One week ago, the student body, staff, and parents of Veritas Academy gathered in our courtyard to begin the 2021-2022 school year with praise, prayer, and time in God's word for our traditional Convocation Ceremony. Those in attendance were immensely blessed and edified by the timely word given by our convocation speaker Rev. Christopher M. Seifferlein, Veritas parent and pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Lititz.
The following is a transcript of Rev. Seifferlein's convocation address. You can also listen to his full address here. Whether you are a parent shepherding your child into a new school year, a teacher embarking with a new crop of students, or a student navigating classes and classmate relationships, may this message inspire and encourage you!
Jesus was privileged to attend a school where the Word of the Lord played the central role that it does here.
What would it have been like to sit next to Jesus as He asked questions and listened to the answers? Teachers, what it would have been like to ask Jesus questions and direct his answers? What would you have pointed him toward and wanted Him to see?
Jesus stayed in Jerusalem so he could talk to the teachers and experts of the Law. He was 12, the age of a 7th grader. It’s not too much to ask you to imagine Jesus in your class, for whatever age you are, and whatever grade you teach, Jesus was, at some point in time, that very age.
The Bible says something that you may not have thought much about:
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)
Jesus increased in stature. Jesus got taller. His feet got bigger. He needed the next size clothing.
Jesus got older, which meant new opportunities. He went to Jerusalem and was taught by the expert school of teachers and rabbis that met there. But it was not only that people saw that Jesus was growing up.
Jesus increased in wisdom. Don’t overlook that point, because that is why we are all here today. That word increase means to say something rather profound. Jesus grew in knowledge. For this is what it means to be human.
Jesus was true God, knowing everything, and yet He became like you in every way. And that means just like you, Jesus had to go to class to understand. And though He was without sin, and perfect in every way (Hebrews 2:17), that doesn’t mean that he never got a B in class or never got a problem wrong. It doesn’t mean that He didn’t scratch his head, not understanding his teachers, having to ask for help. Jesus increased in wisdom, which means that he had to go to class too.
He had to dedicate his life to studying. He who made the brain had to stretch and work His brain. He who knew all things became One who knew nothing. He who was Wisdom, had to start from the beginning. He had to become, right where you are, right where you sit. Jesus himself was first a humble, and ordinary student.
Further, it might be interesting to note that as compared with the other children in the class, there was nothing beautiful or attractive about Jesus’ outer appearance (Is. 53:2). Jesus was a rather humble looking, ordinary student, someone you might overlook (Mark 6:3). Yes - you, too, teachers, would have had to uncover and learn who this student in your class was. As it was for Mary, it would have been a road of interesting discovery (Luke 2:47, 51).
The True Goal of Learning
The Bible uses a word about Jesus’ learning that is not so common in today’s world, but something specialized in here. There is an aim to proper studies, and a particular goal. And that Biblical goal is more than studying to pass the test, or getting the grades which would please His parents. Jesus was growing in wisdom.
He was studying the two books God has for you. The world, and the Bible. And God has discoveries, and each discovery in each book is meant for more than getting stars and A’s so you can go to college and have a nice house, cat, and BMW.
The goal of wisdom is faith. The goal of wisdom is that kind of knowledge that recognizes who you are and who God is, which results in trust and praise to the One who made you as His creation, and made you as a unique part in it all. In that school on that day, Jesus was learning about what it meant to be about His Heavenly Father’s business.
For students here in this school, what will you learn this year? Through these teachers you will learn to know the God who made you and to know your place in this world He has for you. Like Jesus, you are learning about your Heavenly Father’s business.
What did Jesus’ knowledge lead Him to?
Did it lead Him to a nice house?
Did it lead Him to a wonderful existence?
Did it lead Him to happiness in the world?
It led Him to many happy things, and friends, but it also led Him to a cross.
And so it will be for you.
There is a reason that studying is not easy. Studying is a form of death. Long before Jesus was suffering on the cross, He was a student. This is not always an easy place to be.
Take Up Your Cross
Learning is a form of self-giving. It is a form of dying to your old nature for the good of another. It is about the subjection of your will, reason, and thoughts to Another’s will, reason, and thoughts. It is about giving for the sake of the other, so you can be useful, so you can serve, so you can get a job and provide for a family and teach them, so you don’t end up sitting around in your parent’s basement, eating chips and sleeping on the couch.
Jesus’ death forms you to die every time you come to school. There is a reason that books are made of paper culled from wood. The cross was made of wood too, and your backpack is your heavy cross. As Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow after Me,” He might has well said, “Take up your heavy bookbag and follow after Me.”
That sacrifice is seen as you pore over books, late at night, with blood, and sweat, and yes, sometimes even tears. The cross is seen as parents work all this out, even as Jesus and his parents disagreed about how all this worked out. Academics is a cross-filled enterprise where Jesus and His death and resurrection are central, and lived out, here at school.
