Thank you so much for that kind introduction. Before we begin, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the administration and to all the senior class parents for providing me the opportunity to speak to these graduating seniors before you all tonight. And I would be terribly amiss if I did not congratulate you, seniors, on the many accomplishments that have brought you to this very place on this momentous evening. My purpose this evening is two-fold and somewhat paradoxical in nature. On the one hand, my job is to remind you that all of this evening is about you. On the other hand, my job is to remind you that none of this is about you, at all. Like I said, somewhat paradoxical. But there is a method to this madness, and I hope to demonstrate as much over the course of the next few minutes. There are many things I could say to you this evening; in truth, there are many things that ought to be said to you this evening, but that’s what all these good people are for. Lord knows I’ll need the backup. Yes, there are many paths we could tread, but I thought it best to stick to one rather familiar to you, and to me as well. Our progression this evening will follow a sort of timeline: First, we’ll revisit the past, taking great pains to put a very fine point on just what it is that you have been doing here at Trinitas for the past 6, 8, 10—and for some of you—13 years of your life; next, we’ll pause and ponder the precise precipice upon which you are perched, at present; and finally, we’ll look to the future, daring, even, to prescribe what must be next. So, let’s roll back the clock.
Last week I set out to produce a series of articles reminding readers what classical Christian education is by describing what its goals are, why those goals should be valued, and what pursuit of those goals looks like at Trinitas Christian School. I used the metaphor of questions one might ask oneself when embarking on a journey. Last week the question I attempted to answer was where are we going? This week the question is why are we going there? My aim is to illustrate why the goals of classical Christian education are good ones for the people of God to pursue.
Last week Trinitas Christian School held its “Love Thy Neighbor – Great Day of Giving” event. It was only our second year for this event, but I hope it is one that Trinitas will continue and even build upon long after I am gone. About 250 students, teachers, parents, and alumni descended on the Pensacola community to tackle service projects that ranged from stocking food pantries and soup kitchens, to performing maintenance tasks at foster care facilities, to cleaning up neglected yards for the elderly. It was a great day, and Trinitas folks returned to school at the end of the day happy and blessed.
I have often joked that when my family and I began the adventure of Christian classical education nearly two decades ago, I thought we Americans had invented Christianity in the 17th century. And while that is a bit of an exaggeration, it is no stretch at all to say that I was largely ignorant of my true Christian heritage. I was ignorant of the history of the Church and of exactly what my baptism made me a member.
Like good Christians everywhere, I had read and was reading the Bible. I knew that Christ was the Cornerstone of the Church, that the Apostles were the first elders and missionaries and Church Council. I knew of the Holy Spirit falling in tongues of fire on those gathered on the day of Pentecost, about the appointing of deacons, about breaking bread from house to house, sharing goods among the brethren as each had need, and of Paul’s many journeys to establish and strengthen churches and his subsequent letter-writing to them. What happened between then and the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth, however, was a bit foggy.
Do you expect your children to care for you in your old age? Or what if you get sick before you are old? What if you get cancer while your children are teenagers? Do you expect them to care for you then? How will they learn how to care for you? Oh, I don’t mean the business of dressing wounds or helping you up and down from the bed or the toilet. I mean, how will they learn the compassion, the true Christian charity required for such care? You must begin in them a root of selflessness.
It is a not uncommon occurrence: a mother slowly shakes her head and says to the father, “I just don’t know where we went wrong.” Something her child has done provokes the lament, and the provocation can range from bed-wetting to grand theft auto. The good news is that more children are guilty of something on the bed-wetting end of the spectrum than the grand theft auto end of it, and so things may not be as bad as they appear in the moment. The bad news is that they are sometimes just as bad as they appear—or even worse—and it is just for the parents to reflect on their work.
Before you get depressed and stop reading, trust me. My goal here is not to make you feel like a terrible parent but to encourage you from the Word and from my own experience with a lot of children and parents over the years—not to mention more than a little hindsight from raising my own children. Learn from where we (and others) went wrong, and maybe there will be fewer woeful sighs ahead in your parenting.
One virtue (If only it were the only!) that is conspicuously absent among good people these days is courage. Oh, I don’t mean to say it has totally disappeared. It crops up from time-to-time, and often just in the nick of time, in some surprisingly stout-hearted person who does the right thing regardless of the repercussions, who takes a stand for everything that is good and right when others who could and should do the same stand shame-faced, head-hung in the background.
But why? Why is courage so hard to come by? One reason may be that we think about courage all wrong. Courage does not come with being tall or strong or dense; it comes with practice. Winston Churchill is credited as saying, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” Like any other virtue, then, courage is something that we must, to borrow from the Apostle Paul, “put on.” We must first decide that we wish to be courageous, and then we must practice courage.
The Apostle Peter probably shocked his contemporary audience when he declared them “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9. Can you imagine his converted Gentile audience, who had known only the rule of kings for their entire lives, now hearing themselves described as royalty for the first time? They must have thought, Huh? You talking to me? But then, maybe we react the same way to Peter’s message today. Just like those Gentile converts, we too are royalty. We are kings and queens in the kingdom of God, serving under the True King, Jesus.