Good Friday, Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl

After a week of heavy day-time negotiations (at work) and even-tide talking loudly in very noisy coffeeshops (about the Bible), my voice has called it quits and I’m laid up at home on Good Friday with the ‘flu.

In an attempt to get some vitamins into the body, I’ve very sniffily made a poor man’s/budget/frugal acai bowl (but still about S$2 (£1)): marked-down dragonfruit from the wet market blended with discount yoghurt, topped with half a banana, cheap about-to-go-off strawberries and wrinkly blueberries, chia seeds from Mustafa, and homemade gula melaka granola.

Good Friday frugal budget dragonfruit yoghurt smoothie bowl with bananas, bruised strawberries, wrinkled blueberries, homemade gula melaka granola (with cranberries and pecans), chia seeds

Good Friday frugal budget dragonfruit yoghurt smoothie bowl with bananas, bruised strawberries, wrinkled blueberries, homemade gula melaka granola (with cranberries and pecans), chia seedsBeing ill on Good Friday is a good time to consider the frailty of humankind, and our ephemeral impotent existence on this earth.

A Buddhist colleague was asking about Good Friday rituals over lunch yesterday. Her sister, a Catholic, was going on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the major Catholic churches in Singapore. Would I be doing the same?

I’d tried to explain that the locus of the Christian faith isn’t on the church buildings or church practices (or even on a holy man, the priest) but on the person of Jesus Christ and what he achieved on the cross. No merit is gained, as the Thai Buddhists believe, in visiting “holy” places or doing “good” or saying prayers.

As usual, the wisdom of hindsight kicked in today and I thought how much more could have been said. First, Christians do not belong to a BDSM cult that wallows in the blood and gore of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

But how can one then summarise the vast and multi-dimensional and cosmic work that was achieved by Jesus’ death on the cross?

Good Friday frugal budget dragonfruit yoghurt smoothie bowl with bananas, bruised strawberries, wrinkled blueberries, homemade gula melaka granola (with cranberries and pecans), chia seedsReading the chapter on Christ’s Humiliation in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics in bed today was not much help in corralling Bible truths:

  • Christ’s death was not an accident of history, nor a ultimately the tragic consequence of the human cunning of his enemies. Jesus was not a human genius who made a great impact in world history. Rather, he was himself a special revelation and on a unique mission from God himself. He was handed over to those who killed him “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Jesus came to die.
  • Sacrifice was instituted by God in the Old Testament as atonement – covering for sin by means of shed blood. But the bloods of goats and bulls were incomplete and needed to be endlessly repeated. This anticipated the coming of the Suffering Servant who would make himself an offering for the sins of the people. Jesus fulfils the Old Testament law regarding sacrifices – he is the true covenant sacrifice and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  • His death was payment, satisfaction of judgement, justification.
  • His death was propitiation of God’s wrath.
  • His death was for the expiation of sins.
  • Christ  is also the priest that makes that sacrifice. He is the perfect mediator between God and man because he is himself true God and true man.
  • Christ’s death was ransom paid.
  • Christ’s death was redemption obtained for us, complete redemption of the whole person, body and soul. The whole renewal of all things is the fruit of his obedience though we now experience it only in part, particularly as deliverance from sin’s guilt and power.
  • By Christ’s death, God showed his love and his justice
  • Christ’s death was also for the healing, reconciliation in our relationship with God.
  • By Christ’s death, we obtained righteousness and eternal life. Christ obtained for us the righteousness and life Adam had to secure by his own obedience. Christ’s obedience returns us not to the beginning but to the end of the road Adam had to walk.
  • By his death, we obtained sonship, confident access to God, gift of the Spirit, second birth and power to become children of God, sanctification, dying to sin, being crucified to the world, walking in the Spirit and in the newness of life, freedom from the curse of the law, deliverance from death and fear of death, victory over the world, resurrection on the last day, ascension and glorification, heavenly inheritance, new heaven and new earth, restoration of all things etc.
  • By Christ’s death, he achieved his own exaltation. (Bavinck: “What Christ acquired by this sacrifice is beyond description.”)

