I read the following story for our school’s end of year assembly. It would probably be helpful to read The U.H.’s Hot Tips for Completely Wasting Your Summer first, and it may also be helpful for me to say that what stuck out to me from the U.H.’s article were things such as bed, T.V., and being lazy. : )
There is a road that is only visible for about three months of the year, or twelve weeks if you count more precisely like a pregnant woman. The road is free to all, but not all find it. If they do find it, though, they can see things that other roads don’t pass. Pages could be filled with stories told on this road. Many who have made this journey have been inspired to make things, whether helpful things or beautiful things, and sometimes both. Others have found sweet fruits to carry and taste and share. It is the road called Aestas. As I said, not many find it, and those who do find the entrance, are often blocked by the three-headed dog who guards the gate named Dweebus.
You perhaps have heard of Dweebus’ cousin, Cerberus. Cerberus is nicknamed “the hound of Hades,” the three-headed dog who prevents the dead from leaving hell. A man named Dante once toured hell and wrote about seeing Cerberus in the Third Circle watching over the gluttons. Well, Dweebus never could get into eating mud, and he actually didn’t do that well in the heat. He applied instead for a position to guard some thinker’s stone, but he lost that job to a second-cousin named Fluffy, which isn’t really much of a threatening name, but Fluffy got the job anyway. So Dweebus eventually took the position at the Aestus Via. Besides, it gave him nine months a year to chase his tail.
What many people don’t know is that three-headed dogs have three heads for a reason. Have you ever wondered why people say, “Three heads are better than one”? Well, three-headers can be better at being scary, of course. But each head has its own personality, and often each personality has its own name. The more mellow of these creatures talk among themselves, and talking heads are better at making the days go by faster.
Dweebus, as I said, was much less mean than other tri-headers in his family, but he still had ways to keep people from entering the Aestas. In fact, each of his three heads had their own tricks for messing with would-be travelers. His names were, I’m told, Ted, Stevie, and Maizie.
Ted was the head on the right side (looking out from his eyes), and Ted was especially effective during the morning hours. He could almost lay his head flat on the right shoulder, making himself appear to be quite cute, cuddly even. Through his somnolent skills unsuspecting travelers would be covered with a blanket of drowsyness, until they just wanted to lay down. Once they were sufficiently snoozy, he would swing his head as if on a hinge and bite the now torpid traveler. It is never good to get on the wrong side of Ted.
Stevie was the head on the left side (the right side if you were looking at him, but directions get tricky without illustrations). Stevie was a master of evenings and on into the night. There were times when both Ted and Maizie watched Stevie work his spell during the day, but Stevie especially loved when the sun went down. He himself could channel a variety of bemusing and befogging techniques, from the comedic to the dramatic. At times his antics were even cartoonish, while at other times he could talk your head off. When a traveler came to the Aestas gate when Stevie was on, Stevie would hardly take a break. He earned the nickname among his friends as the Drooler of Distraction. Too much time with Stevie and most travelers forgot they even wanted to go anywhere.
The third head’s name was Mazie. If you were thinking that Mazie sounds like a girl’s name, you’re right. If now you are thinking that I’ve been referring to Dweebus as “him,” you are also correct. But that means you haven’t met very many three-headed dogs in your life; they are weird animals, and now you’ll be less surprised if you do ever meet one.
As I was saying, the third head was Mazie and she was in the middle between Ted and Stevie. Only on occasions were Ted and Stevie tempted to snap at each other. But Maizie always reminded them about how much they had in common, and mostly what they had in common was her.
Ted had his dazing ways, but he worked to please Maizie. It was the same with Stevie’s powers. Though the three of them agreed to go by the collective name Dweebus, everyone knew that the whole attitude of this three-headed being centered on being Maizie.
She could convince any would be traveler to turn around from the glories of the Aestus and make it seem like it was their own idea. Maizie was a master at argument, wiser than seven sensible men (or one man with seven heads, though I’m not sure any of those exist). I heard that one time her conversation spun a man around so much that he threw up, and then she convinced the poor man to lie down in his own vomit, which is usually something only dogs do. No matter what interests travelers had, or things they wanted to do, after talking with her for a while, everyone just wanted to be Maizie.
But there is a legend of a lad, I don’t know if he was six or sixteen or somewhere in between, it doesn’t actually matter, who soundly defeated every trick Dweebus tried. His name was Zeke. Zeke didn’t dare do it all on his own. He knew that the three-headed monster had ruined many who sought the glories of the Aestas, so he did the most unimaginable thing in the history of stories: he asked his parents for help.
