Liturgy is a way we learn through what we see not just through what is said. There doesn’t need to be competition or conflict between what is declared and what is done, though our consistent behavior is harder to ignore than our repeated words.
A civil authority is called a liturgos in Romans 13:6, a “minister” who performs public service. He teaches by what he does, or doesn’t, more than by what is on the books. So Solomon said, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV). The failure of the executive branch was louder than the verdict from the judicial branch (so to speak), and the public got the point. The liturgy was louder than the law.
Among the saints there are ministers (Paul used liturgos of himself in Romans 15:16 as a “minister of Jesus Christ”), we have religious services, and these services follow a liturgy. There is always a liturgy, a pattern and form, whether or not we’re conscious of it or consistent in it.
And if I were to put a spin on Solomon’s observation, I might say, “Because the Table of the Lord is not celebrated joyfully, the hearts of the children of God are left discouraged and anxious.” It doesn’t matter what merry language we use if our actual practice is to eat, drink, and be mournful. May the joy of the Lord be your strength, and may you truly, and loudly, rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, having been justified by the blood of Christ.
Things are not always what they appear to be at first.
Jesus told a parable about obedience in Matthew 21:28-32. A man had two sons, he told them both to go work in the vineyard. The first son said no at first, but then went and did it. The second son said yes at first, but then blew it off. The chief priests and the elders answered correctly that it was the first son who did the father’s will.
Jesus applied it to the talkers, the ones who appeared and proclaimed their obedience, but who weren’t actually obeying. They seemed to be in the right, to themselves and to others. But it was the unexpected—tax collectors and prostitutes—who actually believed, and obeyed.
This has application for a variety of Appearances vs. Actuals, and I’d urge you to apply it to our submission to authorities. This is any lawful authority, especially in civil, church, or home spheres.
There are two ways to be under authority: in pretense or in truth. It’s possible to be submissive to authority and have others question it or accuse you of arrogance/defiance, it’s also possible to not be under authority and yet beyond the group’s suspicion. Subversive dissent is still insubordination no matter how much one proclaims his loyalty. Passionate arguments for intricate systems of hierarchy and procedures does not a submissive man make.
So the question is: are you actually obeying who/what you’re supposed to, all the way? Or are you holding back, and hiding behind reams of policy?
The following are my notes from the ECS Convocation for the 2023-24 school year.
Welcome back to another school year, Raggants.
We think it is an extraordinary thing to be a raggant; we are the only school in the world with the raggant as mascot. The raggant is more than uniform embroidery, acting like a raggant is part of our vocabulary. I want to remind you of what it means. We include the characteristics on our grade cards, they are part of our other graduation requirements (and there are a few other uses). At least some have wondered why we make such a big deal about it; aren’t we supposed to be Christians? And of course following Christ what we’re about, but I hope to show that being a raggant is a particular and playful way to pursue being a Christian. I’m ready to say that this should be The Year of the Raggant.
Mr. Sarr is the one who first noted how the raggant perfectly embodies the center of classical and Christian education. Before ECS started we were reading The Case for Classical Christian Education in which Doug Wilson wrote:
Classical Christian academies teach all subjects as an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.
Christ is Lord of all He made (and “by Him all things were created” Colossians 1:16), and Christ’s Word is the special revelation for our worship and our worldview. We are to “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly” (Colossians 3:16). There is no other book like the Bible; the Bible gives us the standard by which we evaluate every other book, subject, class, conversation, and claim. The Bible teaches us about Christ and what it means to follow Christ.
Mr. Sarr was also reading through the 100 Cupboards trilogy by Doug’s son, Nate Wilson. And in the second book, Dandelion Fire, Nate describes the raggant:
The raggant didn’t have any extra senses. He only had one, and it interfaced everything into an amazingly complicated but entirely accurate caricature of whatever worlds were within his range.
