Chaplain 2011

Chaplain’s Messages 2011

Chaplain’s Message January 2011  by Rick Rayfield

Wise Men have Epiphanies

Twelfth Night, or January 5th, is the customary celebration of Epiphany, the visit of the three magi from Babylon to baby Jesus. Sometimes they are loosely portrayed as three kings.  Sometimes “epiphany” is used to describe either a journey- such as the three magi took – or a sudden realization.  An “ah-ha” moment is an epiphany.

The wisdom of Solomon, or of the three magi, or of a Nobel Prize winner, or of a Freemason, is the willingness to take a journey, to seek, and to discover new truths.  Wisdom is more than knowledge, or being clever, or even having sound judgment.  Wisdom comes from the willingness to discover in the wide world, and within ourselves, new and different pieces in the puzzle of creation.

I saw it last summer when a retired Greek businessman, a devote Orthodox New Englander (go figure), sat at our kitchen table.  He questioned (with reluctance, then sympathy) the life goals of a 16 year old boy sitting across from him wearing a sequined blouse and pink high heels.  They shook hands at the end of the conversation.  East meets…. not sure what, but interesting.

Wisdom comes in finding how the designs of the Grand Architect fit together. Wisdom comes for those who seek and are still willing in later years to say “Ah ha!”  As B F Skinner said, taking his last sip of water before he died,  “Marvelous.”

This is our Masonic tradition.  We preserve and spread the light of learning, extolling the work of the Grand Architect.  And we continually seek, as brothers and friends, to increase that light and to decrease our distance from the Grand Designs on the heavenly trestleboard.    Despite, or perhaps due to, our years, we relish each epiphany, each ah-ha, each fresh view, with the wonder of a child.  Happy New Year.

Chaplain’s Message  February 2011 by Rick Rayfield

Solomon’s Cane

The Koran tells a tale of King Solomon watching over men and jinn (sort of genies) at labor – perhaps building the Temple, or perhaps other temples he was reputed to have constructed.  Solomon, the legend goes, took his last breath and died standing there, leaning on his cane.  Due to the cane, his body did not fall.  The workers saw him erect, and continued their labours.  In forty days, termites ate away the cane, and Solomon’s body fell and his death was revealed.

Like any allegory, numerous lessons can be drawn from this tale.  In warring cultures, a man hopes to die with his boots on, with his sword in his hand.  Not Solomon.  Solomon fulfills a different dream, of setting in motion peaceful constructions for utility and wonder.  He dies on the job. He dies standing up. His work goes on without him, his presence felt.

Eventually the tiny gnawing creatures turn us to dust, in this case starting with Solomon’s cane.  Nothing magical in the cane.  The magic is in the story, in how the cane is used.  With simple actions, kind words, careful thoughts, we can stand beyond our days.  The temples we build can last in surprising ways.

Chaplain’s Message  March 2011   By Rick Rayfield

A Touch of Pride

Our Irish brethren are proud this month. Some of us will march proudly on Mardi Gras before we begin our Lental sacrifice.  Sports fans have pride in their teams.  Crowds of citizens around the world are reveling in political change.  So what is the warning against pride dating back at least to the ancient Greeks and Romans?  Why all the tales of great heroes whose tragic flaw is hubris- pride?

Our brother, Ben Franklin, tried to cultivate one virtue each month.  He said humility was the hardest, because when he sensed himself becoming humble, he was proud of his success.

And it is tragic to not be proud of what you have done well, to live in a shadow of yourself or others.  Self-esteem makes our blood flow in health.  How do we balance humility and pride?

As one who has made colossal and frequent errors, I’d like to offer a few suggestions- to remind myself if nothing more.  I try to thank those who have helped me achieve anything that makes me proud.  SuperBowl winners often invoke God; I’d suggest thanking those a little closer to your pride.    I try to recall the failures that usually accompany the success,  revering persistence more than genius, as recommended by Vermonter Calvin Coolidge.  I try to remember that my work may seem important- especially in light of my modest ability-  but that the world will “little note nor long remember” my relatively small contribution.  And always look ahead, to the mountain taller than the one you just climbed.

Let us whisper in a brother’s ear when we see the balance of pride and humility tilted too far one way or the other.  Not a perfect life,  but “well-done” good and faithful servant.

Chaplain’s Message  April 2011  By Rick Rayfield

“When I was a child, I thought as a child.”

April Fools Day is a favorite day for the kids in our family.  Of many explanations is that the day used to be the first day of the New Year.  First Julius Caesar and later Pope Gregory corrected the calendar. Oops.  Others date it to 536 in Persia.

