The National Day Thanksgiving Service is an annual event organised by the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS). It brings together members of major Christian denominations and other para-church organisations to pray for the continued well-being of the nation.
This year’s service was themed “Seek the Peace of the City”, which is a reference Jeremiah 29, and a timely reminder for the congregants to put aside whatever feelings that they might have for the country’s social and political landscape. They were instead encouraged to collectively pray for God’s blessings upon and intervention in Singapore, and to turn hearts towards Him instead of focusing on human differences.
In his sermon, Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church in Singapore—who is also the President of NCCS—drew the attention of the congregation to the Jewish people who, as punishment for their sins, were exiled to Babylon by God for 70 years.
The underlying message was that of the hope that the Jews had from God. Despite being sent off to live in the very heart of the enemy’s seat of power, the Jews were commanded to “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” (Jer. 29:5–6, NIV)
They were also instructed by God to continually seek the “shalom” or peace of Babylon—and told that they would prosper if Babylon did as well. The notion of this task was hard to swallow as the spirit of the very city went against everything that the Jews believed in.
According to Bishop Kee, the Hebrew word “shalom” has come to be commonly translated into many terms such as “completeness”, “peace”, “safety”, “prosperity” and “welfare”, each being somewhat correct but never able to completely represent the depth of its meaning.
“It is as if a word can capture everything good that can come out of [an] ideal relationship with God […] and with one another,” explained Bishop Kee. “It is certainly not just peace as we know it—a state that denotes the absence of war or conflicts.”
Here, Bishop Kee drew a parallel between the Babylonian Jews and Christians living in Singapore—a cosmopolitan city that is at the heart of all things secular and contemporary, which faces internal and external influences seeking to challenge every single aspect of what it means to be a faithful follower of God.
Despite this, he stressed the urgency of prayer, or in the words of Jeremiah, “to seek the shalom” for the nation’s leaders and for the stability of the region, which will in turn ensure the prosperity and peace of Singapore, so that all can live in safety and harmony.
Remembering Billy Graham and the 1978 Singapore Crusade
The second half of the Service included a special segment that shone the spotlight on the late Rev Dr Billy Graham’s 1978 Singapore Crusade, during which he famously labelled the country as the “Antioch of Asia”.
A video of him speaking at a fully packed National Stadium, urging the attendees to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, was shown. The Rev Dr Graham passed away on 21 Feb this year.
In appreciation of the Rev Dr Graham’s work for Christ in Singapore, which went on to spark a revival in the nation in the late ’70s to the ’80s, a special token was prepared and presented to the Rev John Chadwick Hammond, Director of Asian Affairs for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who was on hand to represent the Graham family.
The Service was closed with a series of prayers by the various leaders of major churches in Singapore. Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung led the session with a prayer for the leadership of the nation.
Jason Woo is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive. When not working on the latest articles, he enjoys long jogs and cuddling up with his cats along with a good book.
Photos courtesy of National Council of Churches of Singapore