On Wednesday 01 July 2020, Bishop Grant James conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by Bishop Gregory February, a small NACTV crew and an organist. This divine service was made available on NACTV, YouTube and was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: The work is Thine (EH: 159)
Bible word: “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” (Psalm 75:1)
My dear brothers and sisters, the Bible word and the heading of our divine service tonight is to be thankful and show gratitude. The Psalmist here, already in his time, expresses his thanks to God. If we read the whole chapter of Psalm 75, he acknowledges the greatness and goodness of God and to be able to give thanks to God in every situation, and in that, we can understand the reverence of God. God is everywhere. God is all-powerful. God is all-present. God knows everything. God is righteous; He is in control. We are living in a peculiar time, a time where we have to remain at home and rely on technology to receive the word of God. We are living in this pandemic that has affected the whole world. And yet, we can still say thank you God – thank you that You are still there, that you are still in control, that you know everything. We know that ultimately, God will be righteous and He will judge accordingly. Tonight, we thank our heavenly Father and we bring our gratitude to God for that which He has done for us.
As the Psalmist says in our Bible word, we give thanks to Him for His wondrous works. Firstly, he was talking about that which God created in the material world. We also realise that, in today’s time, because we are stuck at home and we are standing still, how beautiful the earth is – that which God created right in the beginning – that he entrusted to mankind; that He made available to us as mankind to care for and to look after. Here and there we have made mistakes and poor decisions which have sometimes brought damage to this beautiful world God has created. And today, again, we want to thank and realise the wonder of the creation; the wonder of that which God made possible. There are so many marvellous animals, wildlife and that which takes place out there. It’s marvellous. And we can only go quiet, in our own time, and realise that God created it all. And we, today, as the Psalmist did so many years ago, we say thank you to God because He created this material world, but more than that because that is done; that is made. But we look forward to the spiritual: that God sent His Son Jesus Christ. That God came to the earth as man, and that He dwelt among man and He brought about this salvation plan for all mankind. Even though we are sinners and we disappointed God, He brought about this way of salvation that Jesus came to the earth and brought about the sacraments. Because of that, we can be His children; we can be part of Him; we can have faith; we can believe in God – and this faith can be rewarded. This is the wonders of God; these are the reasons why we can truly say thank you to our heavenly Father. Thank you that we can exist today. Thank you that we still have the opportunity to be able to stand still for a few moments and receive the word – even though life is difficult; and sure, we pray for a vaccine so that we can go back to the way life was before the pandemic, but we are still able to say thank you to our heavenly Father for the material natural things, but also for that which is spiritual. We are thankful that we are His children and that Jesus dwells amongst us; that we have our faith. This is our relationship with God, and may that be what characterises us. It’s like in our home, when there is thankfulness, we appreciate one another. Sometimes, we take things for granted, and only when it’s not there anymore, we realise what we had; then we realise that maybe we should have been more thankful. Sure, we want to do that in our own personal lives with our loved ones. In our relationship with God, may it be characterised that we are a thankful people.
The Bible word also says that we declare these words; that we talk about it; that we show it. We should not only have an inner thankfulness – we need to declare it as well – we need to show it and it needs to be seen in our walk of life; it needs to be seen in our way of living. If we think of that which is material in the natural world and that which God has created, it is our responsibility to look after it. In our country of South Africa, most of us have been through the drought and we have been encouraged to save water and not waste the supply. That is our responsibility; that is how we can show that we are thankful because God entrusted it to us – even just by keeping the environment clean. God gave it to us; God entrusted it to us. And dear brothers and sisters, we want to show it in our lifestyle. So often, when we are not thankful, when we take things for granted, we tend to forget where it comes from. Do we realise that everything comes from God? Yes, we are powerful and we are in control. Sometimes we have such great knowledge; sometimes we think we manage everything. But where does it originate from? From God. God created everything. And you and I, as His people, we want to express our thankfulness even though we want to continue to develop, we realise who made it possible. And may we give, in everything, small and great, our acknowledgement and thankfulness to God. May we also show it in our spiritual life. Jesus Christ saved our souls, He came to the earth. God came to the earth; He didn’t just stay up there in heaven and give us instructions. No. He sent His Son who came down in the most innocent form as a baby; born out of the Virgin Mary. He dwelt among us, and this is an expression of God’s love towards us, and we want to be mindful of this. That is why we celebrate all the Christian festivals that take place because we remember where it comes from and what it is about. We do not live in the past because we want to be with our heavenly Father, but express our love and declare out thankfulness by remembering what it is about: that Jesus is with us. Jesus lives here. He came to the earth and gives us His word, His teaching and that which we need at this time.
May we also be able to declare our thankfulness to God in that we remain faithful. Faith comes from God. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that our faith is awakened. But, we must have the desire, we must have the longing to seek after this faith so that we can believe in our God. Sometimes, we also take that for granted, we almost take it as if it is automatic – I was born in the church, I was born a Christian, I was born New Apostolic. But God makes it possible for us. He makes it possible for us to believe and for us to allow His word to enter into our hearts and souls. And may that be all of our desire all of the time. I often say, and I keep on reminding myself, that the most important thing in life is just to go to church – keep on going to church. The reason: so that we can hear the word of God so that my faith can develop and I can be encouraged. It’s like eating - we eat every day, and sometimes we cannot even remember what we have eaten, but we partake of that meal so that, naturally, we can develop. Spiritually, we thank our God; we declare our appreciation that we have faith that we do believe. And we come
and allow the Holy Spirit to build and develop us. May we enjoy church, may we enjoy the word, may we seek after that which our heavenly Father gives to us. We can enjoy life; we can love everything. When I was in confirmation, Chief Apostle Urwyler said you can love anything, but just love the Lord more. We can enjoy life; we are human, and we can be thankful and appreciate the natural things, but it is our faith that matters. It is our belief in the salvation plan of God. “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” God is near to us, and we are thankful to God and we declare and show our thankfulness to our heavenly Father.
In verse two it says “when I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.” God will judge. God is righteous. If we read this Bible chapter, the Psalmist is not scared of the judgement, he is not afraid because he knows God is righteous and fair, and God will give the right reward at the right time. Remember the time when Jesus was in the temple and people were offering? The man came in with all his money, displayed it and put it in the offering box. I am sure that the church leaders were very happy with that money because they could use it. As we know, there was a widow who came with her last and put that in the offering box – that is what Jesus saw, and that is how God sees it – that this woman gave it with the right heart and she was blessed. Dear brothers and sisters, we do not have to be afraid of God. We know that God judges, but we also know that He is righteous and that He will give everyone the right reward. We do things with the right heart, with thankfulness and appreciation and understand that God wants to save all mankind. In the book of Ezekiel, it reads as follows: “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies.”, that is what God says. God has no pleasure in death; God wants to help. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him may be saved.” God is fair. He wants to help every single soul. And repents can be forgiven and be helped by our heavenly Father. Isn’t this a wonderful God? Isn’t this a wonderful reason to be thankful to our heavenly Father, because He judges fairly? And may you and I, with whatever we do, with whatever we offer, with whatever we bring to our heavenly Father, whatever our responsibilities are, may we do it out of a heart of gratitude.
In closing, we want to acknowledge that our God is great; He is everywhere and He knows everything. And we remain thankful to God, for the material things and for Jesus Christ who came to the earth and for the faith that we have. We declare this by preserving the natural things; that which God created and entrusted to our care. And that we also talk about Jesus who is always near us and who always helps and guides us. And let us always feed our faith so that we can continue to believe so that, ultimately, we can be found righteous before our heavenly Father. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Grant James