Does spring time make us frolic?  Are we looking for a chance to have some fun? Do we rebel against change and cling to old traditions?

One April 1st,  I put some fake golden arches over the empty liquor store building in Waitsfield, now the health food store.  I put up a sign saying, “Coming Soon”.  Sad to say this was not recognized as “foolery” by several town “fathers” and a spate of  phone calls had to calm the electricity in the air that Sunday morning. The local paper had it on the front page that week.

The arches were a joke.  The issue of chain restaurants homogenizing America’s small towns and retailers was no joke.

Sometimes children speak wisely, even if inadvertently.  Our search for truth and wisdom is not launched by the words, “Believe every wise person.”  The wise may be joking to teach us, or entertain. Or they may be wrong.  No, our search for truth from childhood through our whole lives requires that we search for it. We should search with good humor, for we will be often mistaken. When we find truth, we should treasure it and also have some fun and joy in it.

Chaplains Message May 2011  By Rick Rayfield

Where is Solomon’s Temple?

Solomon’s Temple in history was built around 1000 BCE and destroyed in 587 BCE as the Jews were taken in “Babylonian captivity”.  The Jews were “freed” by King Cyrus, and after some halting steps at rebuilding the Temple, they finally built the Second Temple around 520 BCE with aid of King Darius (as described in several Scottish Rite degrees). Around 19 BCE Herod greatly enlarged the tired Second Temple, which stood until 70 CE, when the Romans torn it down while suppressing a Jewish revolt.  In the 7th century BCE, the Dome of the Rock was constructed as a mosque on this ideal site of the Second Temple, with the “wailing wall” below as a visible and potent remnant of the Second Temple. Solomon’s Temple ruins may also be below the Dome of the Rock, though archeologists have proposed several other sites.

Where is Solomon’s Temple? With all due respect, perhaps the best answer is 4376 Main Street in Waitsfield.  Or perhaps the best answer is in our Masonic hearts, as masonry teaches by sign, symbols, and allegories. “There is a temple in the heart of man where all may worship.”

Freemasonry is religious, but is not a religion.  Freemasonry upholds the idea that universal features are shared by the variety of religions, and that by celebrating and upholding these universals, we can bind humankind in a world-wide brotherhood.  Some religions claim exclusive divine truth and cannot tolerate freemasonry’s openness to variety in belief and religious practice.  We mourn their refusal to join our cause directly, but embrace common goals and dialog.  From the particular history of Solomon’s Temple – shared in various forms by a handful of religions – we draw the universal idea of building in our lives a structure fitting the genius and beauty of the rest of God’s creation. Our personal efforts may be humbler than Herod’s.  Our group efforts may exceed them.

Chaplains Message May 2011  By Rick Rayfield

Where is Solomon’s Temple?

Solomon’s Temple in history was built around 1000 BCE and destroyed in 587 BCE as the Jews were taken in “Babylonian captivity”.  The Jews were “freed” by King Cyrus, and after some halting steps at rebuilding the Temple, they finally built the Second Temple around 520 BCE with aid of King Darius (as described in several Scottish Rite degrees). Around 19 BCE Herod greatly enlarged the tired Second Temple, which stood until 70 CE, when the Romans torn it down while suppressing a Jewish revolt.  In the 7th century BCE, the Dome of the Rock was constructed as a mosque on this ideal site of the Second Temple, with the “wailing wall” below as a visible and potent remnant of the Second Temple. Solomon’s Temple ruins may also be below the Dome of the Rock, though archeologists have proposed several other sites.

Where is Solomon’s Temple? With all due respect, perhaps the best answer is 4376 Main Street in Waitsfield.  Or perhaps the best answer is in our Masonic hearts, as masonry teaches by sign, symbols, and allegories. “There is a temple in the heart of man where all may worship.”

Freemasonry is religious, but is not a religion.  Freemasonry upholds the idea that universal features are shared by the variety of religions, and that by celebrating and upholding these universals, we can bind humankind in a world-wide brotherhood.  Some religions claim exclusive divine truth and cannot tolerate freemasonry’s openness to variety in belief and religious practice.  We mourn their refusal to join our cause directly, but embrace common goals and dialog.  From the particular history of Solomon’s Temple – shared in various forms by a handful of religions – we draw the universal idea of building in our lives a structure fitting the genius and beauty of the rest of God’s creation. Our personal efforts may be humbler than Herod’s.  Our group efforts may exceed them.

