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What comes up from deep beneath
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The ongoing eruption of Iceland’s volcano has brought Europe’s airports to a grinding halt.   As the cloud of abrasive and potentially toxic particles descends on the continent, millions brace for respiratory and mechanical problems.  International trade has been crippled.  Thousands are stranded.  The financial loss is staggering.  No terrorist attack could be so damaging.

Yet the inferno erupting from beneath Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier just keeps on belching out dense billows of pulverized planet earth.  With its foundations deep below the ocean, this gigantic shield volcano does what it has been doing for eons, situated as it is in an extremely active zone.  If we’re learning anything about geology from this lesson, it’s that we should have been prepared for Iceland to spit fire again, as it has so often before.

Major earthquakes have been striking at will at an alarmingly rapid rate, it seems, bringing down entire cities and uniting diverse peoples in mourning.

But there’s something distinctly different about this quiet earth-duster.  It’s reminding us that this planet is still a work in progress, and that we humans have nothing to say about what’s going to rise to the surface, and when.

What we can control is what boils up from the furnace of our hearts and the deeper recesses of our entrenched attitudes and prejudices.  Jesus said it long ago: “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Mt. 15:18,19).  Or, in the words of St. James, “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

James concludes: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring?   My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?   Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”  (The Letter of James, 3:5-12, NIV).  

As we contemplate the rising tide of negative consequences caused by the altogether-too-natural eruption of this hidden volcano, let’s not forget that far worse consequences have been unleashed by the human tongue, flaming forth the festering foulness of a heart still needing transformation.