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First Presbyterian Church’s Matthew 25 celebration includes community partners

The Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, congregation celebrates during worship and afterward with a mission fair

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

MT. PLEASANT, Iowa — First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, gathered Sunday first to worship God and celebrate the many ways the congregation is following Jesus in the Matthew 25 movement. Afterward — following a thrilling Bach postlude on the church’s pipe organ by high schooler Ethan Sexauer — worshipers continued the celebration with a mission fair in fellowship hall.

The congregation makes the centrality of its welcome clear in its Welcoming Statement, which affirms the congregation’s commitment “to being a radically loving and welcoming community of faith. We believe it is our responsibility to follow the teachings of Jesus and bring the kingdom of God to the world through love of and service to others.”

First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, celebrated its Matthew 25 work Sunday with a special worship service and mission fair. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

Asked to preach during Sunday’s celebration by FPC pastor the Rev. Trey Hegar, the Rev. DeEtte Decker, communications director for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, used Matthew 25:31-46 as her scriptural focus.

“Sheep on the right, goats on the left. Those on the right receive the deepest abundance of God. Those on the left are royally renounced until the end of the age,” Decker said. But even today, we ask Jesus, “What do you mean? We have been with our herds and have been looking for you everywhere.”

“Don’t we plead with God to be revealed? We wonder what way we are supposed to walk and how we are supposed to live. The answer from Christ remains crystal clear: whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me,” Decker said. “When our vision is concealed, he is revealed. No matter who you are,” Jesus assures us, “I see you and I am with you. There’s nowhere you can go where I won’t be.”

A mission fair followed Sunday’s Matthew 25 celebration at First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

The Matthew 25 invitation is twofold and clear, Decker said. “First, we must equip our eyes to see. Then we must train our hands and feet to respond. Only then are we able to discern the essential and have clarity on what matters the most.”

“I know First Presbyterian Church has talked together about your past, present and future. You’ve realized your history is ripe with innovation and inclusion,” she said. “You all have shared brilliantly and courageously your love for your church and for God. Your mission mindset has been plentiful. First Presbyterian Church is definitely crafting creative solutions for more neighborly experiences, and you’re developing new partnerships to broaden your reach.”

First Presbyterian Church accepted the Matthew 25 invitation in 2022 and has been working with a number of community partners to strengthen its Matthew 25 efforts in the southeast Iowa community. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“Today as you celebrate and continue to live in your missional ministry, I wonder what cue you might have from the clarity of Matthew 25,” Decker said, launching into a series of “if” statements and pairing each with “then you will have done what really matters.” Among them:

  • If you fuel your future with innovation
  • If you continue to dive deep into the waters of discipleship
  • If you celebrate your long history of inclusiveness and hospitality
  • If you clothe yourselves in purposeful partnerships
  • If you continue to fix the bleeding and broken in your midst
  • If you continue to find remedies for ministry programs that are limping
  • If you continue to work to bring freedom to those in prison and held captive by addiction, debt, hatred and fear for the worst choice of their lives.

High schooler Ethan Sexauer plays the postlude during Sunday’s Matthew 25 celebration. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“Friends, the directive is simple, and the invitation is clear: when did we see you, Jesus? Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me,” Decker said. Seeing the face of Christ in everybody we meet “is the work that matters the most — for you here at First Presbyterian, for me, for all of us. And who knows? We might be surprised to find what we’ve been searching for is right under our noses. Or we might be surprised that we’ve been doing it all along, and in all of our seeing and our doing, we might just meet Jesus. Amen.”

The mission fair included booths staffed by community partners and ministries of the church, all of whom chatted with church members and friends about their work, One, IowaWINs, was featured here, and another, All God’s Creatures Animal Shelter, will be explored on this website later this week.

Other partners present at Sunday’s mission fair included Community Action of Southeast Iowa, The Refuge House, The Fellowship Cup/Bridges out of Poverty, Growing Hope Globally, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and PFLAG Mt. Pleasant.

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