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.