Chinese New Year, and Continuity and Discontinuity in Biblical Theology

Chinese New Year passed with the usual surfeit of steamboats and lo heis and barbecues and restaurant feasts and CNY tidbits.

homemade pineapple tarts with melty crusts and Anzac biccies with bak-kwaWas glad to get back to merely nibbling on a colleague’s homemade pineapple tarts and some Anzac biccies (because of Australia Day) studded with bak-kwa, instead of being pressed, on pain of seeming discourteous, to sample a plenitude of snack jars as we visited friends over the holidays.

Double-treat Tuesday -

Ecstatic too to be back to smoothie bowls for breakfast and to be cracking on with the second volume of “Justification and Variegated Nomism“. Nom nom.

The lecturers at the Cornhill Training Course used to be adamant that every single passage of the OT should point to Christ, citing Luke 24:27. I thought this an unwieldy sledgehammer that resulted in all sorts of dodgy exegesis. Yet, I also thought that the insistence of some folk at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate on holding tightly the tension of the biblical narrative (and so being very hesitant in going to Christ), while dealing quite well with an OT passage’s position on the salvation-historical timeline, did not adequately take into account our position on that same timeline.

How then to read, teach, and preach the OT now? Could some part of the answer depend on one’s conclusion on the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments?

  • What should we, who live on the other side of the cross/resurrection/ascension, make of the Old Testament ?
  • Which laws should we follow and which ones should we ditch?
  • What about infant baptism (as continuity from saved-as-a-household x circumcision)(see eg. pg 3 of Themelios April 2016)? What about keeping the Sabbath (on Saturdays)?
  • What is the biblical warrant for any of that?

 This didn’t make it as one of my Heresies of the Month back in London. But since it will be a lifelong task to comprehensively consider the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT, let’s get this party started.

dragonfruit smoothie bowl with Korean strawberries and Chilean blueberries

 I do not think the usual tripartite division of the law into moral, civil, ceremonial laws works well:

  • they are not biblical categories – no Bible writer thought in those categories
  • therefore, they impose an alien framework on the text

The first port of call, perhaps, would be a careful reading of how NT writers treat the OT.

D.A. Carson, in “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” (p393, Justification and Variegated Nomism), concludes that for Paul, this is a “both-and”. That is,

“Paul thinks of the gospel he preaches a simultaneously something that has been predicted in times past, with those predictions now fulfilled, and something that has been hidden in times past, and now revealed.

…there is no evidence that Paul himself was aware of any tension between these two stances…the two stances…genuinely lock together…

…Paul assess the significance of Israel and the Sinai covenant within the larger biblical narrative…the law’s most important function is to bring Israel, across time, to Christ…

…the Old Testament, rightly read in its salvation-historical structure, led to Christ…

…the law is upheld precisely in that to which it points…”

Yet, Carson is insistent that we need to see too “how radically Christocentric Paul’s reading of the Old Testament really is…”

Andy Naselli’s done a good summary here.

cast-iron shashuka - tomatoes, chickpeas, bayleaves, cabanossi, eggsa quick shashuka lunch straight from the hot cast-iron pan

Right. So are there any general principles that one can draw on what continues and what doesn’t, and can this be applied to any OT text faithfully?

Akan datang.

Chinese Lunar New Year Reunion Steamboat Dinner

Valē, Mike Ovey.

Valē, Mike Ovey

The Facebook newsfeed is awash with shock and sadness. Mike Ovey is dead at 58 from a heart attack.

We shall miss his:

  • sharp thinking about theology:

Why bother with systematic theology?
Putting contextualisation in context
The gospel “how” of theological education
The gospel “what” of theological education
The grace of God or the world of the West?

  • astute theology:

The Person of Christ
Eternal subordination of the Son

The Son incarnate in a hostile world
Complementarianism and homoianism
Gender and sexuality

Valē, Mike Ovey

  • incisive commentary on contemporary issues:

Certainty
Looters: them or us?
Killing cultures or saving from superstition?
How do we get the leaders we don’t deserve?
Malfunctioning Democracies?

  • deep thinking about the church, and interaction between Christians and the world:

Evangelical Liberalism in the UK
Is the Reformation over?
Courtier politicians and courtier preachers

Rev'd Dr. Mike Ovey from Lawyers Christian Fellowship on Vimeo.