You often fail at this. You sometimes see each school year or school day as one more hurdle to jump through rather than the opportunity to sit and learn from teachers or stand and ask questions. You may get upset at students or the constant hurdles to learning or cry out at your own weakness. You fail in those moments to see that through a teacher, God prepared a child, His child, for what His course was. God placed His child in the hands of parents and teachers.
God made the world through Words, and words change men, and make them grow. Often, you want to avoid the suffering that is learning, defining your vocation by success and wanting an easy devil-given knowledge, rather than the death that is learning. Repent. Learn of what God gives and does not give. Learn of Jesus.
This boy learned something that day when He went to Jerusalem. It may have been one of the puzzle pieces that put together what His life’s purpose was. Students, what will you learn about yourself this year? Teachers, what will be that spark you give that you will never know about?
In the classroom of the temple, Jesus had attended His first Passover. He saw the lambs being slaughtered and roasted over the hot flames of the metal altar. He saw the blood - rivers of it - pouring into the valley precipice below. He ate the meal of the Lamb, and it tasted sweet to His lips as He was taught the about the history of His people. For on the night of the Passover long before, God had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. The blood of the Lambs was given to paint on the doorframes of their homes. The flesh was given for them to eat inside. The angel of Death was passing over the land that night, and anyone who had the blood and flesh of the Lamb was passed over and spared from death. God visited their enemies on that night and brought them out, a people with no power or ability to fight themselves. God won for them, freedom from their cruel overlords, and sent them on their way with sober rejoicing, clothed in triumph.
Jesus, as He was taught about these things, began to see through this teaching His destiny. He would become the Lamb. It was the rivers of His blood that would be shed throughout the corners of Jerusalem. Through His death, God would spare His people, all people. The innocent One would die, so the guilty many could be spared.
But no, not only that He would become the Lamb. Even now He was the Lamb - Mary’s Little Lamb whose fleece, white as snow, was growing up for that day and purpose, when He would offer His life and His red blood poured forth, and His full body, fired over hell’s flame, given as the sweetness of meat for His people to partake of.
Christ in Your Class
Before we look to the cross and see the cross, we should see behind it: the teaching of His mother, the hand of His earthly father, and the wisdom of his earthly teachers, passed on and brought to its fulfillment. God prepared Jesus for the cross through such humble, yet wonderful, means as a classroom and a school.
When you are doing that hard math homework, Jesus is with you. He knows exactly what it is like. He is with you. He became incarnate. He sat in your seat and did the hard work. But also He is with You as it is of Him that you learn: His way, His life, His path. He is with you with His cross and the bleeding and the dying. He is with you when it doesn’t seem to go so well. He is with you, too, when you want to quit or want an easier way. He had His Gethsemane moment. “Father, is there a different way?”
Jesus knows. He made math. He knows the answers. But He also had to learn them.
He walked your skin. Your road. Your path. And He did it faithfully. He wants His faithfulness to be yours. By faith it is. You are complete in Him. He wants your sin to be His. He went to the cross to make it so and shed His blood for Your release from sin, death, and the powers of hell.
You go to class with Jesus. He is the Teacher behind your teachers, the Wisdom behind theirs. He is the One who has passed through adolescence and rules all things, who by His life, death, and resurrection conquered it all and assures you that He will return. He sweat drops of blood. He couldn’t get out of that final test either. You learn under the shadow of the cross. You learn who you are. Redeemed by Him. You learn who He is. He who redeemed you. You learn your goal for this life. Him.
We cannot bear this cross alone. But we bear it with Him.
Students, blessed by Christ, and teachers, here at this place: may you suffer as Christ did, may you give as Christ gave, may you learn as Christ learned, may you live as Christ lived, may you grow as Christ grew, in favor with God and man, ever upward to your heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.
Each day you drive to school or ride the bus. At the end, your terminus, you come to a school on a street named Hillcrest. For on a Hillcrest far away Jesus took up a cross. At the beginning of this school year, Jesus beckons, “Whoever would be my disciple, must take up His cross, and follow after Me.” So then as your teachers welcome you into the building this year, take up your bookbags, and follow after Jesus.
Are you looking for a school that upholds God's Word and Christ's calling to the highest place? A school that calls your child to grow in Christ, in wisdom, and in a lifelong love of learning? A place where this - the address you just read - is the tone set for the school year ahead?
We invite you to explore life at Veritas by visiting us for a tour. It's not too late to join many of our classes this year...and not too early to begin thinking about next school year, either. Click here to sign up for your visit to Veritas Academy and begin your discovery of the truth, beauty, and goodness found in classical Christian education.