Vicar Writes


All 2019 January Vicar Writes

27 Jan 2019

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

The new four-year cycle of DCBS has started. The turnout has been good and both the New Sanctuary and Prayer Halls are fully used every Thursday evening. DCBS has certainly taken root in SAC and we hope that eventually, it will also be run in other parishes.

We have always wanted to have a strong Christian Education (CE) Programme in SAC. The Church should be a centre of learning and be an important voice in the city. The starting place is to serve her own members through creating an environment of teaching, resourcing and learning. The usual network of Services and Connect Groups provides regular platforms for education, where most in SAC are regularly gathered. On top of that, we have been running CE classes, ranging from courses to one-off seminars. We have also been building up our resources, whether printed or online. The Courier is another “voice”, and this includes both printed and online articles.

In 2019, we will be rolling out a new track called “Faith-Life Track.” Under this, we will be focusing on how our faith and life should be integrated. The scope is wide and will cover areas where science, philosophy and the cultural milieu of the day are powerfully shaping our minds, lives and faith. Specifically, this can encompass areas like creation and evolution, including how we should interpret the early chapters of Genesis, the Christian view towards human gender and sexuality issues, education, the environment, politics/government, artificial intelligence, the rapid social changes in our highly connected world and so on.

We seek to equip the believers to better align their thinking in areas of life outside the church, with the goal of being able to live all of life to the glory of God. Facilitated discussions and readings form the core methodology of this series, giving participants a platform to ask questions and seek answers from the Word of the God and glean insights from other members of the Body.

We will go beyond classroom learning. We are also launching a Cathedral Podcast. It is almost like a modern form of radio. In 20 to 30 minutes, a listener can hear an interesting interview of someone who has some expertise in an area. It is not unlike TED talks, which is a powerful culture-shaper today. Added to that will be written resources, including books and modules.

Undoubtedly, young adults and youths will relate immediately to these as they are exposed to current secular views and powerful voices of today’s culture. However, those who are older will certainly benefit as well.

We have already formed a team which has been laying the ground work since last year. We value your prayers for wisdom and the resources needed to begin a long-term plan to establish this track in SAC. Stay tuned!

These steps are also in conjunction with our SAC's Year of Hope, with our involvement in the Celebration of Hope at the heart of it. Christians need to be better equipped in helping seekers as they consider the questions and searching issues of life. In the face of the latest ideas in the various fields, Christians will need to reflect on these ideas to better integrate their faith with what the world is discovering about God’s world, to put it from the Christian perspective.

20 Jan 2019

Your life can be changed significantly this next 18 weeks. I am sure mine will.

"Lord, how can I be used by you to share the gospel and love of Christ with someone?" I have been praying this prayer. He is already giving me insights on who and where I could be involved.

People do have questions about our faith. Daily, people stream into the Cathedral for various reasons and some are very open to talk about the spiritual matters. Some have questions or objections, may it be philosophical or existential. If you get involved in an Alpha Course, you will find the small group experience is like no other.

My last experience in an Alpha group was about 6 years ago in my previous parish. It was a group of mostly well educated young adults and I was both challenged and enlightened by the questions which the current generation is asking. It was a ten week journey of interaction and reflecting together and I found myself able to be helpful. In particular, I was encouraged by how this bright Chinese scholar finally became a Christian after Alpha and followed Christ in baptism. She was asking some very sharp questions on the early chapters of Genesis and I found my theological training and reading helpful. This is not the forum to go into the details, but often a simplistic and naive reading of the creation accounts can be a stumbling block to faith for some without further explanations.   

In part, your life will be changed because you too need to ask again the basis for your faith. This is what sharing the Gospel will do to you. You will encounter questions that will be baffling. What can you say to someone who has gone through unspeakable suffering?

When you recite the Nicene Creed, do you really believe every word? And if you do, what are the implications? But you may have questions or doubts on some part of the faith. There is nothing wrong with having doubts as it is a part of growing as a believer. Some are are well studied in fields like history, cosmology, biology, psychiatry and philosophy. There are huge advances in these fields and in a highly interconnected world today, learning and discovery is accelerating at a pace never seen before in our human history. How can that impact our faith?

You will also encounter some who may not have deep intellectual questions about the faith. They simply want to know how one may be a believer. Why does one need to go to church? What implications are there for their lifestyles? Some will come to you for help as they are experiencing brokenness in their lives or destructive addictions of some form. Can Christ give them any hope?

And if you want to be a good witness, you know that your attitude towards your colleagues or classmates needs to change. As Christians, our number-one priority is to represent Christ well to family and friends. As He is honest, kind, loyal, and honourable, we should strive to be those things as well. All these qualities will contribute to a good reputation. If we have poor reputations, our message is tainted as well. Many will not heed our words when our reputations do not match what we claim to believe.