The mind, whether groggy or not, is blown by the magnitude of what happened that Good Friday.

Even the rather rich lyrics of Samuel Crossman’s My Song is Love Unknown seemed insipid in this light (but still rather lovely when sung by King’s College Cambridge to John Ireland’s “Love Unknown” tune):


My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then Crucify! is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

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

Joel Navarro conducting the Singapore Bible College Chorale at the Victoria Concert Hall (“Victoria Memorial Hall”)

It’s always tough to return to a place you grew up in, with the knowledge that it has been renovated, refurbished, and is in all likelihood a shell of its former self.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)

So it was with trepidation that we arrived at the neoclassical Victoria Concert Hall (“Victorial Memorial Hall”) on 23 March 2015 to watch the Singapore Bible College Chorale in concert.

plaque to the memory of those who were killed during the mutiny in Singapore in February 1915. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
plaque. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Plaques to commemorate people who died during the 1915 mutiny and another for Queen Victoria (“Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India) just inside the entrance seemed a little brighter.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)That bit between the two staircases now led to the information counter, situated in one corner of a big empty the hall.

staircase. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
staircase, Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Up the mirrored staircases, the marbled flooring looked different (cleaner?) but was probably original. Think there used to be a red carpet running up the middle of the stairs.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Half-way up the stairs, there was a way down to the left side of the VCH, which opened up into the glass-roofed central atrium between Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall:
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I will never forget the desperate walks to the lift that used to be at the end of the atrium. That old lift would take you to a music studio where your ABRSM examiner would be waiting. I never practiced and would have been attempting to memorise the score for the first time on the way to this part of the civic district.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I liked Mok Wei Wei (W Architect)’s gentle irony of etching a reflection of the columns of VCH onto the new facade of VT.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Returning to the staircase, there was this guy’s bust, which was always a good sign if you were slightly late for a concert and could hear them closing the doors above.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
We used to run in this set of doors (to sit on the left side of the hall, facing the stage). They were white and wooden and a little creaky, but these seemed taller, narrower (but perhaps a perception error), and heavier (probably not the exit you’d take in event of a fire).

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)The space where autograph and CD selling sessions used to take place was now dominated by a circular staircase. Stark juxtaposition between white Victorian and burnished modern.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)’round the corner, another corridor of lights by .PSLAB, overlooking the central atrium. The clustered circles were another self-possessively modern touch, made more classy by a brushed metal exterior and anodised gold inner surface.

The interior of the concert hall was much fresher. The old VCH had a certain smell to it that I liked because of a long association with the place and its innards, but this just smelled neutral and new – which would generally be preferable!
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Not sure about the necessity for that shade of green. But taking advantage of Arup‘s theatre and acoustics consultancy paid dividends in a delightful clarity of sound. The stage seemed smaller (or I might have just grown bigger), but the seating had definitely changed for the better – the gallery was higher than it used to be, and with less seats. Hopefully, this meant the sound under the gallery (which used to bounce around rather oddly) would have improved.

After a good organ work by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (pipe organ sounded very different), and good controlled choral work by the Singapore Bible College Chorale, a docent offered to take us on a 20 minute tour of the building.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
She was animated, informative, and in short, brilliant.

“Look outside. Can you see Singapore’s national bird outside? No? Look! Singapore’s national bird – the crane!”
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
A light-hearted moment, after a concert with pieces dedicated to the memory of Lee Kuan Yew who had passed away at 3.18 a.m. that morning.

R. LANGGAARD                       Prelude in E major for organ
H. MATTHISON-HANSEN    Fantasy on a Danish folk tune for organ
J.S. BACH                                  Fantasia in G major, BWV 572
J.S. BACH                                  Motet BWV 227, Jesu, meine Freude
P. MØLLER                              “Transfiguration” – 3 Meditations for Organ