This is the final message in a series on the four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
Elemental Spirituality is the concept that reconnecting with the four elements (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) can connect us to the Divine in new ways. Through the elements we can see, touch, taste, and experience a Sacred Essence that isn’t just present in supernatural events, but is present to us everywhere at all times. The ground we walk on, the water we drink and bathe in, and the air we breathe are part of the sacred web of life. Bringing this back into the forefront of our consciousness will hopefully prompt us to walk through our daily lives more aware, alive and whole, no longer taking for granted the essence of the Divine all around us.
So, we turn today to Fire…
Fire is somewhat different from the other elements… we don’t have to preserve it. It’s very useful in life, but not absolutely necessary. Where religion is concerned we light candles, maybe burn some incense, and in certain traditions light funeral pyres, but fire seems to be primarily associated with that mythological place of fire, brimstone, pain, suffering, and eternal torment – hell. Our hats should be off to Dante and his Inferno for shaping our traditional concept of hell.
(To watch the entire sermon, click here.)
And yet, we have stories in the Bible that lead us to see the Spirit at work through fire. Consider Moses and the burning bush, or the Pentecost story where the Spirit, in what looked like tongues of fire, descended upon the disciples (we’ll get back to this).
In Luke 12:49 Jesus says, “I’ve come to light a fire on the earth!” What did that mean? Clearly he didn’t come to start a campfire, so how do we understand that metaphorically. It could mean that he came to bring change, light or direction, destruction in the form of getting rid of the old, transformation and new growth, energy and passion to spread his teachings (like wildfire)
So, it seems to me that all of these things happened to the disciples in the story we know of as Pentecost. (By the way, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday 50 days after Passover that we’ve simply adopted as a Christian holiday.) The disciples were doing what they were supposed to be doing – waiting. Suddenly the wind whipped up and “something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each one. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as she enabled them.”
And then they were changed. Their fear was destroyed, burnt up. They were emboldened, filled with energy and passion for the task of sharing the stories of Jesus. The fire pushed them out of their old space and onto new paths.
We always talk about bad four-letter words (like “work”), but there is a 6-letter word that no one likes: CHANGE.
Have you ever watched a wood match burn? The flame changes it chemically into something else, and it can never go back. Spiritually, when we allow the Fiery Spirit to work in our lives, change and transformation will happen. I’m not speaking of the nice comfy fire we snuggle next to with our mug of hot cocoa in the middle of winter, this spiritual movement is more like a raging forest fire burning away fear, old habits, notions, beliefs, baggage, guilt and shame. Then from the life-draining, broken parts of our lives comes a new understanding, a new path with energy to follow it, a deeper wisdom and more compassion.
The book, The Hidden Meaning of Dreams, uses Carl Jung to explain the spiritual meaning of the symbol of fire: “Jung said that fire represents the process of psychological transformation. Just as the alchemists used fire to transform base metal into gold, so the symbol fire is the trigger for the inner transformation. It purges the decay of the past, yet gives light and spiritual truth. It is the eternal flame in the temple of the soul. It is from the fire that the phoenix of hope arises.”
So, walking through the fire in our lives, facing the difficult situations and emotions with awareness and compassion, working through whatever is burning at us usually has one more step… letting go.
Fire is often used in the ritual of letting go as an agent of liberation. When we don’t let go of things that are holding us back spiritually and psychologically we suffer from the holding on – just like playing tug of war with the Spirit and getting rope burn.
One can write down on a piece of paper something you passionately want to burn out of your life – insecurity, self-doubt, anger, guilt, shame… or a bad habit – nail biting, cutting yourself down, smoking, swearing, being negative. Or maybe you want to let go of old rigid belief structures that have held you back from a more expansive spiritual experience. You place the paper over the fire, give your problem over to the fire (Spirit) and allow yourself to feel lighter as it goes up in fire and smoke. This is a physical ritual to aid a conscious decision. Some people use fire on New Year’s Eve to burn up the “old” stuff of the previous year and to start new.Sometimes burning old files or mementos, pictures or journals from a difficult time in life can be a meaningful ritual of letting go.
The spiritual metaphor of fire helps us to see how that which doesn’t serve us is burned away, yet we are not consumed. Instead, we are transformed by the warmth, light and comfort that is also fire and spirit. In the process of this spiritual transformation and growth, we can experience healing and lightness.
The fire of the Spirit can be difficult, but necessary along this crazy spiritual path.
Love & Light!