First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2021
 
Good Morning!
   
Thanksgiving Day is nearly here.

It's time to feast with God's bounty.

But before we do, we must do something.

God gave us this commandment.   

Even God knows the importance of history.
  
-Pastor David
 
 
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Mail your offerings to: 
First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"We Must Do This Before The Feast"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

Sunday, November 21, 2021

      Last week I received an email from one of my Lake City clergy colleagues who sent the email to all the Lake City clergy. 
     It was a proposal from the Lake City 150th 
Anniversary Committee. 
     The Committee would like all the churches to ring their church bells together for a combined total of 150 times (multiplying rings by churches) next February right after a program to celebrate the incorporation of Lake City. The email inquired which churches would participate.
     A couple of the clergy responded with a simple yes, they would participate.  Then one pastor replied, “Our church has plenty of ding-a-lings but unfortunately no bell.  Great idea, but count us out.”  
     That clever response inspired my own reply: “Our church bell has been ringing in Lake City since 1882 so First Congregational is happy to participate!”

     I was bragging, of course, but hey, when you’re the oldest church in town, the first one to be established in 1856, we have rights to brag about our age: 165 years old.  
     And our church bell is special because it began its Congregational Church life after being installed on our second church building, which was constructed on our current site in 1881 to 1882.  
     When that second church building was demolished and replaced with our third and present building in 1966, that old bell was saved and installed on this church. We ring it on Sundays at the start of worship.  
     That bell has been ringing in Lake City for 139 years.  And each time it rings, it recalls our local Congregational history.  
     It reminds us that we have a heritage that inspires us and makes us grateful. There are people before us who have kept the Christian faith and passed it on to us.  There are people before us who started this church and passed it on to us.  
     We celebrated an infant baptism in worship today, which is possible because of our faith ancestors.  Each time our church bell rings, it recalls our Congregational history and our heritage, which, frankly, is worth bragging about.  
     The same is true of our upcoming Thanksgiving Day observance.  Each time we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, it recalls our Congregational history, which is worth bragging about.  
     What we call the First Thanksgiving originates with the Pilgrims, who are our Congregational ancestors, originally from England.  
     According to the Bible, reciting our heritage is something that God wants us to do.  In fact, it’s a commandment.
     The commandment came after God led Moses and the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt in about 1450 B.C.  God wanted the people to recite their story of oppression and freedom year after year to inspire their gratefulness and their humility.  
     It was to be done at their harvest time, which is similar to the timing of our Thanksgiving Day.  It was to be done with a great feast, similar to the meal we have on our Thanksgiving Day. 
     The story was to be told in a ceremonial way.  The people were instructed to take some of the harvest and put it in a basket.  They were to take the basket to the priest, who then took it and placed it before the altar.  Then the people were to recite their story in the presence of God, saying these words, 
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”

Deuteronomy 26:5-10  (NRSV)
     Then after that history was recited, the commandment said to do this, 
You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

