First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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Good Easter Morning!    

Chicks and bunnies go with Easter Day. 
Jesus preferred chicks.

You'll see what I mean.

Today we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet we also proclaim the nature of his love.

Jesus referenced chicks to describe it.

And we have live chicks in church today! 

I'm excited to share this story with you.  

-Pastor David
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First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"Jesus Came Back For Us Like A Mother Hen"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

     Just over six weeks ago, on February 17, I met with my Confirmation group for the first time since March 11, 2020.  
     The dining area where we meet at church still looked the same as it had when my one eighth-grade girl and three seventh-grade boys had decked the tables with white and green plastic tablecloths for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  
     None of us knew back then that four days later Minnesota would have 21 total cases of a new respiratory virus called COVID-19 that was spreading across the world.  
     None of us knew that our Confirmation group would not meet again in 2020 as COVID-19 caused the closure of public schools and the beginning of something called “distance learning” for the remainder of the school year and into fall.  
     After 48 weeks being apart, my group and I were finally back together again, sitting six feet apart at the six-foot round dining tables.
     All of them were taller than they were, and taller than me, which is not much of an achievement. They acted more mature, willing to stay seated instead of bouncing around while we talked.  And they were one grade higher in school making my group one ninth-grade girl and three eighth-grade boys.   
     I caught up with their lives, discovering what a busy group they are.  Blake and Drew are heavily involved in farm work.  Ethen is heavily involved in multiple sports. And Merrit started her own chicken egg business.  I learned a lot about farming, sports and chickens as I talked with them.
     The following week, Merrit was the first one to arrive for Confirmation. I had more questions about her chicken business.  “What do you feed them?  How do they get along with each other?  How much are the eggs and who do you sell them to?”  And the most important question of all, “Could you bring two-dozen eggs with you next week for me to purchase?”  Now I’m a regular customer as Merrit brings me two-dozen eggs each week to Confirmation group. The shells are beautiful shades of brown and green and the yolks are deep golden yellow. The cooked eggs are superior in taste.
     The second week I asked Merrit, “Do you raise chicks?” She told me she’d done it once. I said, “I have an idea.  I would love to have chicks in church on Easter Sunday. It would be a sign of new life, and I would love to hear them peeping.  Could you do that?”  Merrit’s eyes brightened and she said she could do that.  There was enough time for her to hatch the eggs before Easter.
     Each week after that Merrit would give me a progress report: How many eggs she was incubating, how many eggs she “candled” and found fertile.
     She said, “I put 40 eggs into the incubator.  How many do you think are fertile?”  I answered, “I have no idea about percentages or numbers, but how about 20 eggs.”  “More,” she answered. “Thirty?”  “Higher,” she answered.  “Thirty two?” “Thirty-nine!” she exclaimed.  I was stunned.  So was Merrit, with her whole family.   
     She had her phone and showed me pictures of the incubator and the fertile eggs.  She expected them to hatch on March 30, five days before Easter. 
     We were both so excited about this project.  Actually I was ecstatic.  I wanted our church to be filled with new life on Easter, especially since we were not able to meet here last year.
     Cancelling Easter worship in 2020 was a casualty of COVID-19.  No one could imagine not having Easter worship, but that’s what happened, not only here, but also all around the world.

