Chaplain 2008

Chaplain’s Messages 2008  Mad River Lodge #77

Chaplain’s Message January 2008   by Rick Rayfield
Epiphany  January 6th

   Epiphany is January 6th, marking the visit of the Wise Men to baby Jesus.  The evening before is Twelfth Night, marking the twelfth day after Christmas, made famous in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, and many parties.

We pack in a lot of holidays. Christmas eve and Christmas. Many people celebrate December 26th as Boxing Day- a day to enjoy friends or do good for the less fortunate.  December 27 is St John’s Day. Then we have New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Then Twelfth Night on the 5th and Epiphany on the 6th.  That’s a lot of eggnog.   And the only one of these days that has a solid biblical basis is Epiphany, magi arriving after Jesus’ birth. And it probably the one we celebrate the least. ( Jesus birth after all has no connection to December 25th.)

If Freemasonry is search for light, then we ought to love Epiphany.   Epiphany is when you see the light, when you come to a realization or understanding, often different from your previous view. It is not just the realization that the holidays are over and you can take down your tree soon. Epiphany is when wise men see a vision of the future as it can be.  You can of course have an epiphany any time you find new light, add to your knowledge, improve your understanding. But January 6th is day we historically commemorate the discovery of new light in the world.  Change your mind about something. Discover something new. Celebrate new light.

Chaplain’s Message February 2008  by Rick Rayfield

Early Easter

   Easter is early this year, March 23rd, with Ash Wednesday on February 6th.  Why?  And why do Masons care?   Well Easter, like some Masonic Lodges, depends on the moon, the second Lesser Light.  Some Masonic Lodges meet when the moon is full, either to make travel easier in the night, or to meet in moonlight under the stars.   Many religious holidays are geared to the full moon, again to make party travel safer, or for the ease of the moon as the marker for the date. Most lunar calendars start the month with the new moon- the smallest visible crescent, so the full moon is mid-month.

Easter is a spring holiday, so in the Western tradition, it has to come on or after the Spring equinox, about March 21st. And the full moon is nice.  And it has to be a Sunday. SO the three part rule for Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon after the equinox.  This year, the full moon is on Friday, March 21st, so we have an early Easter on Sunday March 23rd. (Technically both the equinox and the full moon are a moment in time, so they can be the same day.)

If the equinox was on a Monday, and the moon was full late the day before, we would have to wait until early Monday April 18th for a full moon, and then the next Sunday, April 25th for Easter.  That’s your latest Easter.

Now the Greek, Russian, and Eastern Orthodox traditions    It’s a good thing Masons believe in religious tolerance, for figuring calendars if nothing else.

Enjoy a chilly Mardi Gras on February 6th!  Or do you call it Shrove Tuesday? The carnival which often leads up to Mardi Gras and Lent is often concluded with confession of one’s shortcomings or errors (or party excesses). The old English word for confessing is shriving, hence Shrove Tuesday.  We gain a little humility by confessing as we open and close each Lodge meeting. Perhaps the origin of the word shrivel is to become a little smaller (the L ending is a diminutive) with a little confession.


Chaplain’s Message March 2008  by Rick Rayfield

Passion of Masons

    During the Easter season, we hear of the Passion of Christ, and are perhaps reminded of Mel Gibson’s controversial movie- The Passion- which is long on torture, pain and anti-Semitism. Passion in the original Latin meant suffering, and that is the reference to the last days in the life of Jesus.   Suffering is a strong emotion, and passion has come to mean any strong emotion.  Passion for living.  Passion for justice. Passion for skiing.

Which kinds of passion do we as Masons hope to subdue?  We are not taught to subdue all passions.  We can still, for example, be passionate about Masonry, or about our family, our spouse, our community, or certain cuisines.  It is “discordant” passions which Masons are cautioned to subdue.

Discordant, you might think refers to lack of harmony, as in music with bad chords, or literally bad strings.  However, its root is in the word accord, which means “to the heart”, or more clearly “ heart-to-heart”.  Discord (dis-accord) therefore refers to things opposed to the agreement or harmony of sharing feelings and opinions.  Discordant passions are ones we do not share with our brothers.

Well, what if you love piano music and I love brass bands?  I love marshmallow eggs and you love jelly beans?  We have discordant passions.  We are not told to condemn these or deny them.  We are asked to enjoy a better life as brethren by “subduing” those discordant passions.  Subdue can mean to completely vanquish, but its Masonic meaning is probably the less forceful meaning of the word, which is “to quiet or bring under control, to make tractable”.  Runaway strong emotions need to be bridled, not choked.

We should have passion.  We may even find ourselves with some discordant passions. But we will handle those with whatever persuasion is needed so that we can live in harmony.  How good and pleasing that is.  While some of us are meditating passionately during Lent, others will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day.  Let brotherly love rule over these discordant passions.