What a great parallel: Classical Christian schools where everything is integrated by Scripture and the raggant interfacing with all the world by one sense. So Mr. Sarr proposed the raggant as our mascot. On our school webpage he wrote:
That is a picture of how we want for our students to perceive Christ’s domain academically. We want their perceptions of the world to be less compartmentalized (like human senses) and more academically integrated like the blended, combined senses of the mighty raggant.
A few years later, in the spring of 2016, I needed something to talk about for an assembly. I came up with a list of characteristics for our students, showed it to my wife, and she wondered if I was okay. Ha. My first draft wasn’t impressive. I went back to the brainstorming, and ended up with six things. That talk got a good response, and later that summer the school board approved these characteristics as things to for ECS to emphasize.
At the time I didn’t use a lot of Scripture proof-texts. But all these virtues are driven by the Bible. When we talk about being raggants, it’s not really about taking on the shape of a small rhino with wings, we’re talking about integrated learning and living according to Scripture.
Stout Image Bearers
God made man in His image, blessed him, and told him to be fruitful and take dominion (Genesis 1:26, 28). In order to know who we are as human beings, we have to know in whose likeness we were created, and that comes from God’s Word.
As reflections of God we’re responsible to fulfill God’s mandate. Taking dominion is not for wimps, it requires stout/sturdy/strong image-bearers. So we take heart in what the Lord told Joshua at the edge of the promised land,
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7–9 ESV)
So “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Generous Disciples of Christ
Every Christian is a disciple, a word we got from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student/learner/follower.” Making disciples is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). That requires learning and observing all that Jesus commanded, which we get from Scripture.
And disciples give, first of themselves following the pattern of Christ, then of their resources. They die to bring life (2 Corinthians 4:7-12), they contribute to those who need it and show hospitality (Romans 12:13). Liberal education, education that makes free-men, includes giving freely as we’ve received (Matthew 10:8 KJV). Wisdom teaches that “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer” (Proverbs 11:24).
Copious means plentiful, overflowing. Raggants/Christians aren’t just consumers, they are big-time producers.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:1–4 ESV)
Fruitfulness is not like that of a machine, but of a living tree. This fruitfulness, like courage, comes through God’s Word.
Remember the sower and the seed (an illustration of the gospel Word), that which fell on good soil “produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8, 20). When the soil is right the Word grows into a field full of good works.
As copious means abundance, prodigious means enormous, vast. Christ is interested in a lot, so to be like Him we have a lot we can learn.
That includes about Christ Himself: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). That’s a command, and we start with Scripture. So also, when we walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, we are “bearing fruit in every good work (copious) and increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthen with all power (stout)” (Colossians 1:10).
Thankfulness is how we learn, not just the end of our learning. We give thanks before and during our work, not only after it. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16–17 ESV, see also Ephesians 5:20)
If Scripture integrates all our learning, then thankfulness is like glue that holds together our attitude about it all. To whom much is given, much (gratitude) is required (see Luke 12:48).
Since Genesis 3:15 humanity as been in a battle; there is enmity between two seeds, that of the serpent and that of the woman. That promised seed we now know is Christ Himself. Christians are enlisted as soldiers in a spiritual war (2 Corinthians 10:4) along with Him.
The good fight should be fought in a good way, so our motto is: laughter is war. It comes from Psalm 52.
The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, (Psalm 52:6–7 ESV)
See, fear, laugh, all of which come from faith in what God’s Word says. The Word is our sword (Ephesians 6:17), and we wield it with joy.
Of course there are other great characteristics in Scripture. The Greatest Commandment is to love God, then we’re to love our neighbors. The Great Commission is, again, to make disciples not to make raggants. We’re not saying that these six qualities are an alt-fruit of the Spirit, another six onto the inspired seven. But in a school context, with the Bible at the center, with the goal of Christ-honoring education culture, these characteristics seemed playful and potent.
So put it all together. Raggants are high discipline, low drama students who see all the world Scripture. May the Lord bless this 2023-24 school year at ECS as The Year of the Raggant.