It turns out, both his mom and his dad had made it past Dweebus, and had done so many times. In the process of getting tips and tools from his parents, they also encouraged him to seek the counsel of his teachers, and many of them also knew about confronting the dogheads and getting down the road.
To get past Ted, Zeke’s mom gave him a small bell. It didn’t make a lot of noise, but it was impossible to ignore and just loud enough to interrupt Ted’s hypnotic hold. Ted became so alarmed by the bell that he lost control and Zeke was able to get out of Ted’s pull.
Zeke’s dad offered a couple old school suggestions for outwitting Stevie. One option was simply to keep moving. Stevie, who preferred to stay in one place, wouldn’t be able to keep up. Zeke could run, but Zeke asked his dad if a bike would work, and his dad said a bike was perfect for speeding around Stevie. A bike would also move a traveler down the Via Aestas to meet up with other travelers and explore more sites. If he didn’t want to use a bike, Zeke’s dad had no doubt that he could turn off Stevie’s powers with a ball. The size of the ball didn’t matter, and throwing the ball directly at Stevie was not a good move. But Stevie’s distraction abilities were dwarfed by his distractibility when others seemed to be having more fun. Zeke selected carefully and when Stevie tried to drool on him, Zeke bounced a ball in Stevie’s face and Stevie’s mesmerizing power was turned off.
Maizie, you might suppose, would be the hardest to get by. Yet she does have a nemesis. The mere mention, let alone sight of this enemy, causes her to foam at the mouth and dart around like a three-headed dog with the center head missing.
Though Zeke had bested Ted and Stevie, Maizie was sure that he was too immature to get by her. But Zeke pulled out of his pocket the one thing she hadn’t considered: an ant. Ants are very small, but they are quite fearsome, at least by way of analogy. Just the sight of one ant caused Maizie to enter a state of shock. Zeke scratched her behind her ears for a moment and walked through the gate into Aestas.
Down the road called Aestas are great stories to read and songs to listen to. There are lakes for swimming and splashing. There are games to play. There are projects to start, and some to finish. It is a place to find fun and fruit, but you have to get by Dweebus. All you need is just a bell, a ball, and an ant.
It used to be that the carcasses of the animals whose blood was used in sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were taken outside the camp to be burned up.
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. (Hebrews 13:11)
The bodies didn’t belong at the altar. Jesus fulfilled this work for us at Calvary.
So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his blood. (Hebrews 13:12).
He was treated as cursed so that we could come in. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by become a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” (Galatians 3:13).
He was accursed so that we don’t have to be, while those who continue to reject Him, wherever they think they are, are actually in the position of being accursed. Once we were separated and alienated and strangers (Ephesians 2:12), but now we belong.
At the Lord’s Supper we remember His death, the righteous for the unrighteous, that we might be brought to God. We remember His love, not for the lovely but for the unlovely, that He might renew us in His image. Our new status, our new camp, our new community, our new hope, these are all brought to us by grace. As we eat the bread and drink the wine we commemorate His grace at the cross and we anticipate the grace at His coming for us. Maranatha!
I gave the following remarks at our school’s graduation ceremony on June 2, 2019.
Good evening to our school board, faculty, families, friends, raggants young and old, and especially to our seniors. All of you have worked a great work to get here tonight, and it is an honor to celebrate with you, as well as to address our two candidates for graduation.
It is often a dangerous thing to speak about dichotomies, to divide things into only two. Our world dislikes generalizations—which, of course, is itself a generalization—because we want to be seen as special shades on the paint palette. But I don’t mind slathering paint on the wall with 48″ rollers, and there’s not enough time to get out drop-cloths. Before us tonight are two very different colors. We have two graduates ready to commence, and though they are not quite black and white, they are yellow and violet.
If Mrs. Bowers had assigned her Omnibus class to list all of the differences between Gideon and Kelly, the length of such a list might endanger the edges of an infinite canvas. If Mr. Sarr had assigned his Capstone class to write a paper on each senior’s favorite five world-and-life-view spheres, I am not sure there would have been any overlap. It is not just that Gideon and Kelly come from separate families, Gideon and Kelly live in two distinguishable cultures.
When I say “living in a culture” I mean how one reacts without needing to think about it. We do not walk into any Starbucks in Snohomish and think about what language to order in, we naturally start speaking in English. But there are smaller cultures, not just between schools but also in schools of thought. There are shared assumptions, shared values, shared priorities in a culture that may sometimes be talked about, but are usually obvious to anyone watching from the outside. Gideon and Kelly look at many of the same things, but they do not look at the same things and have the same response.