Law and Gospel in the public square


Gender and free speech

  • absurd and unexpected pop culture references while communicating profound truths, and the timing of a stand-up comic

Valē, Mike OveyM1 and M2.

But most of all, we shall miss his deep humility and pastoral nature and genuine love and care for people. Many Christian leaders and teachers are clever and quirky; but it is rare to find one much like his Master.

When circumstances…take our mentors from us:

Others:
Lee Gatiss’ “A Tribute to Mike Ovey (1958 – 2017)”
Duncan Forbes’ “A Tribute to Mike Ovey. We need more Mike Oveys”
Chris Stead’s “Will you let God disagree with you?
Graham Shearer’s “On ‘Learning in Time of War’
Moore Theological College’s obituary – “The Rev. Dr Mike Ovey
Daf Meirion-Jones’ “Mike Ovey: The Spiritual Surgeon
Dave Williams’ “What Mike Ovey taught me
Matthew Barrett’s “Best Possible Gift: The Legacy of Mike Ovey (1958 – 2017)
Co-Mission’s “A mighty brother has fallen: we salute his courage for Christ
Mark Tanner’s “The gift of a friend
Chris Green’s “Obituary: Revd. Dr. Michael J. Ovey, PhD MTh MA BCL BA, Principal at Oak Hill College

And Credo is doing a much better job of collating!

Happy Halloween at Woodgrove Estate, Woodlands, Singapore

I have happy (candy) memories of trick-or-treating as a kid. We canvassed neighbours in The Arcadia with our high-pitched half-hearted threats, then retreated to exchange our sweet haul.

Now, the festivities in Singapore have been ramped up at the American expat neighbourhood of Woodgrove Estate in Woodlands.

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

There are 6 main ways you can dress for the task:

  • scary
  • sexy
  • cute (anything furry, or see below*)
  • pop culture referencing (Superman, Spiderman, Ironman; a Pokemon; Harry Potter character; Sesame Street character)
  • dress-up trope (“Red Indian”, policeman, fireman, military personnel, pirate, witch, wizard)
  • nerdy (Minecraft character)

*But if you’re below the age of 2 years, you’ll end up in the third category, no matter how hard you try:

Little Halloween Witch Fairies. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

At Woodgrove, a housing agent was seizing the opportunity to dole out free orange balloons (with their name and contact details of course), fresh popcorn, pink candy floss. Little wizards, witches, ninja turtles, boys with knives through their heads were patiently queuing for these treats:

free popcorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

free popcorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Thus fortified, the hordes then continued on to open homes. At some, the owners or their children handed out the treats themselves. Other households had maids or even hired men doing the work while they sat and watched the proceedings:
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

a tub of sweets. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
bet you didn't see the pontianak until it was too late! Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore<
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

These were the best dressed hosts I thought – a man with his head in a box and his bloodied zombie bride:
man with his head in a box and his bloodied bride. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
The Woodgrove households have been kind and rather generous in inviting all and sundry to partake of the festivities. They probably wouldn’t want to lay down rules, but with the crowds almost reaching the thousands, a few pointers wouldn’t go amiss – because where the free stuff is, the Ugly Singaporean Person isn’t far behind:

  • dress up! Even if you’re there to chaperone a kid. I heard one frustrated host refuse to give candy to someone in t-shirt and shorts, saying,”At least try to make an effort!” Each individual makes up the crowd. Each person contributes to the fun atmosphere, so don’t just turn up in normal clothes. Rise to the occasion!
  • be polite! Greet each host (“Trick or Treat!” “Happy Halloween!”) and commend them on their costume or house decor. Say thank you. Don’t grab sweets from their tub unless they ask you to. It’s not a free-for-all buffet. Throw sweet wrappers and other rubbish in the many bins around.
  • give way! There were at least two people on wheelchairs who couldn’t seem to get through the crowds. Don’t be kiasu lah, just give way to them. There were lots of older kids lazing in prams though, which was a little unfortunate since they could walk. This led to a lot of people’s feet being run over and generally hampered traffic flow.

