Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Over the course of my ministry, I
have had the privilege of living in three different church-owned parsonages. I
know that some ministers prefer not to do this, but Renee and I have enjoyed
When I served the church in
Worcester, they did not have a parsonage, so Renee and I purchased our first
home. It was a Cape Cod style house built in the 1940s. It was a charming older
house and we loved it. It had hardwood floors, built-in china cabinets, crown
molding and a fireplace. The floor tiles in the bathroom were half-inch thick
The house had a large, fenced yard
for the dogs, and had the perfect sun and soil for growing tomatoes. I am not
exaggerating when I say that my tomato plants were seven feet tall. I had to go
to the hardware store and buy ten-foot construction stakes to hold them up! I
had a tomato forest!!
We had wonderful neighbors, and
other than a leaky basement, we loved that house! It was a great place to live.
When I received the call to serve
the church in Norfolk, a church that had a lovely old parsonage, we sold the
house. It was a frustrating experience. It seemed as though everyone that
looked at the house watched way too much HGTV. “Where are the granite counter-tops?
Where are the stainless steel appliances? You did not update the kitchen or the
We were delighted when we sold the
house to someone who loved old things … an archeology professor and her
A couple of years after we sold the
house in Worcester, we had the opportunity to purchase our second house … a
little cottage in Ocean Park, Maine! We have owned it for over ten years and we
have never spent a single night in it. The house did not have built in china
closets, it had built-in people! The niece of the seller lived there with her
fiancé, now husband.
We own it. We repair it. We paint, replace
appliances and flooring, and remodeled the bathroom. But have never slept
there. Needless to say, we do not have an emotional attachment to it. We own
it, but it is hard to say that we LOVE it.
There is a big difference between
owning a house and living in a house. It is the difference between being a
house and a home.
That is the point that the author of
our passage this morning is trying to make when he says, “Abide in love.”
I think that you all know what
‘abide’ means. It means ‘to live in’ to ‘dwell in.’ It means ‘to make one’s
home in.’ To abide is literally the meaning of ‘fellowship,’ the sharing of a
Abide does not mean to vacation in.
It does not mean to visit occasionally. It means to dwell in, to live in.
One of the commentaries that I read
in preparation for today’s message counseled the would-be preacher. It said,
‘do not over complicate this. The elder … the author … made it very clear.’
To abide in love is to abide in God.
However, the commentator did say
that the challenge is to appreciate the majesty, the grandeur of what is being
said here. The challenge is to deliver a message that does not fall into the
category of trite platitudes or dime store greeting cards. The challenge is
considering something so magnificent when we are constrained by our finite
understanding and language.
Let us take a little peek at the
context of this letter. The author wrote in response to a schism that had
developed in the church. There were those whose faith was built upon their
belief that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth in the flesh. And they
were opposed by a group within the church that believed that Jesus only seemed to come in the flesh.
The author makes it very clear … Jesus
Christ came and lived among us in the flesh. God’s Word became Love Incarnate …
Love in the flesh. Love in the physical, not the apparent or abstract.
Nobody had known God because nobody
could see God, until they saw Jesus Christ. Then they saw God. Then they
experienced God. Then they knew God.
And it is a circular relationship. By
knowing God, we learn to love. And by loving we learn to know God. The more
that we love God, the more that we love others. The more that we love others,
the more that we know God.
However, it was also clear that
there were those that claimed to “know” God or to “know” love but did not dwell in God, or dwell in love. The author does not mince words. They are
If one says that they love God, they
must dwell in God. If they do not … they are liars. That is a harsh word. But,
those who profess a love for God but do not live out that love, live falsely.
Unfortunately, we know full well
that this situation has not improved with the passage of time. If anything, it
has gotten worse. There are plenty of ‘do as I say or go to hell’ preachers out
there. There is no shortage of ‘live this way to go to hell’ churches. They are
everywhere. And they are not limited to churches. They are making their voices
heard in statehouses and legislatures.
But we have to be careful here. We
have to be certain that we do not go too far down the road of wielding the
finger of judgement. We cannot put our shoulders out of joint by patting
ourselves on the back, saying, “Thank God that we are the good ones!”
What we say and do is important. It
matters. It makes a difference. But we can only be accountable for our own walk
with God. We must love. We must dwell in love.
love because God loved us first.
God loved us into existence.
God loved us throughout our history.
God loved us enough to send Perfect
Love … Love Incarnate … Love in the Flesh … so that we would see love and know
love. God sent love so that we could know and see God. God sent love so that we
could live as God intends for us to live.
Love Incarnate is the badge that we
wear, it is the banner that we fly. I pulled out the “Love” banner that we hang
for one week during the season of Advent, but it is a banner that we live under
every day. The rule of love is not an option. It is the very essence of who we
are and what we are about.
Love Incarnate is not about just
copying Jesus as if we are playing some existential game of Simon Says. Love
Incarnate is not about going through the motions appearing to love by
doing some of the things that loving people do. Love Incarnate is about BEING
love … in the flesh.
God’s love is completed in us.
Therefore, we too must be love incarnate.
I am not going to scream and yell
about the day of judgement. I am not going to wave my arms and get all red in
the face. We do not simply love … or seem to love … so that we may avoid
punishment. Love is not a transactional act. We do not love under the threat of
We love because God loves.
We love because Jesus loves.
We love because those who abide in
We do not have to fear the day of
judgement because we have loved. Love drives out all fear. If we walk
faithfully, if we love fully as Jesus loved, we have nothing to fear.
If we care for the hungry and the
homeless, we abide in love.
If we shelter the child victimized
by acts of violence, we abide in love.
If we open our arms and welcome those
who have been rejected, we abide in love.
If we open our hearts to those who have
been victimized, or stigmatized, or traumatized by hate, we abide in love.
If we abide in love, we abide in
Let us abide in love. Amen.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771