Both of our seniors have taken mostly the same classes for the last few years, but that didn’t stop one from talking more about Math and the other from talking more about Music (or, more usually, pounding on the public piano before school). One leans toward the Aristotelian world of fact and the other toward the Platonic world of ideas and ideals. One is drawn to the mechanical, one is drawn more toward the magical. One prefers science, the other prefers stories.
These two seniors embody an academic division that has really only been around for a century and a half, but in our society the split spreads wider every year. There are the STEM people: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and there are the Humanities people: Language, Philosophy, Literature, Art. There are the natural sciences and what used to be called the moral sciences.
In May 1959, a British scientist-turned-novelist named Charles Percy Snow gave an address called The Two Cultures in the Rede Lecture at the University of Cambridge. This was only 12 years after Dorothy Sayers gave her address, “The Lost Tools of Learning” at Oxford, which became a catalyst for the classical education movement of which we are a part. Snow expressed his concern over the hostility, the dislike, and most of all the lack of understanding between the literary intellectuals and the physical scientists. He lamented that the two cultures had “long since ceased to speak to each other; but at least they managed a kind of frozen smile across the gulf. Now the politeness has gone, and they just make faces.” The debate continues 60 years later, and faces are still being made, including mean emoji on social media.
Snow gave a simple test for recognizing the groups. “Without thinking about it, they respond alike. That is what a culture means.” For example, the children of Karl Marx don’t think about the nuts and bolts; nuts and bolts are just used to oppress the poor. On the other hand, the children of Adam Smith think a lot about nuts and bolts, and how many people it takes to make a nail, and how making nails frees the poor and fastens our economy together.
There are rationalists and romantics, there are accountants and accompanists, there are left brain and right brain people, but which is true? That is a complex question, a logical fallacy, which suggests that only one could be true. Let’s try this, which is better? That is perhaps a tougher question, but still one that requires more context.
At ECS we do emphasize the liberal arts and great books and robust singing, but we enjoy those studies having arrived in motor vehicles driven from drilled and processed fossil-fuels, meeting in climate controlled rooms, reading by artificial light from an electrical grid that spans the Pacific Northwest. We order these books using the digital fiber-optic system that connects us to the rest of the world wide web, to the world of living men as well as the vestiges of the generations before us in Western Civilization. Plus, Algebra, Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus classes figure into our curriculum as well.
We can sit back and read the classics because science and technology have made it so that we’re not fighting for our existence. Of course, electric light and heat, and microwaves for fish sticks, don’t tell us why we exist.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Gideon is a fish out of water when it comes to The Faerie Queene, but he would rather swim closer to prose than poetry. It also wouldn’t be right to say that Kelly falls flat in the so-called practical subjects, but he is more attuned to the melodies and harmonies of imagination.
They graduate in the same class on the same day and they live in two different cultures. There is the athlete and the musician. There is the social flag pole and the social floor-looker. Which culture, the Sciences or the Humanities, will be better suited to succeed? Which culture will bring more blessing to others?
Of course, for those of us who believe the evangel, the answer to this dichotomy is to recognize that both cultures fall under the Christ-honoring culture. Neither math nor music is ultimate (not to mention that music requires math and math accordingly demonstrates great harmony). Neither Aristotle or Plato hold the answer because the ultimate answer is only in Christ.
In his book Wisdon and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper wrote that only those who understand the Bible by the work of the Spirit can learn about “the origin, the coherence, and the destiny of things.” Life’s three big questions are: “From where? How? And to what end?” Graduates, you know the answer to all of three questions.
Science that treats everything as nothing more than material and mechanical processes sucks the God-breathed soul out of creation. Stories that have no plot or purpose, no redemption or character development deaden the souls of reading creatures. We don’t exalt Science, we value Science studied in submission to the Lord of creation. We can’t be satisfied with Stories, we need Stories written in submission to the Lord of words.
So neither culture is ultimate or sufficient, but both are untied and both serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is what you share in common, Gideon and Kelly. You also share in common the inability to remember and recite together the Apostle’s Creed, but the Jesus in the Creed is yours. You share in worship, you share in the cultus, from which the meta-culture comes. You have been marinating in this Christ-honoring culture, and it is now your responsibility to advance it.
Take your gifts and your interests and your energies and take them further up and further in. Whether you write formulas to build bridges or write fiction, whether you swim laps or compose lyrics, do it all in the name of the Lord. Also, ten years from now, it will not be surprising if you change lanes, if your advance of Christ-honoring culture has moved you to put together a different part of the puzzle. You have been equipped, but in some ways graduation is just the kinder-prep for a life and family and vocation of serving Christ.
The Swiss-born philosopher Alain de Botton wrote,
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.”
Next June, if you attend the graduation of the current class of Juniors, you should look back and wonder what you were doing, not because what you were doing was wrong, but because you’ve continued to learn and grow. Even asking that question of yourselves will show that you have not squandered your education, but that you are advancing with it.