Deuteronomy 26:10-11  (NRSV)
     Notice that the feasting doesn’t happen until after the story is recited.  After you have remembered your forebears and their struggles and all they have passed on to you, then you can feast with a sense of humility and gratefulness.
     What that means for us Congregational folks is that we must remember our faith ancestors, the Pilgrims, and recite their story every year at Thanksgiving. We must remember their oppression and persecution under King James I. We must remember that God brought them to this place, America.  
     It’s an epic story, much like the Hebrews escaping persecution.  And after we tell the story and gain a sense of humility and gratefulness, then we can celebrate with all the bounty God has given to us.
     It was 401 years ago this month when our faith ancestors, the Pilgrims, arrived in America.  They dropped anchor off the coast of Massachusetts on November 11, 1620. 
     It was a terrible time of year to arrive, so close to winter.  They originally planned to make the voyage to the New World during the summer, but there were delays departing from England, which used up much of their resources before they even departed.  
     There were 52 of them who called themselves Pilgrims. They were escaping the persecution of the Church of England under King James I, so they boarded a ship called the Mayflower. There were a total of 102 passengers, including 20 to 30 sailors and the captain.  
     The Pilgrims were ordinary people, and for the most part families of men, women and children.  They were weavers, wool carders, tailors, shoemakers and printers with no experience for carving a settlement out of the American wilderness. Yet they were willing to endure almost anything if it meant they could worship as they pleased.  They fully believed that God wanted them to go to the New World.  
     The passengers were in the “between decks”, or “‘tween decks”.  It was a dark, airless space about seventy-five feet long and not even five feet high, which separated the hold beneath them from the upper deck above them. 
    Soon after departing from Plymouth, England the passengers began to suffer the effects of seasickness. They had a three thousand-mile stretch of ocean to cross.  
     It was a miserable voyage that lasted 65 days at sea with an average speed of 2 miles per hour bucking the Gulf Stream and westerly gales.  Two people died on the way and one woman gave birth to a son, appropriately named Oceanus.  
     Land was sighted on Thursday, November 9, but it took another two days of sailing dangerously close to the shoals of the New England shoreline before the Mayflower would find a spot to anchor. 
     The Mayflower anchored on the northern tip of Cape Cod, at Provincetown Harbor.  It was Saturday, November 11,1620.  
     It was not for another month that the Mayflower would put in at the spot of a future settlement.  During that cold and snowy month there was exploration of the land, skirmishes with Native Indians, and more than one occasion of stealing corn from those Indians.
     It was mid-December when the Mayflower sailed to what became known as the settlement called Plymouth Plantation. 
     The conditions that winter were so harsh, and disease a reality that two or three people were dying on a day.  By the end of March, 52 of the 102 who had originally arrived at Provincetown were dead.  
     Almost everyone had lost a loved one.  Many children were orphaned.  
     But on March 16 something happened that would change the life of the Pilgrims forever. A Native Indian walked into the settlement and with great enthusiasm spoke the now famous words, “Welcome, Englishmen!”  The Indian’s name was Samoset and he was sent by the Pokenoket sachem named Massasoit.
     Over the spring and summer months the Pilgrims and Pokenoket Indians would learn much about each other and from each other.  The Pilgrims lived in wigwams and Indians lived in the Pilgrims’ homes.  
     The Pilgrims learned agricultural techniques from the Indians, especially how to grow corn by planting a seed with a dead fish. They also learned how to plant beans and squash. 
     We do not know the exact date of the celebration we now call the First Thanksgiving, but it was probably in late September or early October, soon after their crop of corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas had been harvested.  It was also a time when Plymouth Harbor was filled with a tremendous number of migrating birds, particularly ducks and geese. 
     Instead of an English affair, the First Thanksgiving soon became an overwhelmingly Native celebration when Massasoit and one hundred Pokanokets (more than twice the entire English population of Plymouth) arrived at the settlement and soon provided five freshly killed deer.  
     People clustered around outdoor fires, where the deer and birds turned on wooden spits.  Also simmering on the fire were pottages – stews into which varieties of meats and vegetables were thrown.
    In addition to ducks and deer, there were wild turkeys.  The Pilgrims may have also added fish to their meal, because in the fall, striped bass, bluefish, and cod were abundant.  
     With a recently harvested barley crop, the Pilgrims had beer. The Pilgrims had no pumpkin pies or cranberry sauce.  There were also no forks, which did not appear in Plymouth until the last decades of the 17th 
Century.  The Pilgrims ate with their fingers and their knives.
     The First Thanksgiving marked the conclusion of a remarkable year.  Eleven months earlier the Pilgrims had arrived at the tip of Cape Cod, fearful and uninformed.  
     They had spent the next month alienating and angering every Indian they happened to come across.  None of the Pilgrims should have emerged from the first winter alive.  
     Yet they survived, which is testament to their grit, resolve, and faith.  
     They survived because Massasoit had made the decision to offer them assistance.  They survived because they placed their faith in God without becoming arrogant and isolated. 
    This is our story. This is our Congregational heritage.  Our faith ancestors experienced persecution, freedom, death, determination, abundance and overwhelming faith in God.
     This is the story that inspires us, humbles us, and makes us grateful on Thanksgiving Day.  
     The Pilgrims made our Congregational Church possible. 
     When our 139-year old church bell rings, we will recall our heritage. 
     And now that we have recited our story, we may start the feast.  

     -Pastor David  

The historical information included in my message comes from a wonderful book called, Mayflower - A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick.
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