Maybe you’ve heard of doomscrolling. It refers to the act of repeatedly, even compulsively, scrolling through news and social media feeds and seeing negative or distressing information. Many of these scrolling cycles never get to the bottom, it’s never ending bad news or predictions of nightmares to come. A constant diet of this woe can increase feelings of stress and helplessness.
The term doomscrolling seems to have gained traction during the 2020 lockdowns, but there has been a regular source of anxiety-producing negativity long before that. It’s come, sadly and inappropriately, from the church. Let’s call it doomcommuning.
This is just another way to remind us of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus did not institute this ordinance to increase anxiety. For sure, the Corinthians weren’t even paying attention, and Paul exhorted them to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:25). The Table is not a place for selfishness and division; the stakes of the Supper are serious.
But the whole point of the supper is the seriousness of salvation, not damnation. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1), not panic before God.
Brothers, this is a meal of life, of joy, of hope. Now is not the time for for brooding, for glooming. Here is where God feeds our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not commune in doom. “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Come, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already atoned for what you’ve done through His Son (compare Ecclesiastes 9:7).
Especially when our kids were younger we talked about THIQ obedience. I worked through the acronym in an exhortation to confession in 2012, and as we start the household series tonight, as many head back to school this week, and especially as we think about what God wants with all His children, it seemed like a good time to revisit it, this time with some verses.
Two qualifications. First, most of these passages refer to our obedience to God. Second, no human authority is above God, so if we cannot obey God while obeying a lesser authority then we cannot obey the human authority. But how we obey the Lord, and the fact that the Lord is the one who established human authorities, should teach us how obedience obeys under most conditions.
THIQ obedience is Total, Happy, Immediate, and Quick.
Obedience ought to be total, as in, all parts of all the instructions completed. Before God, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Obedient children must “be holy in all (their) conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Children are to obey their parents “in all things” (Colossians 3:20).
Obedience ought to be happy, as in, not begrudgingly or with annoyance, no sighs or rolling of eyes. “Serve the LORD with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God” (Philippians 2:14-15). Moses said judgment was coming upon God’s people who “did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Obedience ought to be immediate, as in, not delayed, not put off. “I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments” (Psalm 119:60). “Today if you hear his voice” don’t wait (Psalm 95:7). Obey, right away.
And obedience ought to be quick, as in, not slow. “Do not be slothful in zeal” (Romans 12:11). Laziness is not just seen in delay but dawdling, by drawing-out the task. The one who is “slack/sluggish in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).
Our works don’t save us. None have perfect obedience before God anyway. But He forgives us in Christ, and by His Spirit works from the inside out to give us a love of His standard.
I really do get the huge and tangled implications for Christians as we think about God and government. I also really do think it’s important, relevant, and encouraging, for Christians to think about how God saved us. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and was “killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). When Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11) Jesus was acknowledging His Father’s sovereignty in/through the abuse of human authority and His own unjust treatment.
Peter wrote “this is gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19). And then Peter gave us the WWJD passage:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21–24 ESV)
We would have no atonement for our sins, no Lord’s Supper, no celebration of our hope of glory, if Jesus had not suffered unjustly without sinning. Praise God that He ordains to overcome evil with good.
This will be the last exhortation based on the beginning of Ephesians 5, and one final reminder that thanksgiving is not just a sign of health, it is a medicine that works healing. Thanksgiving is not the completion of holiness, like splashing into the pool at the end of a water slide, the arms of thanksgiving swim against the stream of lusts and discontent and idolatry.
Certain things “must not even be named” among saints, certain things are “out of place.” Paul says in Ephesians 5:4, “but instead let there be thanksgiving.” And if the sexually immoral and impure and covetous are the sons of disobedience and have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (5:5-6), then sons of obedience are also known as sons of gratitude. They are thankful on their way to get their inheritance.