The Corinthians had at least four sub-cultures in their church, aligning themselves in four different directions. The apostle Paul didn’t tell them to lower their appreciation for any one leader, but that they were limiting themselves unnecessarily. It is the way of the world to identify with just one (and get snobby about it), while the Lord knows that such self-imposed limitation from all that He’s given is futile.
For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
In Latin Omnibus means “all things,” but Omnibus also means that all those pages you’ve read are just some of the things of the all of the things that are yours.
Psalm 77:12, “meditabor in omnibus operibus tuis,” “I will mediate on all Your work” (NAS). Gideon and Kelly, you both are God’s work, and He has work for each of you to do to advance a Christ-honoring culture. All are yours.
One of the reasons that we include confession of sin in our weekly liturgy is not just that we recognize that we are sinful, but we receive God’s revelation that He is perfectly righteous. God not only acts in accord with moral law, what we refer to as moral law comes from His character. His nature is right. He always does what is justifiable.
We don’t, of course. This is why we love the Son who gave Himself for us that we could be justified, declared righteous by God. This is very good news for the list of the unrighteous in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 whose unrighteousness would keep them out of God’s kingdom.
But God’s righteous character applies in more than one argument. I’ve been trying different ways of saying it over the last few months, but here it is from the author of Hebrews.
For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in the serving of the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)
Note that this means that God sees your work; His seeing is part of His righteousness. This means that God would be unrighteous to ignore the love that you demonstrate to others. This doesn’t mean that we are working our way to salvation, but that these works are “things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9).
You will reap what you sow because God is not crooked. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain because God is just (1 Corinthians 15:58). So don’t be sluggish (Hebrews 6:12). Devote yourselves to the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15), not just because it is right, but because God will justifiably bless you.
Last summer my oldest daughter began spending vast amounts of her time rewriting/repurposing Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the hopes of persuading the powers that be at Evangel Classical School to allow a student performance of her adaptation.
Well, said powers approved, and Maggie has selected a cast and been directing practices for the last few months. Not only her fellow students, but a bunch of friends of the school have been working to make this fun, and there will be three performances next week!
Remember: Then shalt thou attend to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt attend, and the number of the attending shall be three. Four shalt thou not attend, nor either attend thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out!
You can also just come once, but then you’ll owe a shrubbery.
I’ve been using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan for 2019, but am excited to add the #SamePageSummer readings through the New Testament for June-August. Mo and all four kids are also going to do it, so we’ll be same-paging as a family along with everyone else.
“What happens when Christians are coming to the Word regularly? They are being worked over, regularly, by the Spirit and by the Word.”
Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, let all of it be done in love. This is a conflation of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and 16:14. I’m not rewriting the Scripture, I am connecting two ways of dealing with the same thing.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul exhorted the church about using their theological understanding about God’s creative generosity and their liberty in Christ to love one another in what they willingly did not eat and in what they did eat with thankfulness. This is how to give God glory, because what gives God glory is how we love one another.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul exhorted the church about their divisive and selfish eating related to their obedience to the Lord’s institution of the Lord’s Supper. Again with food, again in a context of relationships, and again we’re called not to love self but others as we follow the example of Christ.
This is part of why our communion together proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes, because this is also proclaiming the Lord’s love until He comes. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 3:9-11)
Do you want to be godly and glorify Him? Then eat and drink in praise of His love to you in Christ, and eat and drink in love for one another.
Most of us appreciate the story of Job. God regularly uses his story to bless us, to sustain our happiness, or at least our hopefulness, when things are difficult. In Job’s narrative we see how our faithfulness to God brings trouble, not that trouble always comes from our disobedience. We see how nothing happens apart from God’s control, even the worst loss and pain. And we see God’s grace to restore good to His servant when His point to Satan is made. The story is like a warm coat after falling into cold water.
On the human side we see Job, through emotional and physical and relational pain, persevere. It’s not that he didn’t struggle or ask questions, but he kept looking to God for help and answers.
The apostle James found encouragement in Job’s story and reminded his readers to be patient. “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 4:11b).
We are given strength to endure as we consider one who endured by God’s mercy. In fact, the first part of verse 11 states it plain as the noon sun: “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.”
So we appreciate the story of Job, along with many of “the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (verse 10). We consider those who remained strong, who acted like men, who did not give up, blessed.
And, brothers, we also must submit when the Lord gives and when He takes away, so that our stories may give encouragement to others. We like to consider those who remained steadfast, blessed, but we like less being considered by others as blessed. Beloved, be steadfast, be blessed, be a blessing.