Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Commissioning

Last September in the mountains of northern New Mexico, our family had the wonderful privilege of attending a conference hosted by Family Reformation OPC (Pastored by Kevin Swanson) with most of my extended family. In the middle of this wonderful week we celebrated Benjamin's high school graduation. Uncle Archie, Pastor of Emmaus OPC in Ft. Collins, CO delivered a memorable commencement address wearing the suit of his maternal Grandfather,

Uncle Ben, with the help of his son, Christian, provided majestic music,

and I gave the commission to Benjamin. A transcript of the remarks is below.

Opening Remarks:

I thank you all this afternoon for the honor of your presence as we celebrate this milestone in the life of our family – especially those friends who aren’t in the greater Allison family - we count you as our family in the Lord and are especially honored to have you with us today.

Olive Branch Academy was established by covenant vows on June 28, 1986 for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith through the propagation and training of Godly children in the fear of the Lord. That means our teachers are not simply under contract to teach, they are bound in a covenant relationship. They don’t take summers off, they don’t have Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations, and they certainly don’t have the weekends off. In fact, this is a 24 by 7 training operation.

Entrance to this school is also different. Entrance is by conception only. There are no interviews or no entrance exams. But once you’re in, death is the only way to leave.
Yes, Olive Branch Academy is a different sort of school.

And this is a different sort of commencement. Unlike those graduations RC [Sproul Jr.] was referring to yesterday, this event is not based on the Prussian model of education. Rather it takes it’s precedent from the feast recorded in Genesis 21 in which Abraham celebrated a milestone in the life his covenant son Isaac. The goal of our training is not the attainment of a degree, per se, it is the equipping of God’s children to fulfill the cultural mandate.

Recently, I was talking with a contractor who lives near us in the in town where Texas A&M is located. He had contracted with a lady to redo her kitchen. According to their contract he was to be paid 1/3 on commencement of the work. When he requested the initial payment per the contract, he was surprised to find himself in a bit of a debate. It seems the lady didn't think she needed to pay him anything. Turns out, after a lot of discussion, she thought commencement meant "the end." Being a literate lady, an appeal to the Webster's dictionary settled the debate and she gave him the check he was requesting. On looking at the check, my friend noticed she was a professor of English at the Agriculture and Mechanical College [1]. Well, I suppose everyone has their bad days.

And so today is a commissioning. A commission is a charge, a set of marching orders, that are ongoing. They are orders that are not fulfilled by a single act of obedience; they are orders that can span decades or even a lifetime. They represent a call upon a person’s life. Our commission is to be fruitful, multiply, and rule over the earth to the glory of God.This is an ongoing work that won’t be finished until the day we die. But today we celebrate progress toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Today we are celebrating the grace of God in this ongoing work in our family. As Abraham celebrated the progress of his covenant son Isaac in no longer needing to be fed from his Mother’s body, today we celebrate the progress of one who has largely prepared to leave his Father and Mother and establish his own home. Today marks the formal presentation of that commission. We do thank you for your presence.

Delivery of the Commission

Benjamin Murray Allison, please rise.

I said in the opening remarks that today is the formal presentation of a commission. That makes it a special day. But there a couple of other reasons that make this occasion special. It is a singular blessing for us to be able to celebrate together God’s grace and faithfulness over many decades in the very midst of a family conference dedicated to the renewal of the family. You mark the start of 2 generations that have been entirely homeschooled. You are part of a heritage that began 45 years ago this very month of September, when a man took a wife and established a home for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. Yes, one could trace God’s work of grace back much farther. That’s a worthy story we’ll save for some other day. What I want to tell you about now is the faith of that man, your Grandfather. He wasn’t perfect. He had his blind spots, ironically in some of the very areas the homeschool community is often so strong today.

One thing he did have that under girded every aspect of his life and home was incredible self- discipline to not only conform the patterns and fabric of his life to have Jehovah for his God regardless of the syncretism of his day, but to also command his household after him when most of the church was going a different direction. Routinely rising before daybreak, he would go to his study wearing a hat and a couple of sweaters, for he lived much of his life in the bitter cold of the Dakotas, and keeping a house at 68 all night was much to expensive a proposition for either his Scotish sensibilities or his pocketbook. There he would read the scriptures in several languages and pray.