This is why a desire to be a good witness will be life-changing. I pray that each of us will find opportunities to grow deeper in Christ as we engage with the Celebration of Hope. 

13 Jan 2019

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

As I reflect on the passing away of Bishop’s father this week - Uncle Ponniah as I would normally call him - I think of kindness. He epitomised that for me as someone who was always encouraging with nary a hard word. In fact, the last words I heard from him were after the 11.15 am Christmas Service and again, they were kind, tender and encouraging.

We must have all heard about the Singapore Kindness Movement. It is a valiant effort though we may wonder whether it is making any difference. The Bible teaches a lot about kindness and perhaps it is in worshipping communities where this needs to be taught and her leaders encouraged to exemplify.

Reflecting on the verse above, firstly, kindness is extended to one another. We hardly use the term to refer to our attitude towards God, i.e. we will not say we need to be kind to God. Kindness is offered voluntarily to another imperfect human being or someone caught in an imperfect situation. Instead of uttering a harsh word (which may be right), we choose instead to have a kind response. That can stop a situation from cascading into relationship-breaking or stress-inducing situations for the other.

To be “tenderhearted” is another wonderful thought. That is opposed to being “hard-hearted.” Again the idea here is not about giving what one deserves. The guiding point is the giver choosing a different course of action or response. It may be a small reaction but if marked by tenderness, it often soothes and heals.

“Forgiving one another...” - kindness and forgiveness also go together. Here the Bible teaches the idea of kindness as a response when you are personally affronted. You have every right to feel that a corresponding reaction should be exacted. We don’t use this word but it is simply “revenge.” We move beyond being annoyed to saying or doing something to get back at the person. Or we keep holding a deep grudge or bitterness in our heart which eats into us and also affects our relationship with others.

Again and again, when we find ourselves in this situation, we are called to look to the One who has forgiven us. After all, in something as basic as the Lord’s Prayer, we are already told to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. Indeed, “as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

I have been a pastor now for over 30 years. Sometimes people ask me how I manage to cope. “We don’t envy your position”, I am often told. The Singaporean Christian community often reflects the values of her society’s culture: competitive, rule-based and perfectionistic. Truth be told, the strongest resource is found in digging deep into my relationship with Christ. Where I confront my own frail humanity where again and again, He forgives me. His holiness, love, humility and perfection is such that my own wretchedness is exposed. It is when I realise that I have been forgiven that I am able to forgive. It is a terrible religious delusion to think that as Vicar, I am morally superior to those around me. My own sinful condition is largely shielded from those around me.
When they react to the little portions which leak out, the Holy Spirit often reminds me that it would be a lot worse if they knew the whole truth.

In other words, I don’t have any rights except the right to forgive. If I have debts to pay, it is the debt to love. For God in Christ has forgiven me. People who know they are forgiven will know how to forgive. This truth is simple but profound. It can bring healing and wholeness to any Christian community.

Don’t search for a perfect community for there is none. Find one and be kind. You will never know how far it will go. Like Brother Draviam Ponniah, the legacy of a kind soul will live on in the family for generations. And as we can testify, is also seen consistently in his sons: Bishop Rennis, Revd Jeremy and Andrew.

6 Jan 2019

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Next Sunday, across all our Services, we are starting a new Sermon Series entitled "A Hope for All." This series will reflect on the stories of men and women in the Bible whose lives have been transformed by the saving power of God. You will find that each of them is very different and yet the Gospel has a way of reaching them at a point of need. This sermon series can help us to prepare for the Celebration of Hope (COH) events in May this year.

One can say that Singapore is far more heterogeneous as a society today compared to the society that experienced the visit of Dr Billy Graham more than 40 years ago. The diversity of race, culture, the wide educational exposure (including overseas education) and our global nature as an international gateway city mean that we cannot assume we understand the people we are talking to.


Yet Scriptures record human experiences spanning many centuries and across different lands. These stories continue to live on through the Church as she grows and embeds herself into many different languages and cultures.

Even here in the Cathedral, we have come across so many different and interesting stories of conversion and spiritual experiences. We are enriched when we come to understand how the Gospel can work so differently for another person. Being a Christian for over forty years now, I have of course gone way past the initial glow. But when I encounter fresh testimonies, I am reminded again of the power of the Gospel to change lives and bring hope. And I find a new encouragement to share the Gospel even if the person I am trying to reach may find it so remotely irrelevant. It may start that way. Just be faithful to love and share and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

This is the reason why we believe that this gospel hope is for all. We are reminded of the words of St Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-6:

"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."

I can think of no greater privilege than to help another person to find faith in Jesus Christ. Singapore today, rich in diversity and a home for over two million non-citizens is an exciting place for the sharing of the Gospel. May the Lord love, speak and heal through each of us.