On Sunday 03 October 2021, Apostle Jeremia Joubert conducted the Thanksgiving Day central AVT divine service at Dinwiddie congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by sister Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
He was accompanied by Priest Brian Basson, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng and SABIE stereo. This divine service 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: O sanctified Sunday (EH:23)
Bible word: ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.’ (Genesis 2:3)
My dear brothers and sisters, Thanksgiving is such a joyful occasion. An occasion where we take one special divine service, and we dedicate it to the multiple reasons why we are thankful and why we have gratitude towards our heavenly Father. God who is almighty. God who is all-knowing. God who does not need us. God who made us as mankind, the crown of His creation, who has shown so much mercy to us. God is perfect love. Sometimes we also need to remind ourselves where we come from. Last year, the vast majority of us had to experience Thanksgiving from our homes. And I do understand that for many of our brothers and sisters in the congregations, it may still be difficult to physically attend the divine service even though we are now on lockdown level one. The Church will continue to try and make it as easy as possible and as safe as possible for those who maybe have a fear to return to church, that when you overcome that fear you will find a space that is safe. But we also know that in many of our congregations, the number of congregants still far exceed the current numbers that are allowed in venues.
Our divine service this morning is about a special focus. And the theme that we have for this divine service is that we express our gratitude to God by keeping the Sunday holy. And before I move into the word, allow me just to go down a little bit on a historical journey from the beginning, because this word comes from the beginning, up to where we find ourselves currently in our relationship with God. I know some of us don't enjoy history too much so I'm only going to share the highlights. But the background will assist us in understanding this expression of gratitude on this Sunday. Our Bible word comes from the portion after God had completed the creation. For six days, He created. And on the seventh day, God rested. The highlight of His creation was on the sixth day when God created mankind – us. Wherever we find ourselves, we are the crown of God's creation. And then it speaks of on the seventh day, God rested. And we will talk a little bit more about that rest. Because God is perfect. He doesn't grow tired. And here, resting has a special significance. Now, after this creation, mankind, represented by Adam and Eve, were with God in paradise. It was perfect. They needed nothing. They lacked nothing. They had this perfect relationship with God where they could engage with Him whenever they needed to in this physical connection that they had with Him. They didn't have to work. Whatever they needed was provided there in paradise. But then we also know that it did not stay that way. Because of sin, they had to leave paradise. So, sin had certain consequences. One of the consequences was that they had to leave paradise. Another was that they had to work. Another was that this perfect connection with God was disturbed. There was a distance between mankind and God. After leaving paradise, God chose His people, the Israelites. And they found themselves on this journey also with a promise that God made that He would reunite mankind with Him again. He will send the One that will bruise the head of the serpent. And here we look at the Israelites and their journey, their relationship, their interaction with God. And we find them often in ups and downs. Maybe similar to us where sometimes things are going well. And sometimes, maybe not so well. Then they found themselves in Egypt. Initially, Egypt was part of how they were saved from famine. But later on, that blessing turned into a burden. They were enslaved. Being slaves in Egypt, they remained true to their calling. They remained true to their nature and to this promise that God would prepare a place for them and that they were being prepared for this promised land, which became more and more core to who they were. And then at the right moment, God freed them from slavery in Egypt. Shortly after this, God gave them the Ten Commandments. And one of those commandments relates to this word that we have where it says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” In that commandment, there is also a guideline to say for six days you will work. On the seventh day, you will rest. Now, after this, there was this journey to the promised land. And eventually, they reached the promised land. But the promise of the return of the Saviour was not yet fulfilled. And we find later on that is exactly what God delivers. He sent His Son, Jesus, who took on a human form. Jesus, being here on earth, perfect Man, but also perfect God. And He fulfilled His task. He established His work here on earth. Later on, He was crucified. He was resurrected. He ascended. But He also made a promise, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again…” And then where I want to end this little bit of a historical process this morning is shortly after Jesus ascended; Pentecost took place. Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit was dispensed.
Now, let us go back to our Bible word and our theme for this morning. I read the Bible word again, ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.’ And our theme for today is that we express our gratitude. So, our gratitude is focused today on keeping the Sunday holy. Now I'm going to take some of these historical events and link them to our gratitude. So, if we look at God's creation. What He created was perfect. In paradise, mankind, represented by Adam and Eve, needed nothing. But when they left, they entered into a creation that was subject to possible abuse by mankind. We read in Genesis one, where six times, every day, when God looked at what He created, and it says, “And God saw that it was good.” Then, on the sixth day, after creating man, it says, ‟Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” So, we can see what God saw in His creation; this perfection. This is what He gave to us. But with it, God also gave to us as mankind, the responsibility to take care of His creation. While Adam and Eve were in paradise, they could use it for their benefit. When mankind left paradise, it was also unfortunately open to our possible abuse.
