CHRISTIANS celebrated Singapore’s 39th National Day with special prayers for the nation and its leaders and a resounding vote of thanks to God for His goodness and blessings on our Republic.
Worshippers from many churches turned up at St Andrew’s Cathedral for the “Prayer for the Nation” — the National Day Thanksgiving Service on the evening of Aug 12.
The event, which coincided with the swearing-in of the new Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, and his Cabinet at the Istana, was organised by the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS). This was providential as the NCCS had planned the event as far back as early this year to pray for Singapore’s leaders and our nation.
The evening saw several highlights:
■ A new song, “From Many Shores”, written for the nation by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon and set to music by Mr Jusuf Kam, was sung for the very first time. Bishop Dr Solomon, Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore, is also the First Vice-Presi-dent of the NCCS, while Mr Kam is a Pastoral Team Member (Worship and Music Ministry) at Wesley Methodist Church;
■ A response hymn, “Lord, Bless Singapore”, written by the Rev Melvin Huang with music by Mr Lim Swee Hong, was also sung. The Rev Huang is Pastor-in-Charge of Wesley Meth-odist Church and Mr Lim is studying for his Ph. D. in music at Drew Uni-versity in the United States;
■ A coffee-table book, Many Faces, One Faith, edited by Dr Bobby Sng which traces the role and contributions of Christians in the development of our nation, was launched. Dr Sng is President of The Bible Society of Singapore;
■ The stirring rendition of hymns and choruses by the congregation led by the Voices of Praise Choir and accompanied by the Wesley Ensemble; The opening song, aptly, was “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”;
■ Two special items, one in Man-darin and the other in Tamil, were presented — Voices of Praise sang “Streams of Praise” under the direction of Ms Margaret Song, the choir’s Assistant Conductor, and the Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church Choir rendered “My Heart, Sing Praises to the Glory of God” under the direction of Mrs Sita Chandran, the choir’s director.
In a Prayer for the Nation, the Rt Rev Henry Hong, Second Vice-President of the NCCS, prayed: “Almighty God, gratefully we raise our voices in thanksgiving for your guidance and mercies as we celebrate our 39 years of nationhood.
“Indeed, we are thankful for the cov-ering of care and compassion under the gentle and firm leadership of our former Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, and his Cabinet. We now commend to you our newly-appointed Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, and his team of ministers. May they be given wisdom and compas-sion in their policy decisions for the well-being of our nation.”
Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, who delivered the message, wove his sermon around the question why he had repeatedly chosen to stay and serve in Singapore when he had several opportunities to settle else-where.
He offered three reasons — memories, a moral society, and mission — which, he said, “can be tied to our call to pray for the nation”.
Speaking on “A Nation Blessed by God”, based on the text from Genesis 12:1-8, he began by saying that Aug 12, 2004 was a significant day as it was the day of the handing over of leadership to a new Prime Minister and his Cabinet. He explained why and how the National Day Service was organised, and said that it was God’s own timing that Aug 12 was to be the day of blessing for Singapore’s leaders and all Singaporeans.
He said Bishop John Chew, Bishop of the Diocese of Singapore, who is the President of the NCCS, was to have delivered the sermon, but the latter was representing the NCCS at the Prime Minster’s swearing-in ceremony.
“I was asked to stand in for him a few days ago on my way to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. God delayed the flight for me to spend time with Him. Hence my message.”
Drawing a parallel with Abraham returning to the Promised Land with the Promised Land becoming a place of rich memories, Bishop Dr Solomon said Singapore had become a land of rich and holy memories for Singaporeans, too.
“Here, many of us were born, went to school, got to know our lifelong friends, served in National Service, got married, started a family … we are a small nation, but we are rich with memories. There are also memories of coming to faith in Christ, church and community.
“These memories and ties form part of the fabric of our prayers for the nation. For me, this was highlighted in a poignant way last year during the SARS crisis. We were all threatened. We prayed — for family, friends, colleagues, community, for our memories.”
With such rich memories, he added, it was very difficult to leave Singapore.
On the importance of a moral society, Bishop Dr Solomon reminded the congregation that God had promised Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation. I will make your name great.”
In what sense was Israel to be great? The answer, he said, is found in Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation.” He said Singapore has been a good home for families and children, and he sometimes discouraged people from leaving.
“But now there are many new influences, unhelpful and dangerous. Values are being challenged. We must pray for our leaders that they may be led by God’s wisdom. The Church must contribute to the discussion in public squares. We are also stakeholders.
“We must pray that Singapore will remain a good home for us, a moral and righteous society. Scripture promises, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord’ — Psalm 33:12. Righteousness exalts a nation.”
He said: “We can claim this promise from Micah 4:7 for Singapore – ‘I will make … those driven away a strong nation. The Lord will rule over them in Mt Zion.’ “As a people, we were driven away in 1965 and forced to become a nation. God has been with us. We must continue to pray. Though we are small, we can be a great nation.”
Bishop Dr Solomon said that Singapore has also been a “good home” for the Church. “We had prospered and had been educated. We had grown in many ways.
God has equipped us and enabled us to do mission in significant ways. “Firstly, God has used mission in Singapore to reach out and help in nationbuilding.
Secondly, in overseas mission, there have been church planting, social services, community development, etc.
“We must therefore pray that we will continue to witness and provide service to the community faithfully.
“There is a change in leadership. Above all, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. So let us honour God, seek Him and entrust our lives to Him,” he concluded.
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION
We must pray that Singapore will remain a good home for us, a moral and righteous society. Scripture promises, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” –
Psalm 33:12. Righteousness exalts a nation.’