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Speaking of costumes, this fox was fantastic. Everyone simultaneously loved this kid and worried about him/her overheating in the Singapore heat:
Fantastic Mr. Fox. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Fantastic Mr. Fox. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

We don’t know if the Gryffindor troupe ever saw Snape hanging out with Professor McGonagall:
Gryffindor. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Professor McGonagall with Snape. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

I’m sure I saw you in a meme, horse-head and inflatable T-Rex:
horse. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
inflatable T-Rex. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Minecraft in pixelated glory (see instructions here). Boxy head also useful for containing the night’s haul:
Minecraft. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Minecraft head. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Cool people-riding-things costumes:

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

princess riding a unicorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
witch riding a dinosaur. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Other snapshots from a jaunt around the estate. Loads of fun!

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
lantern fish? Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Harley Quinn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

But how can a Christian celebrate Halloween, someone might ask.

Well, of all people, a Christian can best celebrate Halloween with a light heart, without superstition or fear! In its Singaporean form, the dead are not honoured nor prayed for at Halloween, nor is Satan or any demon worshipped.

If anything, dressing up as pretend-scary people, or getting splattered with fake blood, or paying good money (for charity, of course) to enter a haunted house thumbs the nose at the powers of darkness and death.

Haunted House. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
skulls hanging from a frangipani tree. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

A child of God isn’t afraid of the powers of darkness, because the Son of God has triumphed over them when he died on the cross. The prince of darkness, the Devil, has no hold over us.

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

15 He disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15)

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

And though the Christian still dies, he/she does not approach death with morbid fear, because the Christian is assured that his/her Lord has gone before him/her. And will, on the Last Day defeat death, so that all who trust in Jesus will rise again to new and eternal life.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”(1 Corinthians 15:24-27)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

This does not mean that Christians dismiss the Devil as myth though. Rather, we understand that Satan works not in a sweaty sweet-hording festival but in every day life; in tempting us to sin against God and by encouraging us not to acknowledge God as God, or submit to his Son as Lord.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

A burial, on a normal sunny afternoon, just like any other

late breakfast of fried eggs and bacon, with smashed avocado on wholewheat toastI crawled out from under the bedcovers late today, aching, peering out at the hazy Singapore sky (thanks to forest fires in Indonesia), wondering what time it was. As I made breakfast/lunch/tea, the previous day came back to me.

**************

It was a normal sunny afternoon in Malacca, Malaysia. Just like any other. Along Jonker Street, tourists would have been queuing up for chicken rice balls or cooling off with a sweet chendol dribbled with gula melaka.

burial in Malacca, on a normal sunny afternoonBut we were here in the Malaccan countryside, by a narrow hole, in a graveyard.

The local Methodist pastor, who’d forgotten the deceased’s name twice already (it wasn’t really his fault – the deceased only turned up in church twice a year, at Christmas and Easter), was throwing white flowers into the grave.

As he threw the first white chrysanthemum he said, “You were made from the earth, and to the earth you shall return.”

Then,”Ashes to ashes.”

And finally,”Dust to dust.”

Family and friends threw flowers into the hole. When they were done, the workers who had been idling nearby, sipping water from plastic cups, moved concrete slabs over the hole and laid several wheelbarrows of cement over it.

His widow, who had become blind over the last few years, could only hear the scrape-scrape-scrape of the cement sealing in the decaying body of her husband in the tropical heat. She asked to be helped away.

Then the many wreaths were piled on.

Some of the younger mourners, who hadn’t known the deceased, were teasing each other by the grave (“hey, your boyfriend says he wants to break-up with you!”), and laughing, and talking about hatching eggs in Pokemon Go.

When all the wreaths had been piled on, we all left to go to lunch.

**************

Four days ago, life had been going on as usual. The deceased’s wife was holidaying with their daughter in the UK. And the deceased had gone for a golf game with some friends (“never said no to a round of golf”, nodded one of the mourners). On the way home from a trip like any other, the driver of the car lost control of the SUV. They smashed into a lorry, flipped over, and crashed roof-first onto the hard ground. Three people were “killed instantly”, the fourth was critically injured and didn’t know what’d happened as he’d fallen asleep in the back seat.

On hearing the tragic news, the rest of the family rushed back to the empty house, in utter shock and massive grief.

One day ago, my friend, the only son of the deceased, had given a eulogy. A very bold witness, he’d told those gathered that his father’s death was a warning that they must heed:

  • none of us knows when we will die
  • are we prepared for death and what will come after death?
  • if the Christian claim is true that we all live once and then face judgement, then we must all repent and trust in Jesus’ death to save us from that judgement, before it is too late!

