presence. On one hand, he proclaims the glory of the Lord throughout the song. In particular, Sufjan's song seems to point to the sustaining presence and love of God in the places of death and disease. On the other hand, the narrator has difficulty with the discipleship for which this good news calls. And in the end the narrator comes away with a "complicated" understanding of God.

In this song, I find a moving experience with the Lutheran theological dialectic, law and gospel. I normally am really attracted to this paradoxical theological insight. But what makes this song so powerful, is its description of a lived experience with this sometimes abstract theological idea. It reflects our struggle on the day of the Transfiguration as we search for the words to describe our experience with the fullness of God.


ps - it was also a challenge to preach a sermon that prominently featured the words: elijah, elisha, and sufjan.

1 comment:

Matt Keadle said...

Even better than the first time I read it! Now, do you think you could preach on Sufjan's "Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother"?

Welcome to the SS blog!