     And I decided that since we were going to be together again this year, I wanted new life to fill the church in way we hadn’t done before.  The peeping sound of newborn chicks would be awesome!  
     I imagined people entering the building and hearing chicks and immediately breaking into a smile.  
     I pictured people searching out the chicks and adoring the little fluff balls.
     And thanks to Merrit Peterson who started a chicken egg business during the COVID-19 outbreak, we have 23 chicks in church today, all hatched for this occasion!  
     The chicks include Shelly, Johanna, and Lightning McQueen (from the movie "Cars") who hatched in only 10 minutes. Merrit created these images.
     When Merrit first told me about her business, she showed me her business card. It is square-shaped with a hole in the upper right corner.  Merrit puts a fabric ribbon through the hole and wraps the ribbon around the egg cartons. It’s a very nice presentation. 
     The card reads MAYDAY’S FRESH EGGS (“Mayday” is Merrit’s nickname). Below that it reads Merrit Peterson, under which it says, Chicken Mother, a name given to her by her mom and dad. The card also includes a phone number and the date when the eggs were gathered.  
     I think the reference to Merrit as “Chicken Mother” is wonderful, but would you believe it’s also biblical?  
     Not only is it biblical, it’s a reference Jesus used for himself.
     Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke tell us that Jesus said, “How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”(Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, NRSV). 
     Jesus likens himself to a mother hen. 
     The image is easy for us to picture.  A mother hen instinctively cares for her young, and her young instinctively seek protection from her.  They draw close to each other for warmth, intimacy, and a bond of care.  
     That is how Jesus saw himself in relationship with people. He wanted them to know God’s warmth, intimacy and bond of care.  Yet, Jesus saw how far people had wandered away from God’s love and direction, especially in Jerusalem, which was the seat of God’s presence in the temple.  
     Jesus is sad when he says, 
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" 
Matthew 23: 37  (NRSV)
     Throughout history God had sent prophets to speak God’s word of love and longing to have people return to God.  Those prophets were often shunned, rejected and even killed.   
     Jesus saw himself like one of those prophets trying to bring people back to God, expressing his longing to gather people under his wing. The Book of Psalms uses that image of wings repeatedly to describe God’s love.  
     For example, three different Psalms say,  
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
Psalm 36:7

Let me abide in your tent forever,
    and find refuge under the shelter of your wings.  
Psalm 61:4

For you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
Psalm 63:7
     These passages describe God giving us shelter under God’s wings.  And you know what that means.  If God is the one with wings, then we are the brood that huddles beneath them.
     That image is powerfully relational, like a parent and child.  That is how Jesus described his relationship with his followers. 
     At their last supper together, before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples, 
“Little children, I am with you only a little longer…I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”  
John 13:33; 14:18-20 (NRSV)
     Jesus refers to his disciples as children and tells them, “I will not leave you orphaned.”  Jesus is like a parent to his followers, and he warned them ahead of time that he would be gone for a while, but he would not leave them. 
     Those words came true.  Jesus was crucified.  He died.  He was gone. Then God raised Jesus to new life. Jesus was resurrected.  And the Risen Jesus immediately returned to his children.  He stayed true to his word.  He did not leave them orphaned.  The Gospel of John says, 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 
John 20:19-20  (NRSV)
     Jesus finds his children huddled together afraid of all that has happened, and what does Jesus do?  He gathers them under his wing.  He gives them warmth. He gives them encouragement.  He gives them peace.
     Today on Easter Sunday we proclaim enthusiastically the resurrection of Jesus.  Yet, I think it’s equally important to proclaim enthusiastically the nature of the Risen Jesus.  
     He is not some remote, kingly figure distant from the people in his kingdom. He is a mother hen that gathers her chicks under her wing.  He is a parent who will never leave his children orphaned.  
     The Risen Jesus intimately cares for us.  He intimately loves us.  And that is why we have any care at all about this Easter Day of resurrection.  
     Jesus wants to be in a living relationship with us. He wants to warm us, encourage us, protect us and guide us.  We are his brood and he wants to gather us under his wings.  It’s a powerful image to hold in your mind.  
     Directly under her name, Merrit’s business card says “Chicken Mother.”  Merrit told me it’s not exactly what it was supposed to say.  
     You see, her mom and dad call her “Chicken Mama” and that was supposed to be printed on her business card.  But when her dad set up the design, he put “Chicken Mother.”  

     Some of you know Merrit’s dad, Chris Peterson, who is a very successful architect in Lake City.  He is much more accurate with blueprints than he is with his daughter’s business card.  Merrit told me, “Chicken Mother sounds too formal.”  She likes Chicken Mama because it’s more personal.       
     Jesus wanted to be more personal, too.  That is why he likened himself to a mother hen.  
     Jesus Christ is Risen!
     And he longs to draw you to him, as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings.  

-Pastor David
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