The black-and-white photos before the casket had shown a dashing young man, with a bright smile and a full head of dark hair, in a sharp suit, with his arm proudly around his new wife (now widow), an equally fashionable young lady. Other photos recorded the births of a succession of children, then grandchildren. My friend’s father went on to lead a respectable life amongst the local people. A successful medical career behind him, he retired and was enjoying life without any major health complaints. “A nice man”, agreed the mourners. “Director of 6 companies, you know, to keep his mind active”. “Oh yes, and also director of a bank. It’s been in his family for ages!”

But he was unprepared for death. And then it was too late.

How inappropriate to warn people to repent at a funeral, my friend’s sister had berated him. But because death can come at anytime, there will never be a more appropriate time than now, than today.

Palm Sunday Songs for Sunday School

We’re working through later chapters of the Gospel of Luke in the lead up to Easter at Sunday School.

Here are the songs we’re doing for Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with the crowds acknowledging him (for now) as king.

Welcome the King

Welcome the King, welcome the King
Welcome the King who comes
In the name of the Lord

Clear the road before him
Open the ancient doors
Let every heart receive him
Welcome the King
Who comes in the name of the Lord

Who is this King, who is this King
Who is this King who comes
In the name of the Lord

He is the King of glory
Crucified and risen
He is the Lord Almighty
Welcome the King
Who comes in the name of the Lord

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1996 Make Way Music

We sing Hosanna!
1. Zechariah said:
“Here comes your king,
Riding on a donkey,
Humble as anything.”We sing “Hosanna!”
Jesus is our King!
He’s riding on a donkey,
But He’s the Lord of everything,
The Son of David,
King of Kings!
2. All the city said:
“Who is this man?
Riding on a donkey,
What can be his plan?”

3. Chief priests said:
“What’s going on?
Riding on a donkey,
People singing songs?”

Epiphany, Twelfth Night, Singapore. And the Purpose of Romans.

Galette des rois, PAUL Bakery, Epiphany, Singapore

galette des rois from PAUL Bakery, Singapore (facebook)

On the twelfth night after Christmas, BL and I were discussing the big idea of Romans.

Quoting Christopher Ash’s Teaching Romans, BL thought the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans was (i) to motivate them to be his mission partners; and (ii) to motivate them to live in harmony with one another.

Puzzled, I thought that on a plain reading and without reference to commentaries, Paul’s intent seemed to be to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians. It wasn’t an evangelistic rally he had planned for Rome.

Why preach the gospel to those whose faith was already well-known throughout the world? To strengthen their faith. And faith is strengthened by being more sure of what one believes in. Paul wasn’t advocating any blind leap in the dark…”by no means!”…

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

fève in the galette des rois, Epiphany, Singapore
…instead, Paul demonstrates how glorious the gospel is: how necessary it is for both Jews and Gentiles; how this is the great revelation of the mystery that has been kept for generations; how the Jews and the law were part of God’s plan for the gospel all along; how the current sin of Christians far from obviates the legitimacy of the good news, etc.

And Christians, so gripped by the magnificence of the gospel, would exhibit the “obedience of faith” (both the obedient response that is faith, and the obedience that comes from faith).

It is terribly important, imho, to put the focus on where Paul puts his passionate emphases – not another attempt to drum up prayer and financial support for his gospel campaign nor a pep talk about church unity. Instead, he blows their minds with the sheer crazy glory of the gospel. That is what will keep them in times of difficulty; that is what will make them live rightly.

Can’t wait to get stuck into Romans at small groups this year.

Carols for the Ungodly

Advent in Asia.

Time for imported Norwegian and American pine trees to fill tropical spaces with heavy heady fragrance.

Time to imported mince pies from Australia and Great Britain, to be nibbled in the bright sunlight.
Big Sister (Australia) and Walkers (British) mince pies, Mandura English Breakfast

Time for those beautiful John Rutter carols to remind you that God gives sunlight and gifts to the godly and the ungodly.

A choral treat that slips down the throat like brandy butter eggnog, but could Stuart Townend please write us a good meaty theologically-correct Christmas dinner? The occasion of Jesus’ birth has so much more significance than the humble birth of a great teacher in a manger, or the lovely tenderness of a mother caring for her child.

