This week’s sermon reference: James 4: 12-17.
The beautiful village of Vernazza, part of the Cinque Terre in Italy, was ravaged by a freak downpour last October. The confluence of the rainstorm and other circumstances conspired to create a massive mudslide which wiped out the center of town. It has taken almost all year to rid the city center of the mud and debris. The small, family- run businesses are still trying to recover economically.
It seems that the reason for the mudslide was a simple one. Over the years, Vernazza has succumbed to the allure of the tourist dollars that flow into the region. As a poor man’s part of the Italian Riviera, flocks of visitors come to soak up the sun and seas surrounding this beautiful collection of five towns. The beauty of the Mediterranean and the ancient village streets dangle on cliffs that are terraced for grape vines. These vines have been tended for centuries by village farmers.
In the last twenty years, however, the easy money of tourism has prompted a younger generation of villagers to ignore their family vineyards and the hard work of tending the vines. As a result, erosion has set in and undermined the delicate structure of the village ecosystem. The disaster could have been easily avoided if they had done what they had always done well.
This week’s Scripture reminds the disciple in faith to not take our faith for granted. Leaning on the Jealous Longing that God has for us can make us lazy. Too easily we can give a casual nod to the grace visiting our lives and ignore the response that true lovers require. And love, in order to grow, must have a response.
God does not love us less when we are cashing in on His grace, but our ability to enjoy that grace can become diluted when we are casual about it. That’s what it means when James says; “Faith without works is dead.”