Chaplain’s Message April 2008 by Bro. Rick Rayfield

Duties in Moments of Vision

“God grant us the fulfillment of duties seen in moments of vision.”

Passover is weeks AFTER Easter this year. The Jewish calendar is lunar, like Masonic lodges which meet on the full moon.  Because a lunar month does not fit evenly in a solar year, every now and then the Jewish calendar adds an additional month, like the way we add February 29th every four years. The extra month was added this year, pushing Passover ahead to mid-April.  It’s sort of like that extra hour we get in the autumn when we go off Daylight Savings Time. This year there is an extra four weeks to prepare for Passover, although the tradition is still to eat only unleavened bread (matzah). However the traditional cleaning of the house for Passover- the religious version of Spring-cleaning- does benefit from the late date.  I wonder if Solomon had the Temple cleaned for Passover.

Historically we think of Passover as celebrating the Exodus of the Jews led by Moses from Egypt, where they were slaves.  Blood on the doorposts, parting the waters, and unleavened bread are part of the story- but the big picture is Escape to Freedom.  Conceptually Passover is about freedom-  casting off chains, taking risks, having faith,  heading out to the unknown,  and embracing independence.  Passover is a bit like the Fourth of July.

Each Spring, whether we celebrate Easter, Passover, or the leafing of the trees, or the end of the mud, we celebrate the renewal of life, recognizing that new beginnings usually also mean freedom. With the renewal of life, and the new-found freedom, we also find the challenge of reorganizing ourselves personally and in our community.  We celebrate the blast of wind and warmth, the freedom from heavy boots and mitts, and accept the responsibility of trimming the undergrowth, mending fences, finishing projects delayed by weight of snow, and figuring out what to plant in our lives. We draw up new plans for sharing work, for living with differences, for carrying on the work of what and who has passed on, and for appreciating the wonderful sense of freedom so easily forgotten as we face our choices. This is a piece of a prayer from the 18th (Rose Cross) degree; “God grant us the fulfillment of duties seen in moments of vision.”  We are free to see our work as inspiration, as duty, and as satisfaction.  Bless us.

 Chaplain’s Message May 2005 ?2008?  by Bro Rick Rayfield

The Race is One.

Perhaps you thought I meant to say the race is on. That too is a great metaphor, like building a temple, or sowing what we reap. Or the race is won?

I did mean to say, The race in One.  Humanity is one.

Darwin discovered the wondrous simplicity of natural selection, and his description of evolution of species was widely and deeply embraced by the scientific and most of the religious community. We sometimes find the creation story in Genesis even more mythical in the face of modern science, stumbling on the time scale of seven days.  Nobody with any sense of poetry, or love of nature, or knowledge of astronomy, or appreciation of mathematical scaling, would be the least perturbed by a creation story that describes seven overlapping eons as seven days of Godly endeavor.

Lay aside your literal reading of time scale, and look at what Genesis has RIGHT.  Orderly change. The appearance of the different living groups may not be the exact order that paleontology now describes.  But the idea of order, and the rough progression- er, evolution- is right. It was just last year that Neal Shubin displayed the first fossil evidence of a fish with arms, the Tikaalit.   Genesis has the cosmos before the planet, and the planet before the creatures.  Genesis knows the importance of light, and dark, and water for life to appear.  Genesis divides living forms into sensible groups 5,000 years before Linneaus amassed more details.

No, it is not appalling that Genesis has the time scale compressed to tell the story.  It is instead remarkable that Genesis has so many features of evolution right. How about land flooded with water?  Happened, again and again.  Whole civilizations destroyed by catastrophe.  Happened.  The basic truth is there.

The sixth day is a basic truth, I think.  The Genesis story says on the sixth day Man was created.  Not plants and animals, not mankind, not races of men.  Man. Humanity.

With modern genetic testing and cloning and recombination, it is clear that Genesis has truth again.  There are no clear boundaries separating groups of humans.  Humans vary tremendously in skin, eyes, lips, hair, blood, bones, and muscle.  But there are not clear categories which we can use to claim different races.  Race is an old fiction, very hard to shake from our thinking.  Yes, we have ethnic groups, languages, religions, and nations.  We belong to these. Those are not races. There is no clear biological black and white, brown and yellow that separates us into races.  This was an old excuse for building empires and taking slaves.   Darwin and his scientific 19th century peers could see species, and subspecies, but they agreed that there is one human race.   It was a main argument for abolition of slavery.  We are all “mixed” blood- through millennia of love and war and migration and trade, humanity is a melting pot.

We are brothers.  The Bible tells me so.  Science tells me so.  Only my imperfect prejudice and ignorance lets me judge people incorrectly.  We are different, but we are made from the same dust.  We are one race.

Chaplain’s Message  June 2008 by Rick Rayfield

Halfway through the Bible

“King David was old and advanced in years, and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.”  So they bring him the most beautiful girl in the land to warm him up.  As Mel Brooks says, “It’s good to be king.”

But as the Good Book says, “He knew her not.”  It’s tough getting old and cold.  Thus begins the story in the Holy Bible of how Solomon came to be named King David’s successor
to the throne of Israel.

The story reports arguing and hot tempers, as other sons and their mothers, lay claim to the throne as well.  Various wise men and prophets and mothers help the old and cold David to arrive back at the correct action, choosing the young, wise, and humble Solomon.

David and Solomon are both grand kings in history, yet both are human beings, with well-defined greatness, weakness, and flaws. Our goal is not to emulate them as people, but to emulate their virtues.

Grab a Bible and turn to halfway.  That will bring you to Psalms, Job to the left, Proverbs to the right.  Now halfway from the middle to the end of the Bible will get you roughly to the start of the New Testament,  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The New Testament is the last quarter of the Bible; the Old Testament has three times more pages.
Check out the Solomon story.   Halfway from Genesis to Psalms, a quarter of the way through the Good Book, will open roughly to Kings, which I quoted up above. I Kings 1:1 “David was old…” One quarter of the Bible is mostly stories up to Solomon. The second quarter is stories up to Job. Third quarter- Psalms, good advice, and prophets.  Last quarter, New Testament.
June is halfway through the year.  Are you halfway through?  The Bible comes to “old and cold” at the 25% mark.  Still three quarters to go.  Do good, and enjoy the life you are given. Stay warm by being active.

September 2008-  No Chaplain’s message


Chaplain’s Message  October 2008 Solomon


Solomon’s name, in just three Hebrew letters, means “peace”.  Solomon was chosen by David, in preference over Solomon’s older brother, to succeed to the throne. Jehovah told David that because he was a man of war, and had further defiled himself by sending Uriah to death while coveting Uriah’s wife, the job of building a house of God should fall to the peaceful and wise Solomon.

Solomon was the King who according to legend and scripture built the First Temple. He also built temples to other gods. He married women from many lands, often to form political alliances that prevented war.  A wise man of peace?  Legend also tells us Solomon’s many temples to other gods so offended Jehovah that he condemned Solomon and his lineage.

Yet the Worshipful Master sits in Solomon’s chair. Thus are we warned that we are all human, often with defects to match our talents. We recall that the Third Degree preserves the legend, not of Solomon, but of the Temple-Builder, that mythic man who builds perfection. Every one of us, not just the Worship Master sitting in the East, is a Temple-Builder, following in Solomon’s steps, but reaching higher than Solomon’s example for a plan in accordance with the Grand Architect.

Modern archeology and scholarship find no general agreement that Solomon was a historic figure or built any particular temples, wondrous or idolatrous. Despite the lack of historic evidence, we find universal truth in the allegory.  Truth is not in the facts themselves, but in the relation of facts to each other.

SO it is not the god or gods we worship which define us, but rather our relation to the Great Architect, or whatever name we choose of the Divine.  It is this relation we share with Masons of different faiths.  It is not our inadequate words to name or define “God”, but rather what is universal is our relation as men to the Divine, how we behave in relation to our conception of “Him”, how that “faith” empowers our designs and leads us through the day. The peace which comes from good work is truly Solomonic throughout our global brotherhood.  Let us place Peace and Wisdom prominently on our trestleboards.

Chaplain’s Message November 2008  by Rick Rayfield

Bro. Rick Rayfield

I John 4: 20

If you do not love your neighbor who you can see, how can you love God who you cannot see?

Well, I have to love John.  He is the most universal of the gospel writers. The above quote is from one of his three short letters which are tucked in the New Testament just before his dreamy dark Revelations. John can be philosophical, but also are very sensible and blunt.  Dreamy and practical. No wonder this John is one of the “holy saints” John revered by Masons..

  I can love someone and still disagree. Know any married couples?

  I can love someone whose vote cancels mine.

  I can love someone though we like different teams, cars, flavors, and clothes.

  I can love someone and respect different actors, writers, and prophets.

  I can love someone and believe different ideas about when life begins and what happens when it ends.

  I can love someone and focus differently on good works and strong faith.

  I can love someone and be born years apart or live next door.

  I can love someone even though they have less money than me, or more. Or less education, or more kids, or less hair, or better teeth.   I may be created in God’s image, but I am not God.  Therefore, God is probably very different from me, though I cannot see or understand God fully. Surely God is as different from me as all the people mentioned above who are so different from me.

  So why is it so hard for me to love all those other people I see? Why is it so hard to tolerate, appreciate, or respect?   Do I really have to try? Is loving God also difficult?   It sure is great to have brothers, ones I can see, who encourage me on the loving path, and who are not afraid to share these goals publicly.