It was a cosmic birth of the Creator of the entire universe becoming one of his own creatures; it was the coming that the entire world had been waiting for generations upon generations; it was a

For now though, Rutter’s carols for candlelight, angels, shepherd’s pipes, donkeys, stars, nativity…

Candlelight Carol


How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Refrain

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Refrain

Angels’ Carol


Have you heard the sound of the angel voices ringing out so sweetly, ringing out so clear?
Have you seen the star shining out so brightly as a sign from God that Christ the Lord is here?
Have you heard the news that they bring from heaven to the humble shepherds who have waited long?

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels sing their joyful song.

He is come in peace in the winter’s stillness, like a gentle snowfall in the gentle night.
He is come in joy, like the sun at morning, filling all the world with radiance and with light.
He is come in love as the child of Mary. In a simple stable we have seen his birth.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels singing ‘Peace on earth’.

He will bring new light to a world in darkness, like a bright star shining in the skies above.
He will bring new hope to the waiting nations, when he comes to reign in purity and love.
Let the earth rejoice at the Saviour’s coming. Let the heavens answer with a joyful morn:

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Hear the angels singing, ‘Christ is born’.

Shepherd’s Pipe Carol


Going through the hills on a night all starry
On the way to Bethlehem
Far away I heard a shepherd piping
On the way to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
Dance and sing for joy that Christ the Newborn King is come to bring us peace on Earth and he’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem

Tell me shepherd boy piping tunes so merrily
On the way to Bethlehem
Who will hear your tunes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem

None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem;
But a King will hear me play sweet lullabies
When I get to Bethlehem

Angels in the sky came down from on high
Hovered over the manger where the babe was laying
Cradled in the arms of his mother Mary
Sleeping now at Bethlehem

Where is this new King shepherd boy piping merrily
Is he there at Bethlehem
I will find him soon by the star shining brightly
In the sky over Bethlehem

May I come with you shepherd boy piping merrily
Come with you to Bethlehem
Pay my homage too at the new King’s cradle
Is it far to Bethlehem

Donkey Carol


Donkey riding over the bumpy road
Carry Mary holding her heavy load
Follow Joseph, leading you on your way
Until you find a stable, somewhere to rest and stay
Donkey riding over the bumpy road
Carry Mary
holding her heavy
holding her heavy
holding her heavy load

Donkey watching over The Jesus Child,
See The Baby, all with his mother mild!
Hear the Angels singing their song on high!
‘Noel! Noel! Noel! their caroling fills the sky!
Donkey watching over The Jesus Child,
See The Baby,
all with His mother
all with His mother
all with His mother mild

Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
With the oxen worship the Lord of all
Hush, He lies asleep on His bed of hay
While Mary sings so sweetly
‘Lulla, Lulla-lalay.’
Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
With the oxen
Worship The Lord
Worship The Lord
Worship The Lord of all

Donkey skip for joy as you go your way!
Alleluia, Jesus Is Born today!
Hark, The Bells Ring out with their message clear!
Rejoice and sing that
Christ our Savior Divine is here!
Donkey skip for joy as you go your way,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia
Christ is Born today!

Jesus Child


Have you heard the story that they’re telling ’bout Bethlehem,
Have you heard the story of the Jesus child?
How he came from heaven and was born in a manger bed?
Mary was his virgin mother pure and mild,

Sing alleluia, brothers, sing alleluia sisters worship the Jesus child and praise his mother mild,
Glory to God on high’ the angel hosts above are singing:
Listen to the story of the Jesus child.

Have you heard the story of the poor humble shepherd men,
Sitting on the hillside with their flocks at night?
Suddenly the angel tells them: hurry to Bethlehem,
Go and find the Jesus child, the world’s new light,

Refrain

Jesus child, lying at Bethlehem, sleeping safe at Mary’s knee,
Save my soul and bring me to paradise,
Let me join the angels singing glory to thee

Refrain

Have you heard the story of the kings from the orient,
Following the star that’s shining over his head?
Offering their precious gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense,
Kneeling with the ox and ass before his bed?

Refrain

Brothers, let us celebrate the birth of the Jesus child,
Sisters, come and welcome him, the newborn King;
Praise the Lord who sent him down from heaven at Christmas time,
Young and old and rich and poor, his praises sing.