He also knew a full and hearty breakfast was critical to a day of hard labor, something that should be fundamental to a Christian’s life, so he made breakfast – a task soon passed on to the next generation. But while most of the Christian church was following after the convenience of boxed cereal and store bought milk, he was going the other way and building the means of food production in own home. To his way of thinking boxed cereal just couldn’t be good, though he probably couldn’t have told you exactly why — that would have to wait for the nutritional research of his helpmeet — and buying milk from the store would never teach anyone the value of labor or how to exercise godly dominion in harvesting the earth’s resources for food. And so without fail each morning, he would wake his family and after prayer and singing of a psalm, he would send them out to milk the goats, gather the eggs, and cook the breakfast. A breakfast that consisted of such things as millet, or oat groats, or corn meal mush sweetened with honey harvested from his bees or parsimons gathered off of the ground or from the trees of perfect strangers who were too busy pursuing their peace and affluence to harvest their own fuit trees. They weren’t gourmet meals, but everyone in the family older than 4 knew how to cook them.

In the 60’s and early 70’s while most men his age in the Christian church were growing long hair to be in style and allowing their children to grow even longer hair, this man, with his keen perception, recognized it for what it was, a form of syncretism, and regularly cut his son’s hair to look like men. On Saturdays and evenings while many in the Christian church in America were watching family television his family was working – butchering, birthing goats, doing the laundry, digging a new compost hole for the kitchen garbage, adding a new outlet here or a water line over there, building a passive solar system for the backyard bedroom, baking bread, (in a day before the world had heard of bread machines and kneading it meant wrestling 10lbs of dough on the kitchen table) or doing various and sundry other projects that had all the neighbors scratching their heads. Other than two brief periods there wasn’t a TV in the house. Today not having a TV is common among Christians, then, I didn’t know another family without a TV – although I am sure the Lord had his 7000 people who had not bowed the kneel to Baal even as he did in the days of Elijah.

In a day when many Christians were buying the largest house they could afford with masterbaths and beautiful entertainment centers, he was buying the house with the biggest lot and the most fruit trees.

In a day when many in the Christian church were banishing their children out of the
church to children’s story time, his was the family whose children stayed in the
worship service and sang the hymns and listened to the sermon.

In the pre-homeschool days of his family, while most Christian parents were driving
their children to school “because these days were different and the streets weren’t safe”, his children were riding their bikes to school on their own over “dangerous” and busy roads. Only he could tell you how many Christian brothers counseled him that he was foolishly endangering his children. He understood he was teaching his children to both put their faith in the God who delivered his Isrealite children from the most powerful army in the world, who brought water from a rock, and who fed them with manna in a dry and desert land, and to take the risks that accompany kingdom work.

I could go on, but maybe you are getting the picture. Your grandfather worshipped God every minute of every day and if that meant being different from what most Christians families were doing with their lives, so be it. It’s not the goats or the bread making that matter. Those things simply happened to be the outward form of his worship. The important point is he did not pollute the pursuit of the Glory of God with the pursuit of prosperity and affluence. And as a result, God has blessed him with 4 sons, all of whom are ordained to the office of elder and 6 families who are
following in his footsteps, working out their salvation with fear and trembling.

You are the third generation — the oldest of 29 others. You have been given much. To whom much is given, much is required. You have publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ and that is good. Your mission is continue in that profession. Your mission is to identify the syncretism of your day for it will take a different expression than the syncretism of your grandfather’s day.

I ask you this afternoon, not who will you serve, for you have professed before the congregation of the saints your desire to follow Christ, but how will you serve the God that has created you? Will you will be content to mix the worship of Almighty God with the pursuit of your pleasure and affluence? Or will you follow the footsteps of your father in the Lord, your earthly grandfather, and without being proud to be separate or embarrassed to be different, wholeheartedly worship Jehovah, the One who shows mercy to a thousand generations of those that love him and keep his commandments.

I charge you this day to be a king, ruling over your own passions bringing them into
subjection to the written word of God and daily overcoming the sin that dwells in you so that one day you may be able to command your family after you.

I charge you this day to be a priest, pleading daily before the throne of grace for the work of the Holy Spirit that you would be enabled to do all that God has commanded.

I charge you this day to be a prophet of the of the most high, daily bringing to yourself the Word of God that you may be complete thoroughly furnished unto every good work.

The Matriach leading some final singing preparation.

A member of the class of 2023 receiving an early lesson in listening.

Discussing some final choreography.

Reciting the book of James.

[1] It is also a Senior Military College

1 comment:

Ontario Emperor said...

Interesting thoughts on syncretism, which I've quoted here.