SLGS Old Boys Association UK Thanksgiving Sermon 23rd March 2014
Theme: United in Thanksgiving
George Stanley Johnson (7315)
[SLGS pupil 1972 -1978]
Speak through me O Lord that I may speak in living echoes of your voice and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.
(I Thessalonians 5:18) “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"
The theme for today is ‘United in Thanksgiving’ but before I proceed I would like to thank the officers and members of the Sierra Leone Grammar School Old Boys Association here in the United Kingdom for according me the honor and privilege of delivering the address at this year’s annual thanksgiving service. I entered the Sierra Leone Grammar School as a fresher in September 1972 and enjoyed six interesting and sometimes challenging years at the school under the guidance of great teachers such as the Late Rev V.J.Hastings-Spaine, Rev Richmondson Coker, Mr Akiwande Lasite, Mr Eddie Asgil, and Mrs Clara Robin Coker to name a few.
‘United in Thanksgiving’. [Psalm 100 verses 4 and 5]: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
In the Old Testament, the temple symbolized the presence of God. So, whenever the people came into the temple and entered the courtyards they knew that they had come into the presence of God.
The English dictionary defines the word unite as the coming together of separate units to form an integrated whole or as the joining together of people or object or ideologies for the pursuit of a common goal. Thanksgiving can be literally interpreted to mean the expression of gratitude for favors received. Therefore our theme for our fellowshipping today brings us to the combined definition that we have come together for the purpose of expressing our gratitude for favors we have already received. We join together to give thanks to God Almighty for the wisdom and courage of the founding fathers of our Alma Mater for laying a solid foundation on which several super structures have been erected and for planting the seeds from which many trees of different fruits have sprung. We also unite to give thanks for the efforts of all, who in diverse ways, continue to strive for the maintenance of our school and celebrate the memories of those who toiled before us.
Giving thanks is very important. When we give thanks as a community, as an association or as individuals, we are reminded of all the good things and all the good people that have influenced us. We remember that we have been blessed; we remember that there is a greater good than ourselves But the temptation is to then return to our self-sufficiency, to forget God, to say to ourselves - "our strength and our ability have got us thus far in life" - and then to yearn for more, and to expect it as if it were our right and our privilege. We should not be like children who are ever so grateful, momentarily, when they are given a gift but in their excitement quickly forget to be thankful.
When we give thanks we humble ourselves before God and acknowledge that he is the source of all good things, our awareness of our blessings should increase, our joy should become fuller, and we should find ourselves in an attitude and state of grace. Like Abraham and Sarah, we discover we have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others. Our continual thankfulness for our blessings will turn into a lifetime of living thanks, of living the blessings and sharing the blessings because we then come to realize, in the deepest parts of our hearts, that God is the giver of all.
Let us give thanks unto the Lord: let us call upon his name, and make known his deeds among the people. Let us sing psalms unto him and talk of all his wondrous works.
Having counted our many blessings as beneficiaries of the Sierra Leone Grammar School, we should then ask, what shall we render unto the Lord for them? Sacrifices and burnt offerings are no longer pleasing to him: the pomp of public worship, and the ceremonies of a festive day, will find no acceptance with God, unless they are accompanied by actions that correspond with them. The duties which are inculcated upon us, by the vision, courage and perseverance of our founding fathers can be summarized in five ways; five ways in which we can express our gratitude to God.
In the first place, our expressions of gratitude to God for his great goodness to and blessings on our founding fathers and present patrons, should not be confined to this day, nor to this service of thanksgiving: rather let us carry grateful hearts with us to our places of abode, and to our daily vocations; and let praise and thanksgivings ascend daily to the throne of grace, in our families, and in our communities, for what God has done for us as individuals and as an association. Let us not forget to praise him for his mercies to such of our alma mater wherever they may be; particularly for disposing their hearts to use the gifts that he has showered on them for the furtherance of his kingdom here on earth. As an association let us praise him for the number and zeal of the friends he has raised up to support our cause; and for the privilege of being able to support our school diverse ways. The generosity of our friends is a monument of God's goodness to us, and calls for our gratitude with all the other blessings that we enjoy.