Refrain

Christmas Lullaby


Clear in the darkness a light shines in bethlehem
angels are singing their sound fills the air
Wise men have journeyed to greet their Messiah
But only a mother and baby lie there

Ave Maria, Ave Maria
Hear the soft lullaby
the angel host sing
Ave Maria, Ave Maria
Maiden and Mother
of Jesus our King

Where are his courtiers and who are his people,
why does he bear neither sceptre nor crown
Shepherds his courtiers the poor for his people
With peace as his sceptre and love for his crown

Refrain

What though your treasures are not gold or incense
lay them before him with hearts full of love
Praise to the Christ child and praise to his mother
who bore us a saviour by grace from above

Lo, how a Rose e’er Blooming


Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

What Sweeter Music


What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

When children would reach for their stockings
And open the presents they found
The lights on the tree would shine bright in their eyes
Reflecting the love all around

He leaned with his head on the window
Watching evergreen bend in the snow
Remembering Christmas the way it had been
So many seasons ago

This year there’s no one to open the gifts
No reason for trimming the tree
And just as a tear made it’s way to the floor
He heard voices outside start to sing

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Carolers sang as he opened the door
Faces of friends in the crowd
And all of the shadows of lonely reminders
Driven away by the sound

Now the heart that for years had been silent
Was suddenly filled with the new King
As he clung to their hands like a child in the night
He found himself this revelling

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Nativity Carol


Born in a stable so bare,
Born so long ago;
Born neath light of star
He who loved us so.

Far away, silent He lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Cradled by mother so fair,
Tender her lullaby;
Over her son so dear
Angel hosts fill the sky.

Refrain

Wise men from distant far land,
Shepherds from starry hills
Worship this babe so rare,
Hearts with His warmth He fills.

Refrain

Love in that stable was born
Into our hearts to flow;
Innocent dreaming babe,
Make me Thy love to know.

Refrain

I Wonder As I Wander


I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

11 Christmas Carols by John Rutter and Clare College Choir Cambridge

Bristol Pride Day and Same-Sex Attraction

Bristol Pride Day

The roads leading up to Castle Park in Bristol was heaving with all colours of the rainbow. Outside, there were cheerful vendors offering to colour-you-badd with flags (to be used as capes), stickers, hats, and all manner of accessories.

Knitwit Shaun the Sheep on Bristol Pride Day  Bristol Pride Day

Even Shaun the Sheep (Knitwit edition) seemed to get in on the act with his colourful knits. Past the joking bag-checkers, more rainbow flags flew next to the ruins of an old church with great exuberance in the sunshine, as if to say that the old tired narrow-minded religion was dead.

Bristol Pride Day

Bristol Pride DayI enjoyed dancing badly to 80s music (typical!) accompanied by alot of cheeky banter, and chatting to many friendly people.

Bristol Pride DayLater, I obtained a copy of Iris Murdoch’s The Bell from Books for Amnesty, and after, I filched Ed Shaw’s The Plausibility Problem: the church and same-sex attraction from the Is’ bookshelf. Ed Shaw is one of the editors of Living Out, and his book, I thought, was the most insightful of all the pulp on homosexuality I’ve read so far.

Iris Murdoch's "The Bell" and Ed Shaw's "The Plausibility Problem: the church and same sex attraction"

Rather than spitting from his high moral horse, Shaw sensitively but astutely points out what the issues are. Here are some that I hope I haven’t misread:

(1) mistaking sexuality for identity

The Christian’s identity isn’t in his/her sexuality any more than it is in his/her skin colour.

  • We are God’s chosen children (“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…” (Ephesians 1:4-5))
  • We are Jesus’ brothers (“…for he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers…” (Hebrews 2:11))
  • We are God’s heirs with Christ (“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:7))

(I recall Vaughan Roberts saying that he didn’t want to be going around giving talks on same-sex attraction because that wasn’t the thing that defined him. Much better to be teaching the full counsel of God!)

(2) mistaking what is genetic to be right

Even if there is indeed a “gay gene”, the discussion about right and wrong is not closed. Because the Bible tells us time and again that we are born sinful.

  • For I know my transgressions,
        and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
        and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
        and blameless in your judgement.
    Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
        and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
        and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
    Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
        wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    Let me hear joy and gladness;
        let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
    Hide your face from my sins,
        and blot out all my iniquities. (Psalm 51:3-9)

(3) mistakenly assuming what we think will make us happy must be right

But there is an ultimate authority – God the creator and judge of the world. So our ultimate happiness depends on pleasing him, not ourselves.

