Last week, I was in Kona for the Diocesan Convention. After lunch on Friday, I sat outside of the meeting space and looked out at the vast fields of black lava rock. I thought about the presence of Pele on this island – what I know about her, the ways I feel her, and what she does.
I thought about the destruction lava causes.
Lava is molten, sticky, fire. It burns up everything in it’s path, consuming what used to be and leaving itself behind. In Puna this year, many families and individuals have been forced out of their homes. The destruction of lava has been tangible for them – eating up homes, roads, properties, and even power lines.
I thought about the effect of lava.
At convention, we talked about the holy spirit – who, we are told in Scripture, is like a dove; like a breath of wind; like a spirit of presence; like a fire. This last metaphor, the Spirit like a fire, is the one I was struck by. We make the Spirit gentle – I remember a feminist theologian who, in talking about the Trinity, says, “Oh yes – two men and a bird”. We have domesticated the spirit – but, in thinking about Her as fire, I think we need to remember the power She holds.
Fire is not gentle – it is harsh. Powerful. Uncontrollable. It destroys what it finds. We talk about fire as refining, but in fact it burns away much of what is not necessary – which is scary. And, often, painful.
But then, I thought about the potential it leaves.
Lava destroys, yes – but it doesn’t just burn things up into the atmosphere – it consumes them. Volcanic soil is some fo the most mineral-rich soil to grow in. The lava has condensed all of the nutrients of the material it eats, and gives a new place for growth. Lava flows create new land, literally making space where there wasn’t any before – making a way out of no way.
I think the Holy Spirit might be a bit like lava – like this hot magma, bubbling up from the very foundations of the earth, creating something new for us. There is something to be in awe of – and something to be cautious of – but also something to be inspired by.
In this church, I pray the Spirit moves like lava.