Chaplain Messages 2018
Chaplain’s Message January 2018
The Stranger Who Needs Our Help
by Rick Rayfield
One Earth Day long ago a game warden was putting fingerling trout into the Mad River with a crowd of us cheering him on. Someone had come right from church in his corduroy suit and tie, while most of us were wearing Earth Day T Shirts. The Mad River was its springtime swollen self. As the last of hundreds of baby trout eased out of the white pail, the game warden lost his grip in the current and the plastic bucket headed downstream. Too bad! Polluting the river on Earth Day when you are trying to help and honor it. Ain’t that life? Sometimes your best efforts turn to mud. (Tell me! I’m a baker.)
The game warden shook his head, and the crowd grimaced and looked away. The man in the corduroy suit jogged down the bank, and stepped out into the river a grabbed the bucket. Soaked up to his lapels, he smiled his way up the riverbank and handed the bucket back to the game warden.
We remind ourselves in prayer, as we close every lodge meeting, to assist a fellow mason as well as the stranger who needs our help. We should also remember that the stranger may be a neighbor, or a river, or a traveler. Songs and poems have been written that the stranger in our midst may be an angel or the Grand Architect in person (see Genesis 18 where Sarah laughs in God’s face). I disagree. The stranger is ALWAYS an angel or the Grand Architect, and your assistance will bless you. Even when the stranger seems unworthy, I try not to judge as I have often been proven mistaken.
Looking at the New Year ahead, and new years beyond, let us remember we are all strangers and also brothers and sisters. The divine is within us as much as beyond us, and we chose to ignore or partake in its blessing. So mote it be.
Chaplain’s Message February 2018
by Rick Rayfield
My daughter in middle school is learning about bias- the kind that comes to mind when we study racial prejudice. But to a guy at the tire shop bias refers to the direction of the threads of nylon and steel inside the rubber. When bias-ply tires were invented they were new technology- greatly improved ride and wear. Then radial-ply tires came along- a better bias. To a weaver or seamstress or carbon fiber fabricator, bias refers to the direction and type of fiber in a cloth, lending different kinds of strength and moldability and stretch. In science, we talk about experimenter bias and subject bias, where people’s expectations often control their beliefs more than the data in front of them. So bias comes in many forms, always something to be studied. Good or bad, bias is a tendency to operate a certain way.
I joked with my daughter that bi-ass means two butts. She got a smile from her teacher when she repeated it. But, bias is often two “buts”. Like this:
I would respect other religions, BUT AS they do not believe in the one true GOD, I doubt I can trust them and
I might trust those people, BUT AS they do not do unto me as I would do onto them, I doubt can I live with them.
Two of the greatest commandments are to love God and treat your neighbor as you would have them treat you. BUT, with BIAS we often turn those around. We judge whether other people treat the Grand Architect, and treat us, as we wish. How do we open our perception and see that a hospitable and compassionate culture is not opposed to a competitive and capitalistic culture? How do we decide in the complex cycles of gifts and resources who should be treating who well and when?
I got biases of all kinds. Some good, and some bad. All my biases can be improved by looking more closely and from different angles at the Trestleboards provided by the Grand Architect. I can then take away different lessons in receiving gifts graciously, and competing honorably.
Chaplain’s Message March 2018
A Granite Wave
by Rick Rayfield
The Dome of the Rock –the magnificent mosque in Jerusalem- was built in 691 CE (AD), and sits on the Temple Mount which was the site of King Solomon’s Temple (970 BCE, AK A BC), and rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity as the Second Temple/Herod’s Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Because of the many transformations of the site, considerable doubt exists about the origin of the stone used to build Solomon’s Temple. The map of Jerusalem shows Solomon’s Quarries (also known as Zedekiah’s Caves) under the Muslim Quarter just north-east of the Dome. Since the 19th century, the Grand Master of Kentucky and numerous Israeli Freemasons have held ceremonies in that underground quarry. They are convinced it is indeed the source of the limestone, the very foundation blocks and finished ashlars, used by Solomon’s workmen. Numerous interpretations of Biblical scripture are claimed to identify David’s palace, Solomon’s palace, the Temple wall, and the Temple itself. In the last 100 years, the extensive underground quarry and caves have been a much studied and much visited tourist attraction.
