Linked to the New Apostolic Church’s 2015 theme of Joy in Christ, Midrand Congregation in Johannesburg, South Africa celebrated their 2015 Thanksgiving under the theme, Gratitude leads to happiness.
This theme aligned perfectly with the word for Thanksgiving service: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. — Hebrews 13: 15–16.
Led by the congregation’s rector, Shepherd Lance Smith, Priests Gershon Monk and Brent van Rooi shared with members the importance of praising God and how the good deeds that we do for our neighbour out of love are sacrifices that please God.
Also articulated was the fact that the praise of God is not dependent on our personal situation in life, with members being asked to consider, “Do we thank God for all our blessings when we pray or do we just ask for more things?”
Members learnt that we thank God through prayers of praise; by professing to others what Jesus Christ has done and how God has impacted our lives, as well as the importance of structuring our lives in accordance with the gospel.
Other forms of sacrifice include monetary offerings but also the work we do for the Lord using the skills and talents we have which we should continuously thank God for. However, we cannot be forced to thank God for all our blessings and everything that we have, as this gratitude stems from deep within ourselves and our understanding.
Also stressed was the link between giving thanks to God out of love and the practice of love for our neighbour. We help because God has helped us, and we help out of love for our neighbour – these works and sacrifices are pleasing to God.
When doing all of this, Shepherd Smith asked members to always begin with the end in mind. And for us, as Christians, this is centred on the day the Lord will return so we need to work in love of both word and deed and ensure our lives become a sacrifice of the praise of God.
Preparations for Thanksgiving 2015 at Midrand began in late August when Shepherd Smith shared his thoughts on the vision for the theme Gratitude leads to happiness. He would speak to members about this after Sunday services and even played inspirational videos that speak to this theme. One such video was of Nicholas James Vujicic, an Australian motivational speaker born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally as well as physically, but eventually came to terms with his disability and, at the age of seventeen, started his own non-profit organisation, Life Without Limbs. Vujicic presents motivational speeches worldwide which focus on life with a disability, hope and finding meaning in life, therefore expressing gratitude. Other preparations took place the week before and on the day before Thanksgiving service and included the Sunday School children making posters, the cleaning of the church and the decorating of the altar with flowers, fruit, vegetables, canned food, maize products and sweets.
Additionally, it was indeed a blessed Thanksgiving for Midrand Congregation because on that Sunday we baptised our youngest member Cael Connor Young and welcomed an adopted member, Angus Young, into our congregation. Priest William Hudsonberg and his wife, Shirley, also celebrated a wedding anniversary and Petrus van Aswegen celebrated his birthday.
These celebrations also formed part of the congregation’s Thanksgiving fellowship which took place at on the grounds of Sagewood School as this is where services are held. There was a jumping castle and fun games for the children while the adults relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon lunch – lamb on a spit braai.