The first HCA Chapel service I ever attended was in early May of 2001. After the spiritual content was complete, Toby Tate addressed the students in attendance (4th - 7th graders, I think), and presented them with a ballot to vote on the new HCA mascot. You see, formal athletics was to begin that fall, and we needed to brand ourselves in some way as a team. Toby (a new parent at the time) and a group of fellow parents had formed an athletic committee about a year before, and had laid out the plan to add sports teams to our little school. They had created policies and joined a league. Now, we just needed a name.
I don't remember all the choices, but "Flames", "Bishops", and other Christian School labels pop in my mind. In the end, the students voted to become the Knights. Likewise, I do not know who chose that particular mascot as a ballot option, or any of the reasons why it was on the list. But, I do know that the mascot was an immediate hit, and that it has been carried with pride ever since, even beyond the athletic fields. Some of you may even remember that we won our very first sporting event ever, a middle school volleyball game, that September.
At graduation this Friday, I will remind our exiting seniors about their heritage of "knighthood" at HCA, and of the standard to which it holds them, far beyond high school. Each of them will actually be knighted on stage, and presented with their own sword to carry the legacy of HCA with them wherever they may go. Knowing this tradition, the emphasis the school puts on honor and integrity, and our desire to have a visual representation for future students to see, the Class of 2012 has presented a mural of a knight on horseback as their Senior Class Gift, for the school to enjoy for years to come.
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. - 2 Tim. 2:3-4
In today's world we hear much about peace, understanding, and tolerance. And while, there are certainly beneficial results from these efforts at times, the reality is that we are at war for the souls of our children. Why else would Paul use the term 'soldier' to describe believers? This is why Hickory Christian Academy exists in the first place. It is a training ground for young soldiers of the cross, so that they can fight the good fight and "please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" - Jesus Christ. According to the verse above, we accomplish that purpose by avoiding the affairs of everyday life. In other words, we set ourselves apart (personal holiness).
This is why we press so hard for kids to be kind, generous, patient, courteous, honorable, and full of integrity. This is a culture that contradicts the entaglements of the world, and focuses on the wonderul victory we have gained through our Savior. The Old English word for "knight" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for "servant". A knight was expected to love his neighbor as himself. he was to be willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of those who were in need, and if necessary, to die in order to save another's life. But most days, a historical knight wasn't rescuing damsels in distress. Instead, they were commissioned for two primary purposes: Protect the kingdom and protect the culture of Christianity within the kingdom. Of course, we understand that these are really one in the same. When you protect Christianity, you protect the true King (Jesus), and vice versa.
As we graduate 400 young minds from one grade to another this week, including some who will move on to life beyond high school, I am excited to see the exhuberance that many of our students show in their Christian faith at such a young age. Of course, in order to be complete, all of this must be coupled with the wisdom to know when to choose to "turn the other cheek", and when to charge into battle. A true knight knows the difference. I pray that HCA becomes a place where our students also develop the wisdom to know the difference, and where they become people of honor, integrity, humility, and bravery as depicted on the wall in our gymnasium. More precicely, that they become just like Jesus Christ, the one who enlisted them as His Knights. I continue to be honored to have a small role in the your effort to accomplish this task in your own children.
Thank you to everyone for another wonderful school year. May God guide your steps this summer.