Now God rested on the seventh day. God is perfect. He does not need rest. God does not grow tired. Why did He rest? If we look at when somebody creates something. And here I want to bring it a little bit closer to us as human beings. We look at an artist or somebody who has a special skill, or talent. What sometimes happens when you look at it and you see that it was done well. God, when He created, He saw it was good. He saw it was perfect. The seventh day is where God stands back and He reflects on what He has done. And He sees that. And that links us to this Sunday, and I will talk a little bit about how we implement it to where we are now. How we get to the point where we also want to continually reflect on what God has done for us. What He is busy doing. How He is busy preparing us to fulfil our calling. So, God is the source of many great deeds, in the creation, on this journey. Initially, the Israelites were selected as the chosen people. But with His Son, given to mankind, and now, in this period between Jesus and the fulfilment of His promise, “And if I go and prepare a place for you…” - today, we look at who we are. As Christians, our identity is defined by Jesus. That's who we are. In the same way, as the Israelites were identified by their identity. Who they were. What they believed. In the same way, we have a specific identity. So, when we talk about this theme, and we say we express our gratitude. It is us as Christians. Our gratitude is expressed as a linkage to our identity. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in His promise. We believe in Him as the Son of God. And now when we link to God the Father, He is the Creator. So, our gratitude towards God is as the Father, Him being our Creator. Our gratitude towards Jesus, the Son of God is Him as the Saviour. Him, who promised us that we will have salvation, “…and He will send them a Saviour and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them.” And that is what happened. But Jesus is also the one that made it possible that we can have access to salvation. His crucifixion, but also importantly, His resurrection. Where He, on the Sunday, and this is important, and I want to emphasize that again, because that links, why for us, the Sabbath day, as Sunday, is so important. Because Jesus resurrected on the Sunday. That is part of our Christian identity. This is what we believe. Jesus resurrected on the Sunday. He is our Saviour. But He also promised mankind that He would send a comforter. He would not leave us as orphans. So often in life, we feel alone. So often in life, we feel we cannot cope with what we have. But that's why we find in God as the Holy Spirit, we have gratitude because the Holy Spirit is the one that gives us access to the new creation. When we are reborn through water and the Spirit. When we are sealed with this gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, rebirth takes place in us. And what happens is we become part of the new creation. So, our gratitude is towards God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now let us consider, out of this theme, gratitude, the ability to be thankful. The ability to understand and see but what do I have. And it starts with us realizing whatever I have is grace. I don't deserve it. I am not better than anybody else. We have many gifts. We have many talents. But there are so many things that are totally out of our control. Where we were born. The family we were born into. The condition we were born into. These things are out of our control, and even later on in life, some of the opportunities we have, it's out of our control. We may easily say that I work hard. And I must tell you, I know many people who are yearning for a job who will also work hard. But they can’t because they don't have a job. I know many people who are educated and have qualifications, and all they are looking for is just a job. We may have the qualification, but it is great that we are there and so we can continue with many other things but what we have is by the grace of God. God loves us. He's given us this opportunity. He allows us into certain conditions so that we can fulfil our purpose.
Now how do we express our gratitude? It starts firstly in our prayer. Every prayer that we have. Not only on Thanksgiving. We are missing out on many opportunities when we only want to say thank you on Thanksgiving. Every single day. Every single opportunity to pray, we have an opportunity to say thank you, God. But with it, we also have an opportunity to praise God. I know now maybe if we look at one component of praising with singing, maybe it's a little bit more limited to what we are used to. I can only imagine if COVID wasn’t here, we would have been in a congregation filled with a big choir. And many of our choir members are yearning for that again. But through our singing, we have an opportunity to bring praise to God. That's part of our gratitude. Then, we also show gratitude when we bring our offerings and sacrifices. With thanksgiving, it is a part of our identity to bring a special thanks offering. We are not farmers. We have some members who are farmers but the vast majority of us do not farm. So, what we do is we take a little bit of that, and we come to God, and we bring this to God and we say, God, thank you for what you have done for me. But then, part of how we also express our gratitude is the way that we treat the creation. When we talk about creation, we first look at what God created - this perfect creation. And unfortunately, it is open to abuse by individuals. Now maybe we can say, well I can't control what they do with the gases that are pumped into the air. I can't do anything about overfishing. I can't do anything about the pollution that's taking place. But we can control what we do when we treat nature a little bit better than maybe what is our practice. Be careful with the water that we use when we have a running tap. Just think about using that because that's part of the creation. When I look at what we participate in and the food that we eat. Often, it's so easy to waste something. But what we are busy doing is, we are busy wasting what comes from this creation that we have. But then how do I treat others? Because in my neighbour, in my colleagues, in my friend, in a stranger, God has seen something. Because we love our neighbours as we love ourselves. That's part of the commandment given to us by Jesus Christ. So how do I treat that component of the creation? And then the new creation in ourselves. How do I treat what God has given me? My spiritual attributes. How do I focus on that?
And this is where I now want to come back to the Sunday. We look at the theme again. We express our gratitude to God by keeping the Sunday holy. Let us start with our Bible word. Then the Third Commandment. And then, why we are here when it concerns our focus on Sunday. The Bible word speaks of, “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” He made it special. So, out of it, our dedication to the Sunday starts with God dedicating the seventh day as a special day, a rest day. Not because He was tired, but because He had appreciation for what He created. For us, we have appreciation for what God created. Then in the Third Commandment given to the Israelites, you have to keep the Sabbath holy. And the focus was to also bring gratitude towards God for bringing them out of slavery. Our identity as Christians is that of Jesus Christ. God as He reveals Himself through Christ, being resurrected on the Sunday. Thereby, we see the focus moving, not to the traditional Sabbath of the Jewish calendar, but the Christian calendar of Jesus Christ. The day He was resurrected. Because without His resurrection, there is no resurrection for us to eternal life. Without Christ bringing a sacrifice, whatever sacrifice we would bring would be in vain. So, we find this move towards it. In Acts and 1 Corinthians, there is also a focus towards a move in the first day of the week. But unfortunately, time is running out on us, so I can't deal with it in too much detail. But the Sunday is the day that we dedicate to God. That's part of our gratitude for the creation. This physical creation that we have. The life that we have today. But also, that future creation that is being formed in us. I am a child of God. I have been reborn through water and the Spirit. I am preparing myself for the return of Jesus Christ. So, if we look at our word today, we have a message where our gratitude is towards our heavenly Father which is reflected in what we do on a Sunday. Let us therefore seek opportunities where the Sunday is a holy day. Where Sunday is a day that we dedicate to God, to our salvation, and to our neighbour. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Jeremia Joubert