Between my sophomore and junior years of college, I spent 8 weeks in the Black Hills of South Dakota working on obtaining needed science credits. Included in this was a 4-week Geology course, which (before taking) I was excited about.
I mean, I had a Rock Tumbler when I was a kid, so I figured geology would be a cinch.
It was boring as rocks.
Although, I admit I was amazed that the earth had been shaped by powerful forces over time – through erosion. I mean, it’s crazy when you consider the absolute power of water and wind.
Every river, at one point in time, was likely just a little stream. But over (a very long) time, that stream, with the help of wind, carved a place in the earth to make it deeper and stronger, turning it into a powerful and life-giving river.
But it’s not just wind and water that play a huge part in the formation of the earth: fire does as well. In multiple ecosystems, fire actually plays a renewing role to the earth as it both burns debris and aids in re-vitalizing of life.
In all of these cases, it’s amazing that these forces play two roles: they simultaneously break down the earth while also shaping it to sustain life.
No wonder, then, that this Sunday of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit – the Lord, the Giver of Life – is described as all three: wind, fire, and water. Except the earth that the Holy Spirit forms is the dirt God forms into human beings, conforming them to the image of Christ.
On Sunday, we will hear that the apostles were gathered together, when “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (Acts 2:2,3). Here the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles, empowering them to bear witness to Christ.
In the Gospel, we will hear Christ say, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:37-39).
Wind. Fire. Water.
Erosion and re-vitalization.
The erosive qualities of the Holy Spirit are the same ones that reveal Him to be the Giver of Life. God sends His Spirit “upon the apostles in the form of fiery tongues, so that, clothed with power from above, they might become witnesses to Christ to all the ends of the earth, calling all human beings to faith in Christ and salvation.”
The power of the Holy Spirit in the apostles is that He forms them as witnesses to Christ’s power over death. He does this not only through their words, but by making them witnesses in their own deaths, as nearly all will become martyrs – witnesses to Christ’s victory in their own bodies.
The wind, fire, and water of the Spirit has formed the earth that they are into true images of Christ. It is the Spirit which God breathed into Adam when He formed Him from the dust of the earth.
And it is that same Spirit who descends upon us on Sunday. He works to perfect us, to form us as witnesses – not just in what we proclaim or say, but in who we are. Fr. John Behr writes:
We are to become witnesses – that is, monuments, examples, martyrs – of what Christ has effected. We are to be consumed by the fire of the Spirit, so that we are incorporated into the life of God, to become the very body of Christ, so that each and everyone of us becomes a partaker in Christ’s victory and his Kingdom, so that we also have the Spirit of God in our hearts.
The Spirit comes to us today as wind, fire, and water, seeking to shape the earth that we are into true human beings. But our earthen hearts are dry, resistant to God’s forming us, and need a little spiritual erosion through the water of the Spirit.
Too often, we are consumed by a life that is not of the Spirit. We are fleshly creatures possessing a fleshly mind, meditating on the things of this world while attempting to justify our disordered love for them.
Is it possible that we disguise our love for the things of this world as “having expensive taste?” Is it possible that our “emergency fund” is a security blanket against faith and relying on God’s providence? Is it possible that our dedication to “diet and exercise” is simply fear of death masquerading as healthy living?
On Pentecost, the Lord asks us to contemplate divine things, focusing on the coming of His Kingdom as we receive the Holy Spirit. Illumined by the fire of the Spirit, I can see that my insistence that I eat a Paleo diet is not just about being healthy, but is rooted in my deep fear of death.
But God sends His Spirit to erode my fear of death in order that I may know in my bones that Christ is victorious, causing a river of living water to flow from my heart.
But it’s gonna hurt.
Erosion. Is. Painful.
We will be forced to confront our hearts and to see where our treasure truly lies. We will have to ask ourselves if our hearts are attached to the things of this world – our jobs, our possessions, our passions – or if they are tethered to the things of God – compassion, service, and love.
“Rather than hardening ourselves, trying to become what we want to be, we must remain pliable, open, and responsive to the creative activity of God: we must learn to ‘relax in the hands of God, to let God be the creator.’” For as we yield to God and allow the Spirit to wash over us as wind, fire, and water, we will be shocked to find that the deeper He works to erode us, the stronger the rivers of living water will flow through us.
What do you think? What ties you to this world? What might the Holy Spirit be seeking to erode in you in order to orient your heart toward the things of God? Comment below!
 John Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns: Homilies for the Cycles of the Year (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2014), p. 99.
 Ibid., p.99.
 Compare this idea with what we pray every Liturgy in Church during the Cherubic Hymn: “Now lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all!”
 John Behr, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2006), p. 168.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
Pentecost: Waiting For The Word via Compfight cc
River: elkost via Compfight cc
Fire: tommpouce via Compfight cc
Clay: Jerzy Durczak (a.k.a." jurek d.") via Compfight cc
For more on the transformation of the heart, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
For more on bearing witness to Christ in everyday life, check out this episode of Be the Bee: