Chaplain 2010

Chaplain’s Messages 2010  Mad River Lodge #77

Chaplain’s Message January 2010 By Rick Rayfield

Before the Silver Cord of Life Snaps

Eccelesiates 12:12:  Of the making of books there is no end, and  much study is a weariness to the flesh.

In England and Netherlands last month, I saw many different covers to the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol.  One version replaced the Scottish Rite eagle and number 33 with a Masonic square compasses.  The plot focuses on Scottish Rite, not Blue Lodge masonry. No doubt though the publishers felt the more familiar square and compasses would make it clear to the public that freemasons were once again on the loose, as they were in The Da Vinci Code.  Many books, many covers.  We rewrite and retell stories to suit our needs, even in our own minds.  We can even wear ourselves out.

We have a fresh year before us. 2010. We are already a tenth of a century into the 21st century, and many of are still living in the 20th century. We need to lift up our eyes.

Just a few sentences earlier in Ecclesiates we read the familiar,

Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. Ecclesiates 12:6

Yes, that’s a different translation than we use.  We must not wear ourselves out too much with replaying the past, until we hear our teachers lament, what do we know? It is a New Year, and we should remember our Creator. We are young in this century, and should act, not just study the past. When these words were written,  “making books” meant hand-copying scrolls. We must, as our Creator did, be young at heart and improve on the past.

Chaplain’s Message February 2010 by Rick Rayfield

Your Favorite President

Who is your favorite President?  My favorite President is Jimmy Carter.

I did not say my favorite was the best, or greatest, or should be anyone else’s favorite. Just my own life history, interests, and values lead me to answer the question that way.  You can’t disagree with my favorite. You can have your own.  I can ask you about yours (I just did), and you can ask me about mine.  By discussing our favorites, we can learn about each other, and from each other.

As we celebrate Presidents Day in February- now an amalgam of Lincoln’s birthday (12th) and Washington’s (22nd)- I urge us to talk about what we have liked and disliked about leaders- in our nation, and in our town, and even in our lodge. Let us celebrate good leadership,  leadership which we as freemasons share democratically and fraternally.

In Clint Eastwood’s movie, Unforgiven,  there is an unjust and violent scene in which an Englishman proclaims the virtues of having a king, over the shortcomings of electing a president.  Gene Hackman mercilessly beats Richard Harris to a pulp, not so much because he has the opinion, but because he seems to impose it on others with a superior attitude.  We know it is wrong, the beating. We know that free speech entitles that cock-eyed (and cockneyed) opinion.  Freemasons are ever on the watch to celebrate human excellence and progress and charity and freedom, and guard against injustice and selfishness and repression.

Come on now- tell me- who’s your favorite president?  If you chose our illustrious Masonic brother Ben Franklin, we need to have a serious chat.

Chaplain’s Message March 2010    Chaplain Rick Rayfield

 Dylan Thomas:  “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”

We drape our lodge rooms for 30 days when a brother dies.  We will mourn some for the rest of our lives.  Sadly, a brother often passes on who we did not meet and never knew, and the mourning seems a bit disingenuous. What a mixed grill.

Shakespeare said that “parting is such sweet sorrow”.  I think he meant that in paying farewell we often recognize the value of what is passing on, and perhaps it is only in parting that we give up our petty complaints and face our deep connection and appreciation.

This past month, a brother’s wife passed on, one perhaps not known to recent members.  And we lost a distinguished brother, a Past Grand Master, our own Lodge secretary,  though we have seen him little outside the nursing home in recent years.

Amid sadness, it is not easy to celebrate the wondrous parts of the lives now transformed.  The choice is ours to keep alive the stories, the honor, the values, and all that we treasured in the earthly lives of those who have left us, the musing comrades.

I overheard Alleen Eurich talking with Ed in 1988, shortly after he returned from some heart treatments. Ed was reconsidering whether he should continue with his plan to go to Montserrat on a church-sponsored trip to help rebuild homes after Hurricane Hugo. ( Half of the men on the trip were Freemasons.) Alleen told Ed he should stick with the plan, because at age 72 he wasn’t getting any younger and it might be his last chance to do something like that.  Service was, to Ed and Alleen Eurich, an opportunity more than a duty.

Almost twenty years ago Brother Rev Paul Martz led the church in a short ritual to bid farewell to Don and Nancy Demas as they moved to Hawaii.  We could not believe we were losing them.  I visited them on Kauai. It was clear they missed Vermont but they were enjoying the change and challenge.  They adventured from their Green Mountain home, and they came back together.  It takes courage to pull up roots, and to put them back.

“Though lovers be lost, love is not.   Death shall have no dominion.”

Chaplain’s Message June 2010– By Rick Rayfield

Goodness God, Why that?

God can be a bit scary.  Kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden.   Flooded the whole earth and killed everything except what was on the ark. Told Abraham to sacrifice his son (that would be Isaac if you are Jewish or Christian,  or Ishmael if you are Muslim).  And promises judgment by fire to end the world.  Good God!  Good God?

We sometimes say we were created in God’s image.  But it might be more likely, given our limited understanding of God, that we have created our vision of God as in our image.  When we humans are kind, honorable, generous, loving, hopeful and joyful, we are indeed quite wonderful.  Yet we are capable of horrible destruction and harm, often unintentional. We see God that way too.

