Come to the Mountain

Why would thousands of people mail tons of rocks to a volcano? Simple. Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, has them spooked. Pele makes her home at Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii. She has a nasty temper and has had a bad mad on since 1983: without taking a break, Mt. Kilauea has been melting rocks, spitting lava, and eating trees from then ’til now—erupting enough stuff to pave a road around the world three times.

Kilauea is the most visited volcano in the world. And there’s the problem. Tourists can’t keep their mitts in their pockets; they swipe rocks to take home as souvenirs. Seems like a harmless heist, but it gets Pele’s dander up. This is her space and her stuff. You wouldn’t appreciate your dinner guests pocketing your silverware, and Pele doesn’t cotton to visitors filching her lava. There are signs warning sojourners of the “Curse of Pele.” Legend has it that Pele will put a hex on anyone who takes her treasures—and her threats are not to be taken lightly say park rangers: cross Pele once and regret it forever, they say. People smile, then when the ranger’s back is turned, cop a rock and slip it in their backpack.

When the cinder swipers go home and have a run of bad luck, they wipe that grin off their face and begin thinking that Pele may have their number. So every year thousands of Kilauean kleptomaniacs ship their pilfered mementos back to Pele, along with confessions of their crimes, letters of apology, and pleas for forgiveness. Some send gifts: candy, jewelry, and in one case, a black negligee. (Bet Pele was really steamed if she’s a size 6 and they sent a size 18.) The park rangers haul the returned stash to a “rock graveyard” near the summit, and let Pele take it from there.

It’s amusing in a way. Yet, there’s something that resonates in the confessions of these rock snatchers. After all, each of us has some hot lava on our conscience: sins committed, not against a phantom deity, but against the one true and living God. And the whole mess is piled up somewhere waiting to accuse us on judgment day: “you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5).

God is like Pele in one way—he gets miffed when his territory is trashed: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men (Romans 1:18). Now don’t make the mistake of equating divine wrath with human wrath; they have little in common. Human anger is usually self-centered, prone to explosions of temper and unbecoming behavior because of real or perceived mistreatment. God’s anger, on the other hand, is triggered because sin results in self-destruction. He isn’t mad at you, he’s mad at sin because of what it does to you, his beloved child.

It isn’t just a few on the fringes that brush off the warning signs, it’s every single one of us: “There is no one righteous, not even one … all have sinned” (Romans 3:10, 23). Apologies and bribes won’t change that sorry record. But that’s where God steps in, for while our sins are inexcusable, they aren’t unforgivable.

The only solution is to take our guilt to the mountain. Not Mt. Kilauea. Mt. Calvary. It is there that Jesus “rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). That’s God’s remedy, not ours. Not our righteousness, but his: a “righteousness from God” by which we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:21, 24). His wrath was appeased by his own sacrifice—the sacrifice of his Son—on the cross.

Pele, they say, lives on a mountain. Jesus died on one. Pele spews lava. Jesus pours out love. He doesn’t melt rocks, although “the earth shook and the rocks split” when he died for us (Matthew 27:51). He isn’t an angry God who eats trees, but a loving Savior who died on one. Unlike Pele’s park rangers, Jesus doesn’t deposit our sins where they will just be out of sight—he eliminates them altogether: his purpose was “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

Come to the mountain. Park rangers, priests, or preachers can’t come for you. You must come in person. So come to the mountain. Jesus will meet you there.