  • The law of the Lord is perfect,
        reviving the soul;
    the testimony of the Lord is sure,
        making wise the simple;
    the precepts of the Lord are right,
        rejoicing the heart;
    the commandment of the Lord is pure,
        enlightening the eyes;
    the fear of the Lord is clean,
        enduring for ever;
    the rules of the Lord are true,
        and righteous altogether.
  • 10 More to be desired are they than gold,
        even much fine gold;
    sweeter also than honey
        and drippings of the honeycomb.
    11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
        in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

Bristol Pride Day

(4) mistaking the sex act for true intimacy

That’s what Hollywood would have us think. But the maker of the universe speaks of friendship that is closer than a man and wife.

  •    I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
    very pleasant have you been to me;
        your love to me was extraordinary,
        surpassing the love of women. (2 Samuel 1:26)

(And in any case, the marriage relationship between a woman and a man are meant to be a visual hint of Christ’s love for the church. (Ephesians 5:32))

(5) erroneously assuming celibacy as an evil

Really, sex isn’t the barometer of a successful life; living for God is. So Paul says to the Corinthians:

  • I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:7-8)
  • 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

(6) erroneously assuming suffering to be bad

But actually, suffering is expected in this life, as it was expected in Jesus’ life. In fact, it was necessary for him and so it is necessary for us:

  • 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

    34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38)

  • 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

    26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30)

(7) erroneously assuming that heterosexuality is godliness

It is clear from Leviticus and Romans and 1 Corinthians that same-sex attraction acted-upon is against the maker’s design.

  • 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
  • 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
  • 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

There isn’t any point for therapies that claim to change one’s sexual orientation. What God wants isn’t heterosexuality but godliness, being imitators of Christ.

EMA 2013 Engaging with an alien world (2) – same sex attraction – Dan Strange, Ed Shaw and Charlie Skrine. from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

What Charlie Skrine said during the Engaging with an Alien World seminar at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly 2013 is excellent: the biggest issue isn’t what to do with your sex life, it’s to do with your standing with God. And both people attracted to the same sex and the opposite sex have this problem. So what do we pray for for our children? We don’t pray that they won’t grow up to be gay, we pray that they will grow up to be godly – whoever they find themselves attracted to.

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

The heavens opened up onto the tiny island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula. A fitting end to a week of national mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister. As thousands (some reports give an estimate of 100,000) lined the state funeral procession route, drenched even in their ponchos and under their umbrellas, salty tears mixed with the rainwater coursing down contorted faces.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015Strangers held up the ends of full-sized state flags and distributed smaller ones to those who had none. While waiting, standing in unmuddied rainwater, under the shadow of skyscrapers in the financial district, we spoke of the magnificence of the man, not tiring of reminding each other of his legacy.

People were worried about the “Missing Man Formation” ceremonial flypast by the Republic of Singapore Air Force – “Aiyoh, raining so heavily, can fly anot? I hope they take care!” State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And true to form, several in the crowd were following the “Live” proceedings on their mobile phones – “Ok, they’ve just left Parliament House…now turning right…wait, why are they travelling so fast? That’s not 25km/h…Oh! Coming, LKY is coming!” The last cry was taken up by the waiting crowd.

State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015 State Funeral Procession for Lee Kuan Yew in heavy rain along Shenton Way, 29 March 2015And there he was – so small, so frail, in his casket in a glass case; so vulnerable. “We love you Lee Kuan Yew!” “Thank you Lee Kuan Yew!” cheered the onlookers, waving their dripping flags and wiping away tears and rain.

There was no reply, of course, no acknowledgement, no smile and a wave. That man, that personality, so immortalised in videos and photographs at different stages of life – dispensing wisdom, being cheeky to American journalists, firing up the people of Singapore to do the right thing for themselves and their nation, was no more.

