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The Chen Li Presbyterian Church choir performed a joyful video anthem: “Look at the World” as part of the National Day Thanksgiving Service 2020 tonight. All photos are screenshots from the livestream of the service.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est. The church must always be reformed.

“The question for us in the Church is: Are we listening to God’s voice in the midst of the pandemic? Are we willing to submit to what God is doing in restructuring, remoulding what we understand about church?”

This was the question Rt Rev Keith Lai, President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), put to all who attended the National Day Thanksgiving Service 2020 tonight (August 20).

“Are we ready to be remoulded?” Rt Rev Keith Lai challenged the Church in his sermon.

The annual service, organised by NCCS to mark Singapore’s 55th National Day, was restricted to 50 attendees at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

But almost 250 watched the service via livestream, joining in prayers for the nation and the global community.

A right to remould

The hour-long service opened with a welcome from Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, NCCS’ General Secretary.

Rt Rev Lai, who succeeded Bishop Terry Kee as President of NCCS this year, delivered the sermon: “The Remoulding of God’s People”, based on Jeremiah 18:1-12, read by Col Rodney Walters from the Salvation Army.

Ryan and Amie Kong leading worship.

Elaborating on the verses that speak of the Potter “fashioning this beautiful vessel for His use” only to have the vessel spoilt in His hands, Rt Rev Lai said: “Jeremiah wants us to know beyond a shadow of doubt who is absolutely in control, who is sovereign and in charge.

“All nations think they are sovereign, but their ultimate sovereignty is God and God alone.”

“The sovereign Lord is saying: I have shaped and moulded you. Have I no right to rework, remould and redo and start all over again when things go wrong?

“All nations think they are sovereign, but their ultimate sovereignty, their real sovereignty, is God and God alone.”

But what went wrong? Why was this vessel spoilt in the hands of the Potter?

Rt Rev Lai said: “The little I know about pottery and clay and the potter’s wheel is this: When the lump of clay is off centre, it collapses. When it loses its centrality on the wheel, it spins out of control. And the word for spoilt in this passage is very interesting – its root meaning refers to being corrupted, ruined, wasted, becoming useless.

“God was highlighting that when a nation commits evil, when they sin, when they turn to idolatry, they spiral down into atrocity and evil. Church history reminds us of this again and again. That’s the sin of commission.

“But the second thing that strikes us here, the saddest words, are that the people did not listen to God’s voice. The sin of omission. In verse 12, the people are defiant, saying: We will follow our own plans. Everyone acts according to the stubbornness of their own hearts.”

The challenge for the Church is to rethink: Have we gone off-centre? Are we misaligned with God’s purpose?

Rt Rev Lai cautioned against the Church resting on the false security of long traditions and established doctrines, refusing to be reformed according to the Word of God.

Our relationship with God is dynamic; He is constantly speaking not just in the past but in the present, he said.

The challenge for the Church is to rethink: Have we gone off-centre? Are we misaligned with God’s purpose?

“In this time of pandemic, the reformation that is happening is a reformation of structure. How the Church is to be organised. Is it to be organisational or organic? Gathered or scattered? Top down or bottom up? Is it a building or a people everywhere, growing spontaneously?

“We have to be willing to submit to what God is doing in restructuring, remoulding what we understand about Church. Are we willing to listen to the voice of God? Or are we stuck in our ways?”

Bishop Terry Kee delivering one of the Intercessory Prayers.

Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung gives an Intercessory Prayer in response to the sermon.

In the Potter’s hands

The evening’s sermon was followed by an Affirmation of Faith led by Rev Canon Terry Wong, who also led the Apostles Creed in response to the word.

The Chen Li Presbyterian Church choir performing a video anthem.

Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung, Rev Dr Chua Chung Kai, Bishop Low Jee King and Bishop Terry Kee delivered Intercessory Prayers, with Mr Richard Jeremiah closing with The Lord’s Prayer.

A joyful video anthem: “Look at the World” was performed by the Chen Li Presbyterian Church choir.

The service closed with a postlude music video entitled “One”, performed by Ryan and Amie Kong, where scenes of our homeland reminded that “we are Singapore, a home for all”.

The anthem “One” was a reminder that “we are Singapore, a home for all”.

The Rt Rev Lai prayed: “Lord, will you soften our hearts. Let not the clay harden to a point where it is beyond restoration. Help us to be soft, tender in your hands.

“Never ever forget that, as God’s people, even when bad things happen, tragedy strikes, we fall into His hands.”

“Help us, as a people in Singapore, to be attentive to Your voice – what You are saying here and now in this unusual season of our life. Help us to respond in repentance and obedience.”

He also left worshippers with hope: “In Jeremiah, we learn the extent of His mercy and kindness. Even when the lump of clay is spoilt, it is still in the hands of the Potter.

“That’s great comfort for us as a Church – nothing is out of His hands, His control. Even when everything falls apart, it falls into His hands.

“That’s what Jeremiah is trying to remind us: Never ever forget that, as God’s people, even when bad things happen, tragedy strikes, we fall into His hands.”

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Salt&Light

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