At the National Council of Churches of Singapore’s annual Thanksgiving service, Christian leaders of the nation gathered in prayer and thanksgiving, interceding for God’s heart for Singapore.
“To some, the very existence of Singapore may be seen as a historical accident, but to the eyes of faith, Singapore was miraculously formed by God into a sovereign nation for His glory and His purpose.”
On this note of thanksgiving, the Right Rev. Rennis Ponniah, vice-president of the NCCS and the Anglican Bishop of Singapore, delivered an impassioned sermon about the need for the renewing fire of the Holy Spirit in order to spark greater unity among the body of Christ.
In conjunction with Singapore’s 48th National Day, he spoke at the National Day Thanksgiving Service at the St. Andrew’s Cathedral on the evening of Aug. 15.
Held annually, the National Day Thanksgiving Service is organized by the National Council of Churches of Singapore, whose membership comprises more than 200 churches from various denominations and Christian associations such as the Bible Society of Singapore, Trinity Theological College and the Prison Fellowship Singapore.
In Ponniah’s sermon, he established the heart of God for the cities of the world. He pointed out that even when the fire of judgement came down on the city of Sodom in Genesis 18, God remembered mercy. “It was God who revealed to Abraham what He decided to do. It was He who waited for Abraham’s plea,” the Bishop pointed out.
That same mercy was on display when Jesus rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire in response to the Samaritan’s hostility against Jesus’ coming. “That is not the nature of Christian service,” he says. “The fire that Jesus came to kindle was not the fire of judgment but the fire of renewal—the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns through the love of Christ demonstrated at Calvary.”
That fire of renewal eventually came, in Acts 8, when the apostles Peter and John were sent to Samaria to baptize the new believers in the Holy Spirit. With this, centuries of animosity between Jews and Samaritans were demolished.
The fire of the Holy Spirit makes real the love of Christ to human hearts, and that’s what brings new joy, hope and unity to a city. It opens new relationships between people who have been opposed, prejudiced and resentful toward each other, explained Ponniah.
It is not the fire of judgment that destroys a city; rather, it is the fire of renewal that frees people and brings about unity and transformation that is God’s heart for the cities of the world, Ponniah added.
“Which fire of God will burn in Singapore in this generation and the next?” he challenged the congregation. In closing, Ponniah called for Christians to pray for God’s renewing fire, to proclaim the Gospel fearlessly yet sensitively, and to participate in shaping the Singapore story by engaging society.
The meeting, which packed a full house by 7.30pm, was opened by Rev. Canon Louis Tay, associate vicar of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. In attendance was His Excellency, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary, along with several other political leaders.
In between thanksgiving prayers and Scripture readings were times of praise and worship. While fanfare was kept to a minimum, the Dawnbreakers Singers and the Wesley Soli Deo Gloria Ensemble led the congregation in some of the most rousing, joyful moments throughout the evening through hymns and contemporary worship songs.
Corporate prayers were also made for the nation’s leaders, for peace, harmony and security as well as the church and her ministry.
Special highlights included a dance item from the Bedok Methodist Church Dance Team and song performances from the St. Thomas Orthodox Syrian Cathedral Choir, New Creation Church Worship Team and the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church—all of which underscored the diversity present within the local body of Christ.