Secondly, Let us be united as we pray to Almighty God, for his continued goodness to our school. Let us ask him to extend to all the beneficiaries of other schools in Sierra Leone, the same humane and just spirit towards them, which he has imparted to the Sierra Leone Grammar School, the Old Boys Association here in the United Kingdom and globally. Let us further implore the influence of his divine and holy Spirit, to dispose the hearts of donors, patrons, and well-wishers to continue to support schools and institutions of learning with generosity and kindness; and, above all things, to favor them with the means of acquiring such facilities as may be required for the advancement of human knowledge, as will enable them to promote education and enhance the very fabric that upholds society.
Thirdly, Let us conduct ourselves in such a manner as to furnish no cause of regret to the founding fathers of our school, for their legacy to us. Let us constantly remember the rock from which we were hewn, and the garden whence we were cultivated. Pride was not made for man, in any situation; and, still less, for persons who have come from a cultured and humble beginning. The Jews, after they entered the promised land, were commanded, when they offered sacrifices to the Lord, never to forget their humble origin; and therefore part of the worship that accompanied their sacrifices consisted in acknowledging, that an Aramaean, ready to perish, was their father: In like manner, we should publicly and privately acknowledge, that hardworking and humble men with a vision for future generations, were our founding fathers. Let our conduct therefore be regulated by the precepts of the gospel; let us be sober minded, humble, peaceable, temperate in what we consume, industrious in our occupations, just in all our dealings, and ever ready to honour all men. Let us teach our children the rudiments of effective communication, in order to enable them to acquire a sound knowledge of useful skills; and, above all things, let us instruct them in the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they may become wise unto salvation.
Fourthly, Let us be grateful to our benefactors, who, by enlightening the minds of our forefathers by means of imparting knowledge and developing talents erected the great school on the western side of Freetown. They are now gone to the great beyond, to receive the reward of their labours of love towards us; and the kindness and benevolence of others, we hope and pray, are recorded in the book of life, to be mentioned with honour when our Lord shall come to reward his faithful servants.
Fifthly, and lastly, Let this act of thanksgiving for our school be renewed each new day so that the crucible of time may not dull the beacon of light that it represents. Let the history of our alma mater and its evolvement through the years, descend by means of grace to our children, to the remotest generations; and when they shall ask, in time to come, ‘What was the meaning of the lessons, the psalms, the prayers and the praises in our fellowship of this day’? Let us answer them, by saying, the Lord has been good to us therefore we rejoice and give thanks. When we live with thankfulness in our hearts and share that thankfulness with others, the things we have to be thankful for seem to multiply.
Let me share a story of thanksgiving with you.
There was a man who served as a medical missionary for many years in India. He served in an area where there was progressive blindness. People were born with healthy vision, but there was something in that area that caused people to lose their sight as they matured. Well, this medical missionary developed a process that would stop progressive blindness. So people came to him and he performed his operation, and they would leave realizing that they would have become blind…
…but now they were going to be able to see for the rest of their lives.
The people never said: “Thank you,” to this missionary because that phrase was not in their own language. Instead, they used a phrase that meant: “I will tell your name.” Wherever they went, they would tell the name of the missionary who had cured their blindness. They had received something so wonderful that they eagerly proclaimed it!
Brothers and sisters we have received something wonderful too so let us be eager to proclaim it. When we come to the point in our lives when we are able to see the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ…
…and we surrender our very selves in order to follow the Lord…
…and the burden of this life is lifted…
….Suddenly, when we realize that God has been so good to us…
…that God loves us so much… …that we can’t keep it inside any longer…
…from the depths of our being we shout our joy to the Lord!
May our hearts overflow with thanksgiving to the Lord as we meditate on His Word, on His goodness, on His love, and on His faithfulness.
I pray that blessing on all here present and those who are near and dear to us, in the name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.