I have said before that the air we breathe contains molecules that were the breath of life for our ancient brethren. The same can be said for the water in the air, the water we drink, and the water in our bodies. We are surfers in the air and water of millions of years of history. Or we are the waves on which the ebb and flow of human history has progressed and regressed. The sand on the beaches we tread is mingled with sand eroded from the wall of King Solomon’s Temple. I bet my math on it.
In 1919, over two million gallons of molasses broke out of a huge tank in Boston and the wave of black sticky stock for making rum killed 21 people. Some people in the North End of Boston, near where our brethren met at the Green Dragon in Revolutionary times, say they can still smell the molasses on hot summer days. The breaths of Solomon’s workmen and Solomon himself are mingled with that sweet odor.
Brothers, we are passing through. We have King Solomon’s temple in our hearts and in our blood. Literally. We are at once temporary and historic, transient and eternal. Every good deed, every kind thought, every effort to raise the Temple of the Grand Architect participates in the Grand Design of a good Creation. Behold how Good and Great it is when brethren dwell together in Unity.
Chaplain’s Message April 2018
Those Darn Deists
by Rick Rayfield
The 1976 Declaration of Independence of the United States of American, was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 Founding Fathers, including John Hancock, Ben Franklin, and Sam and John Adams. In that Declaration, the signers refer to what we would call “deity” by five names, one time each: Laws of Nature, Nature’s God, Creator, Supreme Judge of the world, and divine Providence. Our Founding Father were not godless, but they clearly left the door wide open to personal faith in something beyond human existence. Our Founding Fathers are sometimes called deists or Deists. Freemasons also are sometimes called deists or Deists. The word “deo” in Latin means god, and if you capitalize it “Deo” you probably are referring to a particular “God” or a religious movement or religion. Various groups have claimed the name Deism for their religion. Freemasons have been accused of being Deists, that is a religion, which we are not, usually by fundamentalists who claim to be the true Christians. Freemasons can fairly be called, along with our Founding Fathers, as deists- that is a belief in some sort of deity. Freemasonry has been open to Christians including Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and anyone who is willing to make a simple statement of belief in something beyond simple existence. Lots of wiggle room there, but also the beauty of complexity. If someone calls you a Deist, or says Freemasons are deists, you might ask them if they mean with a capital or a lower case D. They might not know what you mean. Either way, you can have a discussion instead of an argument. A rose by any other name… The Grand Architect has many nicknames in many languages, and we each know him in similar and in different ways.
Chaplain’s Message June 2018
Mud on the Trestleboard
by Rick Rayfield
It’s springtime. The buds are bursting into leaves. The grass is reaching up from the warming earth to the sky, and sending its roots out to make firm footing of the mud. I wish grass would grow in the dirt road leading to my house! My black shoes and my white car are covered with brown stuff.
.One way to avoid getting stuck in the mire of human argument is to stay out of the mud.
Have you noticed that good and God are nearly the same word? I have. It only seems natural. And Bible and biblio refer to the good book. Or is it God Book?
As soon as you step out of the observation into the discussion, you slip into word mud. You will find that some people observe that the Hebrew in the Old Testament has a similar word to God, and others are certain that “god” and “good” in English are not related. The discussion is scholarly and emotional, and you can spend hours in desperate risk of simply taking the side that appeals to you. Other discussions will remind you that the name “Bible”, despite its root as a Greek word for paper or scroll, became the vernacular for the Old and New Testaments in the 13th century. (Sort of like deists vs Deists, general vs specific). All this with dead-certain uncertainty.
How many times in life do the plans on our trestle board look like coffee stains are obscuring the true plan? Or mud splashed by a passing moose? Cleaning off the mud sometimes wipes off the plan, or we find ourselves discussing it endlessly instead of putting the plan into action. Hey- look at the Town’s sidewalk in front of the Lodge. Or our bookcase in the anteroom. Or the leaking skylight in my bedroom.
