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  • Pr Herna Kong (ORPC)

The Cross through the Lens of the Psalms (EP Holy Week Convention 2024)

Updated: Apr 10





Overview


We thank God for His sustaining grace on the yearly gathering of EP churches as one family to commemorate the sacrificial death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

 

There were two differences between this year’s gathering and the previous years’: Its venue was the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre instead of The Expo, and instead of one invited speaker from outside the Presbyterian circle, we had our very own senior ministers helm the pulpit on the three different days of the convention:

 

Rev Graham Ng - Senior Minister of Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church (BBPC) whose sermon Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit was based on Psalm 31.

 

Rev Srimal Marthenis - Senior Minister of Ang Mo Kio Presbyterian Church (AMKPC) whose sermon Darkness Has Become My Only Companion was based on Psalm 88.

 

Rev Lam Kuo Yung - Senior Minister of Katong Presbyterian Church (KPC) whose sermon My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? was based on Psalm 22.

 

Our heartfelt thanks go to them for sharing God’s Word with us as well as to Orchard Road Presbyterian Church (ORPC) for hosting the first two days of the 3-day convention (27 and 28 March).

 

The worship services of the first two days were led by Katong Presbyterian Church (KPC), and Living Praise Presbyterian Church (LPPC) respectively. On Good Friday (29 March), the worship service was led by Glory Presbyterian Church (GPC). The three worship teams were well-prepared and their leading of the worship services prepared our hearts to receive and respond to God’s Word. We want to thank all the churches who sent their volunteers to serve the wider EP family in various capacities.


The attendances for the 3-day convention were as follows:

                     Onsite            Online

27 March     700               2.7k

28 March     500               2.4k

29 March     3 400            1.5k


Children's Sermonette


At the Good Friday Service, prior to the main sermon, Ps Mona Chia from  Adam Road Presbyterian Church (ARPC) delivered a sermonette to the children 'Why Good Friday, not Black Friday'.

 


Three events took place during Jesus’ crucifixion: Firstly, the sky turned dark (Lk. 23:43). Darkness symbolises sin of which its wages is death. So, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Secondly, there was an earthquake and the curtain in the temple was torn in two (Matt. 27:51). The curtain symbolised the barrier between God and man. So, it being torn apart symbolised the breaking of that barrier. Through the cross, there is no more barrier between God and us; we are reconciled with God. Thirdly, the Roman army officer at the foot of the cross, who was not a Jew, acknowledged that Jesus was indeed the Son of God (Mk. 16:39). It was out of love for us that He chose to take our place on the cross. 

 

Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the best love story ever, because on the cross, Jesus demonstrates His love for us by forgiving us of our sins. Therefore, Good Friday is good.

 

In relation to Ps Mona Chia’s sermonette, the children were given an A4-sized sheet of paper to make a one-tear cross. They were also given a goody bag that contained an activity booklet centred around the cross, a worksheet based on the sermon, a Bible Activity Book Vol. 2 by Our Daily Bread for Kids and Gospel tools from Child Evangelism Fellowship for the parents to teach their children how to share the Gospel with their friends or for the parents to use these tools to lead their own children to Christ.

 

The main sermon of each day of the convention touched on the lament songs which Jesus sang in His final days on earth. Through these songs – Psalms 31, 88 and 22, Jesus teaches us that during times of pain and pressure, we are to cling onto the hope of God’s ultimate deliverance wrought about by Jesus’ victory on the cross. As we do so, we will be able to see what suffering well entails and our hearts will be inspired and encouraged.

 

 

Into Thy Hands I Commit My Spirit (Ps. 31) - Rev Graham Ng

 

David wrote Ps 31 during a period when he faced opposition so powerful that all his friends abandoned him. He cried out to God for refuge, mercy and deliverance from enemies. Not only was he in physical danger, He also felt emotional distress and social rejection. It may have been when he was hunted by Saul, or when Absalom his son tried to seize the crown.

 

But despite these trials, David trusted God, committing his spirit into His hands (v.5) as well as his times (v.14) – particular circumstances and events of his life. He expressed his unshakeable confidence in God’s sovereign purposes and care over him even though his life was in danger. He was sure of God’s goodness (v. 20), God’s love (v.21) and God’s justice (v.23b).

 

The psalm begins with a cry for help, but ends with a call to future followers to stand firm in faith; to love the Lord (v.23), and to hope in Him (v.24).