Then it was as if the whole nation was tuned in to the state funeral at the University Cultural Centre. At Heartland Mall, the aunties selling dim sum had the radio on, the promoters of products in Cold Storage were watching it on their mobile phones, and shoppers had gathered around the HD TV seller’s demo set: watching Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral at Heartland Mall

Here it is on Youtube:

And then the eulogies at the private funeral service at the Mandai Crematorium by LKY’s son, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (full script, and this is possibly the the speech to cardiologists that he referred to):

daughter, Lee Wei Ling (excerpt) youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang:

Li Hongyi, son of Lee Hsien Loong:

Li Shengwu, eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang (full transcript):

After the rain, after the state funeral, after the private cremation, we saw the sun break through the dark clouds. A reminder that great as our founding father was, there is a greater Father still who:

makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45b)

And so we carry on not just to make Singapore a great nation, but to live according to the contrarian values of that even greater kingdom:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

On the Sixth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the sixth day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, the queues have continued unabated. It is the final day for paying last respects to Singapore’s first prime minister.

Some of our friends were in the queue at the Padang, where apparently even the Priority Queue was a few hours long. But everyone was making a go at getting to Parliament House before the queue closed at 8p.m..

television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre

television crew and media setting up shop along the route of Lee Kuan Yew's state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural CentreThe rest of us were strategising where to position ourselves for the best vantage point along the route of Lee Kuan Yew’s state funeral procession from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre where the state funeral service would be held. As we travelled along, we could see that barriers had been put up and the television crew and other media had started to set up shop.

At lunch at Brotzeit at Westgate Mall, conversation turned inevitably to online commentaries, blog posts, articles, Facebook status updates on LKY. The general frustration was that the usual tired hackneyed accusations were being rehashed despite evidence to the contrary or without regard for the context in which certain decisions were taken. The frustration was two-fold:

  • that it was unfair to the memory of Singapore’s first prime minister – not that he cared when he was alive, nor will he care now that he is gone. But it was a matter of justice – that is, in the vein of “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” (Leviticus 19:15);
  • that if many couldn’t even separate facts and the proper interpretation of facts with regard to context, then what hope did we have of an educated (not merely literate) populace who would be able to carefully consider current circumstances and so elect the right people to govern us and not just those who pander to popular desires but have no interest in doing the difficult and necessary for Singapore and Singaporeans.

It was pointed out that this was not an unexpected trait of humankind – a fallen humanity.

Weihenstephan, Brotzeit, Westgate Mall, SingaporeTake Jesus – the Jews in that time had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah to come. But when the Son of God himself came to them:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

 Later on, John records the signs Jesus kept doing that should have alerted the Jewish leaders that he was truly the long-awaited Christ. But instead of breathing a sigh of relief and welcoming him with tears of joy, though they acknowledged that the miracles did happen, they refused to think anything of it.

In John 9, there was the miraculous healing of a man who had been born blind. The reaction to this great event was at the same time hilarious and very sad.

His neighbours, too used to him on the ground waiting for spare change, couldn’t believe it was really him:

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:8-11)

Brotzeit, Westgate Mall, SingaporeThe Pharisees saw it was a tremendous miracle again (not something that could be faked or be the result of any adrenaline rush), but refused to be think well of Jesus because he did this on a Sabbath when no “work” was to be done:

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9:13-16)

So they thought perhaps there was a sleight-of-hand somewhere and called up the formerly-blind man’s parents as witness:

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:18-23)

No joy there either. Yes, it was indeed a spectacular miracle – not just to show Jesus’ power, but to fulfil what the Jewish Scriptures had prophesised a long time ago by Isaiah, that God’s appointed servant would be sent to Israel as:

a light for the nations,     to open the eyes that are blind (Isaiah 42:6d-7)

And so, rather poignantly,

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:40-41)

Starbucks and white roses. long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeNow no one is equating Harry Lee with Jesus. Far from it. Rather, the focus is on the crowd, the populace, the people – this shows human beings have not changed since the first century; we are the same wherever we are found in the world. If God’s own people, no, the teachers and leaders of God’s own people could not even recognise the Son of God when he was displaying his identity fairly obviously, then it is of little surprise that many would refuse to look at LKY with proper judgement.

That’s where the parallel ends though. As LKY himself predicted, PhD candidates and history book writers will be arguing about this sort of thing for a long time to come, and it would make little difference to him. And though it might be a worry for those of us who plan to live the rest of our lives in Singapore, that’s only a cause for concern for the next, what, 50-60 years? But if what Jesus says is true, then our concern is not merely academic – our individual response to him, our personal refusal to see him as he is, means that our guilt before God remains, and affects us for eternity.