It is hard to explain this to children, who ask why a God that loves them so can also allow, even command, bad things to happen.  Children are likewise puzzled that adults who love them so, and care for them, can often explode in anger and do hurtful things.  We all struggle with this- and find it in our depictions of God as well- the creator and the destroyer.  Our vision is incomplete, without full understanding, both of ourselves and God.  We believe in truth and goodness, and strive for them, and remain constantly perplexed that perfection is so difficult even for God.

Summer is upon us, with some perfect weather. But not always. Rain it must.

Chaplain’s Message   September 2010  by Rick Rayfield

We are the World — We are the Brothers

Remember the hit song and video We Are The World, as a benefit in 1985 for African famine relief?  It was the idea of Harry Belafonte, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and sung to fame by 45 famous singers in one recording session.  The song was repeated this year titled We Are The World 25, as a Haiti relief fund-raiser.

Critics have complained that despite the good intentions, the song and its successor do not tackle the underlying causes of the tragedies they help to relieve.

So it is with Freemasonry.  Year after year, We are the Brothers.  Some years we give and extra push, finding time and energy for special projects, sometimes coasting along with our usual good work.  We are diverse, young and old, new and seasoned, a real mix.  We have our stars- celebrity members, presidents, and children’s hospitals.  And we take hits regularly for not doing more or better or different if we really want to make a difference. We are usually our strongest critics.

The song starts “There comes a time when we heed a certain call.”  Perhaps you will gently hear the call as we resume our Masonic activities this fall.  We are local and we are global.  We are ancient, and we are today.  We are the brothers, always welcome.

Chaplain’s Message    October 2010  by  Chaplain Rick Rayfield

The Letter G

G is for God or geometry in most Masonic traditions. Check the “letter G” talk in your Monitor.  Masons have wide beliefs in God, but we each signed a petition saying whatever God is, God is one, true, and everlasting. Scottish Rite masonry welcomes new members with an assurance of religious toleration, yet the belief in “a temple in the heart of man where all may worship.”

How many of us enjoyed geometry class? Some  did, some didn’t.  But almost every mason, operative or speculative, can tell you the virtual of checking a rectangle for equal diagonal lines, be it a wall, a foundation, or a piece of plywood.  And we all truly believe the Pythagorean theorem, with a 3x4x5 triangle being one of our favorite examples.  So liking geometry class or not is similar to whether we like a particular church or not.  Whatever our preferences for worship, or math class, we have a belief in those core underpinnings, the foundation of our personal temples.  We know there is truth and beauty in the world, just as surely as there is God and geometry.  Certainly there are mysteries, and confusion, and different views. Sometimes we get tangled in words.  Even by State Law, pi cannot be 3.0; it is much more interesting.  A core of commonality keeps us afloat and together. Marvelous.

Chaplain’s Message  November 2010  by Rick Rayfield

“God created all,…. and gave man spiritual insight so that he would understand Nature, understand himself, and know God through his wonderful signs.”  Yusef Ali

Sometimes the autumn brings a sense of the end of life-  leaves falling, plants withering, animals burrowing or migrating away.  Yet at this time of year, many Vermonters finish preparing their home and woodpile and snow tires for the winter, and head out into the barren woods.  Of course, the woods are not barren.  Less lush, and quieter.  But in November we find plenty to appreciate on a short walk out the back door, or a full day at deer camp.

Recently I taught a unit on leaves to Fayston school kids.  We looked at similarities and differences in different leaves, even ones on the same tree.  We looked at how human and plant veins carry fluid, same but different.  I showed them the buds already on the branches for next spring’s leaves.

In the quote above, from Yusef Ali’s introduction to the first Surah of the Koran, we find the term “spiritual insight”. Sometimes it is hard to define “spiritual”.  I remind myself that the root of the word is “breath”.  When the kids saw the tiny buds, some breathed out- “wow”.  And some held their breath and bugged their eyes, and muttered “really?”

Let us not fool ourselves.  Deer camp and leaf drives and fall jaunts are a lot like “church”.  The designs of the Grand Architect on his trestleboard are a wonder to behold. And a worthwhile template for our own temples.

Chaplain’s Message  December 2010  by Rick Rayfield

And He was a Good Man too.
“Some say John was preacher. Some say John was a Jew. Well I say John was a natural man, and he was a good man too.”  That’s from the song, “You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley.”     I am back thinking about why Masons esteem the holy Saints John.

John The Baptist was first cousin to Jesus.  He baptized Jesus; he prepared the way.   His head was chopped off by Herod and presented at a party.  When Jesus heard of it, he walked off alone along the shore.  Imagine how he felt,  for his cousin, for their families, for his fellow preacher, for himself.  But the crowd followed him and the famous story of loaves and fishes follows.

John who wrote the Gospel and Revelations came later, he followed in the path.  He broadened the message of Jesus the Jew to people of wide beliefs and views.  “In the Beginning was the Word.. ” is how he begins.

Sometimes we lead the way, and sometimes we follow and do the work. Sometimes we are at the front of the line. Sometimes in the rear.

As the December St John’s Sunday draws nigh at Christmastime, let us, in this time of celebration,  balance our Masonic work between maintaining the old that is good, and turning ourselves to changes to improve the world before us.  The holy Saints John are our exemplars in this.