Whenever I think of church anniversary, I am reminded of Samuel’s words to Israel, “Consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Sam. 12:24). Yes, anniversary celebration is a time of thanksgiving for the great things the Lord has done for us both individually and corporately. As we reflect on God’s goodness and blessings, our hearts will cry out with the psalmist, “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever (Ps. 107:1).
We are indeed a blessed people. However, I fear we may not be as grateful as we ought to be. And yet the giving of thanks is a powerful phenomenon with a liberating effect.
The desire of an individual to offer thanks to God goes back to the early chapters of Genesis. When Noah left the ark, having been saved by God, he “built an altar… and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma” (Gen. 8:20, 21). Noah modelled the importance of saying, “Thank you.”
The experience of corporate thanksgiving finds expression in the annual harvest festival when Moses directed Israel to observe a full week of thanksgiving after the harvest: “When you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days” (Lev. 23:39). After the years of captivity, Nehemiah reinstituted the harvest festival of thanksgiving to God. It is recorded that there was great rejoicing (Neh. 8:17)
There are at least 140 passages of Scripture that deal with the subject of thanksgiving from a personal or corporate perspective. In the NT we read how Jesus constantly gave thanks to the Father. Paul began nearly every one of his letters with an expression of thanks and urged us to give thanks in everything (1Thess. 5:18). The writer of Hebrews tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name? How shall we as a church give thanks to God? The best way to thank God is to live our lives in a spirit of gratitude.
Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 10 warns us that when everything is going well, there is a tendency for us to become proud and thus forget God. We must take time to thank God for all the good gifts that we enjoy. Most of all, we must live out the words of Psalm 103:1, 2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
As we celebrate our 48th Anniversary at Sembawang, we should count our blessings, and as we count them, say with George Herbert, the English poet, “Thou hast given so much to me, give me one thing more – a grateful heart.”
Rev. Mark Tay