I find no easy answer to God and good, except that the debate confirms my skepticism. Still I must have faith, and find myself plowing ahead with my best guess, prepared to admit my error. Not my fault, just mud on the trestleboard. With luck, it won’t pull my boots off . I am reminded that Alexander the Great was confronted with the task of the Gordian knot. If he could untangle it, the town would accept his conquest. Alexander pulled out his sword and “untangled” the knot. Maybe the legend had puzzled him since boyhood. Maybe it was an impulse. There is more than one kind of mud, and many kinds of solutions to our muddy problems. It’s good to have brothers walking the spring trails with us. The grass is fresh but the mud is deep.
Chaplain’s Message September 2018
Holy St John Sunday- Missed it again?
by Frederick John Rayfield III
We hear of those holy Saints John in the Lodge Room. Who are they? Most Masons think one is John the Baptist, who was the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth, and who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, and whose head was demanded by Salome and delivered to her stepfather Herod Antipas. And the other famous St John would be John the Evangelist, author of the Gospel that starts- “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” You know him- Matthew Mark Luke AND JOHN. He also wrote the last book of the New Testament- Revelations. We think he wrote those books around the year 90 CE, from the Greek island of Patmos. So we can think of these two Johns as coming one before and one after Jesus. Pretty religious stuff
But John is a popular name, now and back then. Ian, Sean, Eion, Janis, Iannis are all versions of John. John may have its roots as Yaweh- or Gracious God. John also can mean priest, policeman, and bathroom. The Roman Catholic Church has over 228 saints named John; imagine all the Eastern orthodox Johns spelled differently to add to those. I bet some of them were connected to Jerusalem too.
Who are the “holy Saints John” in Masonic lore? Looking back at old Masonic lectures over three centuries since the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on June 24 (St John Day) in 1717, we read of these two Saints John bracketing Jesus, and being one present at his baptism, and the other at his crucifixion, and one passionate and the other intellectual. The two Johns are a range of human excellence. Previous to naming the Holy Saints John, similar Masonic lectures had identified Moses and Solomon as the men to be emulated by Freemasons. Hence many of the Ancient Scottish Rite degrees 4-18 portray Moses and Solomon and Jesus, but NOT our two Johns. The winter and summer solstices are pagan holidays. Around the year 300 CE the Catholic Church assigned these celebration days to St John the Baptist (June 24) and St John to Apostle (December 27), and Jesus (December 25).
Reach out your hand to the sacred, and your hand becomes sacred. Sing to heaven, and your song is heavenly. Walk in the light and you will speak the truth. Like the Grand Architect and Adam portrayed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we endeavor to grasp within inches the touch of our Creator, though we are wholly made of his design. Perhaps the Saints, notably these two Saints John, fill in the space between those divine and mortal fingers of Creation. From this place every Mason arrives, in any season.
Chaplain’s Message October 2018
The End of the Rainbow Where the Grass is Greener
by Rick Rayfield
“Green, green, it’s green they say on the far side of that hill.
Green, green, I’m going away to where the grass is greener still.”
That’s a hit song the New Christy Minstrels sang in 1963. How could the grass be any greener than right here in Vermont? Is the song about moving on in this world to new opportunities and away from our gray troubles? Or is it about moving on past that hill to the next world, where heaven awaits?
First let me say that I think green represents water which means life.
Then let me say the rainbow- whether signaling God’s promise to Noah and us not to flood us out again, or a beckoning pot of gold- is a creature of sun and water.
Then let me listen. Shut me up and talk to me. Or sing the song that greener pastures may take a walk up and over the hill, as I leave the place I love.
Hagar and Ismael are cast out by Abraham once Sarah has born him Isaac. They venture out into the desert and find an oasis , a green place, and survive to become many of Abraham’s sons and daughters. Ishmael returned to bury his father Abraham when he dies.
As the leaves lose their green, and we look to the hills, let us remember our constant trek to the greener pastures, whether in this world or another, or just sweating out up the hill to have a look at the flowing waters of life and maybe a rainbow on a stormy autumn day. Or pull down some firewood. Look for the green growing on that rock under the snow. Green is gold.
