“Known By God”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Mistaken identity. It can be one of
life’s most embarrassing moments because when it happens it usually happens up
close and personal. It is also something that we have all been struggling with
the last couple of months. After spending two years wearing face masks, we do
not remember what some people look like. It occurred to me that there were some
people that I had never seen without their masks!
Over the course of my life, I have
had several very memorable episodes of mistaken identity.
Perhaps the worst one was when I was
a youth. My family did not have a swimming pool in the backyard, so like most
people, we went to cool off in the public pool at the park. We were there that
day, and my siblings and I were fooling around like kids do in swimming pools. As
you might have guessed, I take my glasses off when I go swimming. On that
fateful day, I was splashing my sister with a deluge of water … and then she
turned around … and it was not my sister!! I was assaulting some stranger with
long brown hair with my wanton waves of water!!
I could have died on the spot. I
never went to the pool again!
As I have journeyed through my
ministry, there have been those awful moments when I have forgotten, or
mistaken, the names of church members. Can you imagine anything worse than your
pastor forgetting your name?! Or calling you by the incorrect name?!
Sometimes it would happen someplace
out of context … like at the supermarket. People look different in the cheese
aisle rather than in their preferred pew.
But it has happened as recently as
last Sunday … right in this sanctuary! I have always tried to do so well at
learning people’s names to prevent that sort of thing.
Being known has taken on an entirely
different dimension in today’s day and age. With our access to technology, with
just a few clicks of the keyboard, or taps on our phones, we can find out about
most anybody instantly.
Be honest … how many of you have met
someone new then as quickly as you could you Googled them? Or searched for them
on Facebook? Or Instagram? Or TikTok?
Renee and I do it all the time when
we are checking out perspective adopters for the dogs that we foster. We want
to see their digital footprint, their social media presence.
Some of you may do it for new
clients, or if you are checking out a new church. You may want to see what that
pastor is all about.
Back in the olden days, we had to
pull out the phonebook in order to look someone up. (For you younger folk …
phonebooks were big, paper books with everyone’s name, address and phone number
listed in them in alphabetical order!) But now we can look up people on
whitepages.com, or ancestry.com, or some other dot com.
We can be searched for … we can
easily be found … but … are we known?
Most of the information that we can
find online is superficial. We post about our pets and our gardens, or where wo
go for vacation. It is usually material or content that we post about
ourselves. Of course, we also know that searches online can produce suspect
results. Accounts can be faked or altered. People can use those same platforms
for sinister motives.
To be truly known, genuinely known,
requires relationship. It requires that we get up close and personal. It
That is what we heard in our psalm
this morning. The author of the psalm used the first person, “I” and “You,”
when addressing God. This is an intimate relationship. The writer was not
speaking in the third person, referring to some distant or aloof God. The
psalmist was speaking directly to God, up close and personal.
God does not struggle with mistaken
identity. God does not need to surf the web to learn about where we went on
vacation or what we had for dinner last night. God does not need to ghost us to
see how we are feeling today.
God laid the foundations of the
entire universe. God loved everything into being. God designed and then called forth
life. God’s very breath is our animating force. God did not create haphazardly
throwing our inward parts into a bag or a blender to see what would come out. God
took the time to create, to design, out hearts, our bodies, our souls. God
created us to resemble God’s own self. Imago Dei … in the image of God.
God knows us. God knows every
detail. God has the power to know everything, to see everything. God’s
knowledge of us is far more powerful than any sonogram or search engine. God
knows us as we are knit together.
There is no where that we can go
that we are not in God’s Presence. Everywhere we go, God is there. Any
destination that we might choose, God is already there waiting for us. In the
depths of despair, God is with us. In the pinnacle of joy, God is there as
We can take great comfort in this
knowledge. It reminds us of the Twenty-third Psalm that tells us that God is
our shepherd watching over us, caring for us, protecting us. The words remind
us that we are part of God’s family, and we make our home with God.
Thinking of God in this way is very
comforting. Every time our heart breaks … God is there to mend it.
Every time that we are fearful … God
is there to light our way.
Every time that we are uncertain …
God takes us by the hand.
However, there is a part of that assurance
that God can see all and know all that may terrify us. That same knowledge that
comforts us … can also condemn us or convict us.
If there is nothing that we can hide
from God, nowhere that we can run from God, that means that those ugly, hateful
thoughts that creep into our hearts can be seen and known by God.
Those shameful thoughts that we wish
we could lock away deep in the basements of our souls are known by God.
Those flashes of anger, or jealousy,
or resentment, or prejudice can be seen by God.
God sees those too. What are we to
do about that? What will God think of us when those corners of our hearts are
What does God do? What does God
think? The reality is that God already knows.
loves. That is where grace comes in. God forgives.
image or thought of God as an all-seeing, all-knowing God is not intended to
frighten us. God is not the evil “Big Brother,” not the evil overlord that is
watching every move and just waiting to crush or destroy us. God is not waiting
to trick us or trap us. That is not God’s intent. That is not God’s plan for
intention is peace. God’s plan is harmony, happiness, unity, and community.
God’s intention for us is joy … pure joy.
psalm was written after the return from exile in Babylon. The psalm reminded
the people that God was with them even when they were far from home in a
foreign land. The psalmist said, “Do not worry. God saw you. God knew you. And
God brought you home.”
psalm was also written about the same time as the Creation Story from Genesis. If
we look back at that story, we see that God did not create the universe and
everything in it from nothingness. Some folks make that mistake. Rather, God
created out of the chaos. God called forth life from the swirling chaos.
as much as we may fear what God can see in our hearts, we should not fear. God
is the source of the purest form of love. God is the source of grace. God
called forth life from chaos. God looks at our hearts and sees the fears that
we hold there. God looks at our hearts and sees those things that we may
believe separate us from God. God looks at our hearts and sees those things
that may make us feel as though we are not worthy of God’s love.
sees the shame that we may be carrying … and offers us grace.
sees our reluctance, our self-criticism, perhaps even our self-loathing … and offers us love.
sees the burdens that we carry … and God lifts them off of us.
sees us. God knows us. And God does not turn away from us. Instead, God calls
us, “Come to me.”
arms are extended … waiting to enfold us.
are known by God, loved by God, treasured by God. What wonderful peace we
experience. Thank you, God. Amen.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771