At our L2L leaders retreat a couple weeks ago Ian Lugg talked about wanting to be known as “the gratitude guy.” It wasn’t in this context of opposing these sins, but it fits. It’s for his family, for the aroma of his home, for showing his kids not just what to say but how to say it. What an epitaph to pursue: “the gratitude guy.”
Thankfulness doesn’t mean every desire is eliminated, it does mean that desires don’t panic and get in front of their skis, or point off the trail toward the woods which God has declared off limits.
Fight filth with thanks. Thank God that you’re in the fight. Thank God for good desires, and for the opportunity to obey Him while you wait for Him to provide. So even later in Ephesians 5:20, those filled with His Spirit are “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We’ve been talking about sexual immorality and inappropriate speech for a few Lord’s Days now. Lusts and lewd words, heart and mouth corruptions, things unrighteous and gross, ought not even be named among saints, they are out of place. In Ephesians 5 Paul is talking to Christians, and he says what we should do instead. It has stuck out and stuck with me since the first time I saw it.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not eve be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be…
What do you expect to finish that line? Let there be repentance. Let there be killing of that sin or putting off of that sin. Let there be holiness. Those are relevant, but not what he says.
And immediately following what he says we should do instead, he reminds us of the identity consequences.
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
So he repeats the trifecta from verse 3 in verse 5, giving the reason that such sins need to be replaced. And what do we do instead?
Instead let there be thanksgiving. In this passage, the primary weapon in sanctification is thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not the clearing on the other side of the woods, thanksgiving is the machete that does the clearing. Tempted to treat a sister in Christ impurely? You are not thankful for what the Lord has given you now. Tempted to tell a crude joke? You are not thankful for the good reasons to laugh by God’s grace.
Ironic or not, disappointing and yet divinely appointed, a lot of fellowship has been broken over communion. And really, don’t be surprised. Christ gave two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which identify His Body, the Church. So men ought to care, and while we ought to be more patient than some in church history have been, today we could probably use more of the type of conviction they had. The bread and the wine are not laissez faire fare, take-it-or-leave-it stuff.
One part that Christians have argued about is the presence of Christ. Transubstantiation claims that when the priest prays, the substance of the bread physically turns into Jesus’ flesh and the wine turns into Jesus’ blood, even if the elements still appear as bread and wine. Consubstantiation claims that both substances are together, physical bread and physical body. Others claim a spiritual presence.
Beyond philosophical and metaphysical speculation, we should give most attention to what Paul says. As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). That means that the Lord is not physically here.
In His body He ascended to the Father. He sent His Spirit, and so He can say that He is with us until the end of the age, but that is a supernatural presence, not a physical one. In communion we remember our spiritual union with Him and with one another. And as good as it is, our very participation here proclaims that there is more than the present. He is coming again in His resurrected body and will give us the same.
Sexual immorality has a lot of outlets, but it always starts in the heart. Lust takes root in chest-soil. Impurity is also an internal condition not merely measured externally. And while a lot of men have come out of the covetousness closet, it’s a failure of proper value proposition, hence why it’s also a synonym for idolatry.
In Ephesians 5:3 Paul says these “must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” If a reporter was trying to dig up the sexual immorality skeletons of the church body, he’d have to make things up.
The first part of Ephesians 5:4 adds three more things that don’t belong among God’s children who are imitating the fragrant offering of Christ.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place
These are mostly mouthy sins. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, so addressing wrong mouth-words right after wrong heart-wants shouldn’t be surprising. What is too often surprising is what potty mouths Christians open.
“Filthiness” is shameful, obscene, disgusting. “Foolish talk” is being silly about the serious. “Crude joking” is coarse jesting (NKJV), talking about bodily functions in suggestive and non dignified ways.
This sort of talk is salacious, it gets attention, it’s ubiquitous. It’s “out of place” for Christians. Stop listening to it, enjoying it for entertainment, spreading it. Innuendo, double entendre, sex jokes, all misplace what God gave as good and honorable in its place. It turns your mom into meat, your sister into a punchline. My brothers, these things are out of place.