Chaplain’s Message November 2018
by Rick Rayfield
As we look to the future of Freemasonry, and consider how to arrest the decline in membership and participation, as the average age of members soars, perhaps a look to our past would be helpful. Notably we survived a huge decline in the 19th century when a single lodge was accused of murdering a petitioner who threatened to reveal Masonic secrets. By 1900 Oddfellows outnumbered Freemasons in America. They declined, we have survived, barely. The Shrine- Freemasons every one- has suffered especially since 9/11 while their symbolic metaphors and fez-capped heads rest on the recognition of ancient wisdom, notably the Golden Age of Islam. That Age produced sciences of Astronomy, Algebra, and Optics among many other achievements often ignorantly not expected of “infidels”. Those one billion “infidels” in the 21st century worship the same God as the two billion Christians and Jews, likewise tracing their lineage to Abraham, and embracing what we call the Old Testament, Torah, Prophets, Psalms etc. as sacred texts. We fight over traditions that differ, in ignorance of the traditions we share.
Freemasons were the Founding Fathers of at least five democracies- US, France, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Cuba. We often emphasize the military and revolutionary achievements of those Fathers, forgetting that their lasting successes were forging nations out of people from many ethnic groups. The success of Hamilton on Broadway pays homage to building nations with the pen rather than the sword. Benjamin Franklin was a competent colonel in the Pennsylvania Militia, but outstandingly he brought signers to join him for the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaties of France (1978) and Paris (1783), and Constitution (1787). Freemasons often trace their roots to the Knights Templar of the Crusades of European Christianity in their bloody battles for control of the Middle East. Perhaps the Path Forward will be more successful if we emphasize Freemasonry’s charitable goals and achievements, our fellowship and brotherhood and leadership, our tolerance and appreciation of different religious traditions, and our ultimate goal of a peaceful world. We do not proclaim a highway. But let us strike out on a path to a better future for ourselves and our world. Our determination to this task is our “big stick.” And what path does not branch out and weave many ways through a community?
Chaplain’s Message December 2018
The Third Day of Christmas
by Rick Rayfield
(With a BIG ) IF we say that Christmas is December 25th, the ultimate family day, and then Boxing Day (the 26th) is to visit our friends with boxes of goodies, then the third day of Christmas is December 27th. In most Christian churches December 27 is the feast of St John the Evangelist.
He, Saint John, may be they. That is, the Biblical books ascribed to him (i.e. likely inscribed by him) of the Gospel (In the Beginning was the Word…), the three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation, may have been written by three or more authors. History and religion have rolled them into St John the Evangelist. I have stood in the cave on Patmos where the Book of Revelation- so the legend goes- was dictated by the elderly saint. If we roll the man, men, religion, legend, myth and scholarship into one ball, it is pretty lumpy. One story has John drinking poison from a cup- symbolized by a snake appearing on the lip of chalice-to prove his faith in Christ. John is richer and deeper than many people imagine.
When Freemasons point to their source- “From whence comest thou?”-as the Holy Saints John, which traditionally refer to the Baptist whose feast is in June, and the Evangelist in December, we have the symbolism of that which prepares the way (June), and that which perpetuates the way (December). That’s one of many interpretations.
So what can we make this month of St John as a Masonic patron on the third day of Christmas? Well, he comes after Christmas, bearing the light forward, keeping it alive. He draws his source from Christmas and community, the fellowship of family and friends, into the end of this and the beginning of the next year. We can connect looking forward, while recognizing the sources of the past- the other St John in June.
Finally, I cannot resist recalling the song- The Twelve Days of Christmas. It has a long and varied history of many words, tunes, number of days, and meanings. We mostly hear the version that “On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens.” Just the history of that line can addle your symbolic brain. The interpretation that speaks to me is that the meaning of a “French” hen was a “foreign hen”, that is, bringing something improved and valuable from another culture, perhaps mysterious, like incense, gold, and myrrh. (Ring a bell?) The development of the “French Hen” near Paris was as a meaty urban egg-layer known to be gentle and productive. Freemasons probably can embrace carrying forward a light that is gentle and productive, even if it takes some quiet squawking. Merry Christmas, and Thanks to the Great Architect for blessing us, each and every one.