Chaplain’s Message Sept 2011 (right after “Tropical Storm” Irene)
by Rick Rayfield

Disaster Strikes, Charity Answers

All brothers are invited to attend the 9-11 memorial service at noon at Kenyon’s Field being organized by the local Boy Scouts and the American Legion with Fred Messer’s leadership. A great number of worn-out US flags will be retired at that ceremony. Do you remember the outpouring of charity, in time, energy, and service on 9-11 2001? Do you recall how government largely stood back while private experts rushed to clear Ground Zero, without contracts, just phone calls and handshakes?

Hurricane Irene has destroyed much of Bridge Street. She tore up buildings, dumped mud, soaked floors and walls and property. You have seen the photos. On our side of Main Street, our Masonic Lodge building was dry and unharmed. It is our turn to help. The disaster relief committee will use our building for a headquarters to coordinate the work needed to bring Bridge Street back. Our neighbors on Bridge Street will likely use our basement and dining room for temporary storage.

Suddenly we see ourselves differently. Our building is being remodeled, and brother Oddfellows have begun moving in, and suddenly it seems like the whole Town is moving in. As Freemasons, we hope our faith is well-founded, as we offer charity to those in need, unexpectedly, from one of our greatest resources. What else can we do? What else can we do? We meet on the level, act on the plumb, and are seen to greet our neighbors on the square.

Chaplain’s Message October 2011   by Rick Rayfield

“And the Lord God was sitting at the banquet table with the other gods”

Psalm 82 gets translated in many ways, in part because not many translators want to admit even the existence of other gods in relation to our overarching God.  Depending  on the translation, God exhorts either the other gods, or the mighty among men, or all men, to do justice to the poor and oppressed.  Finally God warns that all but God Almighty will be returned to dust.

I continue to be haunted by this Psalm for many reasons.  I spoke too briefly at the district meeting recently about Ed Eurich’s influence on Mad River Lodge I skipped one of the most important aspects of Ed’s service. I emphasized how he exhorted us to polish our ritual into something of beauty and joy, to take care and pains with details. I skipped how it seemed to me that Ed did not enjoy the trappings of office or influence so much as the pleasure in seeing good work done. He truly took satisfaction in being part of a well-oiled machine that served everyone.  He labored quietly and happily, a song on his lips. As our secretary, as a public servant, as a carpenter on a mission trip, as a church auctioneer, Ed was a Brother at the table.

In Psalm 82, we open with God sitting at a banquet table with gods, or kings, or men. That alone speaks to me.   We are individuals with our own lives and views,  but we share a banquet table not only with each other, but with everyone, even God. We are part of the Grand Design, not just workmen laboring at it.

Chaplain’s message November 2011  By Rick Rayfield

The Throne of God

Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river?
Shall we gather at the river that flows past the throne of God?

This old gospel song concludes, Yes, We will gather at the river.  Right now as we drive by and over the Mad River which has stripped its own banks raw, and left sludge in our fields and homes, we wonder if perhaps it also washed away the throne of God.  Of course not.   It is natural to wonder.  It is natural to doubt a loving Creation when we have been flooded.  We did not even get a warning to build an ark.

When, if ever, will the Mad River again take a wondrous rather than dangerous feeling in our hearts?  We often think of evil things as inherently dangerous. To some surprise, in every human culture, we also find that the most sacred things are also dangerous.  They need to be approached and handled with care.  Rivers and Architects can be perilous.

As the seasons turn, especially in the face of Thanksgiving, Advent, Hanukah, Christmastide, and New Year, we have the opportunity, in the face of the brotherhood displayed in our community in the aftermath of Irene, to find again that the Mad River does indeed flow past the throne of God.  We have the chance again to discover ourselves, our brothers, our community, our river of life, and the mysteries of a definitely not-boring Creation.

 

Chaplain’s Message  December 2011 by Rick Rayfield

Christmas Trees

With modern windows and air fresheners, it hardly seems necessary to cut down evergreen trees and bring them in for a few weeks in winter.  The pagan practice of this was going on for more than 1000 years before Christians adopted it as a symbol to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  We could reject the whole habit as a cultural mess, with the highjacking of winter solstice festivals by the Church to turn our attention to religion rather than the sun, the moon and tree spirits.

Who does not like a good stew on a cold day though?  And it’s never the same, whether we use variations on the recipe, or just let it age for a couple days.  Some things stay the same, some things change. Sometimes there is venison for the stew, and sometimes…. Well….maybe next year.

We can grumble about certain holidays gone sour, or bewail the loss of respect for the “old ways”.   I hope we can set those moans and tears aside and enjoy what is preserved, and get a kick out of what is new.  Children and hunters seem to make this easier. They find joy in the return of seasonal tidings and symbols. They find fresh that we sniff as stale, and they invent new views.  I am going to try to kick up my heels, and hunt my woods for the best Christmas tree ever.

 

 

 

 

 

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