This week’s sermon passage: James 5
Dante’s seventh circle of hell is a vast plain of hot, sterile sand. Raining down on that sand are flakes of fire. It portrays the sterility of a life, a world lived in chaos and violence. As John Ciardi has noted, instead of rain refreshing the land and replenishing its beauty, this rain further destroys the vitality of any living thing.
Among the citizens of this punishing landscape are the usurers. They sit squatted on the edge of this inferno avoiding everyone else. It is a private damnation. As they squat, their purses dangle each from the neck as if it is too hot to handle. The family crest emblazoned on the purse indicates the family wealth and prominence. Their fixation and pride in the family wealth has created an idolatry that not only robs them of their God-given stewardship but their isolation further destroys the possibility of community building.
James reminds us that violence against God’s plan to revive the world is a damnable offense. In that, it has no preferred political party.. It is oppression against the weak. It also isolates us from the very beauty that God created for us to enjoy; in His presence, with his people.