From Luke 23 we see Jesus speaking from the Cross three times: in the midst of trials of His passion and crucifixion He cried out “Father forgive them!” (v.34)

As His life ebbed away, He showed trust in the Father, and assured the dying thief to also trust Him, saying “Today you will be with me in paradise!” (v.43)

 

As Jesus breathed his last, He cried out “Father into Your hands I commit my spirit” showing his triumph over the forces which sought to destroy him (v.46). Jesus was confident that no matter what happened to his body, He would ultimately be safe in his Father’s hands.


One major difference is that King David died and his body decayed, but Jesus whom God raised, did not see decay (Acts 13.36).


In summary Jesus deliberately quoted Ps 31.5 from the Cross because He wanted to point to the Psalm’s appropriateness for His own circumstances. He found refuge in His Loving Father at the height of His pain, and confidently committed Himself to God as David had done.


Therefore, as God’s people, we too must be prepared for eternity, living well for Christ and dying well in Christ. We must fill our heads with Scripture daily so that we will remember His promises especially at that point when we come to die.

 

 

Darkness Has Become My Only Companion (Ps. 88) - Rev Srimal Marthenis


Psalm 88 is often considered one of the darkest psalms. It is the prayer of someone who has experienced long-time suffering yet continues to trust in God even though he does not get an answer from Him. Unlike the other laments, the lament in this psalm does not move from lament to praise. It does not end with a note of hope or praise. No wonder some commentators say this psalm is ‘an embarrassment to conventional faith’.

 

Psalm 88 centres on two things. Firstly, it centres on the psalmist’s anguish. Secondly, it centres on the psalmist’s accusation against God. The fact that this psalm is recorded as the inspired Word of God tells us that God values our innermost feelings. He welcomes our pouring out to Him our greatest pain, even to the extent of our complaining to Him about Him.

 

Sometimes, we feel we are the only ones going through pain, with no one to understand us. However, Jesus Himself suffered even more than we ever do or can, so he understands our pain perfectly well. As long as we cling onto the cross, we will receive comfort and relief, for Jesus knows what it is like to go through those moments of darkness. The cross tells us that Jesus understands our pain very well. He can empathise with us because He Himself has gone through great suffering and pain on the cross.

 

Pouring out our deepest anguish and complaint about God, yet continuing to pray to Him to rescue us, is a form of authentic and sincere faith. Therefore, We should not be afraid to lay bare to God our problems, struggles, pain or any other suffering, asking Him why he has allowed us to go through such trials. At the same time, we should continue to draw near to Him to seek His comfort.




 

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? (Ps. 22) - Rev Lam Kuo Yong

 

Psalm 22 was composed by King David when he was going through life-threatening circumstances.

 

This psalm begins with laments that take up an entire section (vv.1-21). Yet, despite being immersed in great distress and intense suffering, the psalmist never lost faith or fell into a state of complete hopelessness. He continued to put his trust and hope in God because he recalled God’s past faithfulness to His people (vv.4-5) and to himself personally (vv.9-10).


God’s past faithfulness assured him of His present faithfulness. God would not put him to shame but would surely help him because he had put his trust in Him. Therefore, we must never stop trusting God even in our greatest distress.

 

This psalm was also a specific prophecy of the suffering of Jesus as it came to its fullest fulfilment on the cross. The statements, ‘Dogs have surrounded me’; ‘A band of evil men has encircled me’; ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’; ‘I can count all my bones’; ‘People stare and gloat over me’; and ‘They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing’ (vv.16-18), completely describe the scenes at the crucifixion. When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (v.1), He identified with us in our excruciating pain, be it physical or mental pain. 

 

In the second section of this psalm, the mood and tone change dramatically—the lament turns to praise (vv. 22-31). Why is that so? It is because the cross, which seems an apparent defeat, is in actuality, a victory. It is a victory because through the cross, Jesus has conquered death. No matter how hard darkness tries to take control of our lives, it will never be able to so, for God’s light will always be shining on us.

 

Therefore, Good Friday is the guarantee of Easter Sunday. Let us continue to praise the Son of God because He was forsaken so that we will never ever be. 

 

 

Glory be to God alone

Pr Herna Kong

ORPC

 

All recordings of the EP Holy Week Convention services held from 27-29 March 2024 can be accessed from the Convention website:


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