Chaplain 2013

Chaplain’s Messages 2013

Chaplain’s Message January 2013  by Rick Rayfield

The World Did Not End

The people who mistranslated Mayan writings and claimed the world would end on December 21, 2012 were wrong. These claims that the world will end soon go back over 2000 years. Jesus and John the Baptist were among those who straightforwardly said the world would end shortly. And they have continued without abatement to the present day. The calculus for these apocalyptic views is usually that the suffering of this life, if accepted righteously, will lead to rewards in a life after the Great Judgment. How different is the view that we should lead good and fruitful lives, good stewards of our bodies, our families, our communities, and our planet, in order to hand the torch to future generations. Not just our kids, but our grandkids, and for generations to follow. This is a faith that goodness will endure. Many religions demand allegiance to their theology, some simply suggest a path. Most of us find we share some beliefs with our brethren, but diverge in interesting ways due to our upbringing, experiences, education, and traditions. Rather than separate us, as Freemasons, we recognize the power of our shared beliefs to knit us together, and the variety of our beliefs to provide pleasing variations in the fabric of our brotherhood. We seek truth for ourselves, but do not demand it be the same for everyone. Commonalities are divine, of course. So are the different paths we tread. May 2013 fill us with appreciation of a changing world in which eternal values nonetheless persist.


Chaplain’s Message February 2013   by Rick Rayfield

Temple and Time Together

A temple is a sacred place, where mankind connects with the divine. The root word is the Latin templum.  It is the same root as template, which means a good design.  Divine design.
The temple we each have behind our eye,  on each forward side of our head, comes from the Latin root tempus.  It means both time and the side of the head.  “Temporal”   means in reference to time or to the side of the head.   One word,  two  meanings.  Like “Slip” is clothing or slide. “Book” is to read or to hurry or arrest.  “Rock” is a stone or an action or music.
We should be used to it. Multiple meanings in our words allow us the richness of metaphors to match to rich experiences of each other and the world around us.   Square.   Upstanding.  Does righteous refer to a right angle?  Yep.
As Freemasons we seek to build not stone temples, but rather build our lives as temples, fit places for the divine.   And of course, we are also stewards of the brick and mortar temple where we meet.
We tap and scratch our heads, our temples, with our fingers,   knowingly or questioningly.  Or we circle our fingers there to indicate something goofy.  We speak of when “the golden bowl  be broken”, referring to the skull and brain; we know our “time” or “tempus” is shifting to eternity, our place in the world is no longer just in our mortal body. Time and place are both sacred if we make them so.
Jefferson’s Declaration speaks of “Divine Providence”, which provides us not only sustenance for our bodies, but inspiration for our thoughts, for our spiritual designs.  Does that providence come from above, or from within?  I suggest it comes from “between”. The Divine is not found inside the Temple, nor does it hover above it uninvolved. Providence for our bodies and our spirits comes from the meeting of our lives as we share our designs and our time together.  Knock heads a bit.  Carefully.  Divinely.

Chaplain’s Message  March 2013

Masons in Space

Masonic brothers Aldrin,  Glenn,  Grissom and others  have been to outer space.  Aldrin  walked on the moon.  Grissom died in his country’s service in a launchpad fire.  Glenn went up for a second look at age 77.

What happens to our sense of level and plumb when we become weightless?  A square is still square isn’t it, even in space?    Context is critical for so much of our Masonic work.  Without the gravity of Earth, our symbol of a plumb as a weight on a string becomes, well, awkward in out space.  Our ancient level depended on a square attached to a plumb.  What is level in out in space?

Come on down to Earth and stand at the North Pole.  Go due South 100 miles and turn left at a right angle to the East.  Go east 100 miles.  Turn left a second time at a right angle, and your 100 miles takes you back to the North Pole.  Three right angles, on a sphere, make a complete triangle.  That’s right,  three right angles, not four, make a triangle on a sphere.   Context.  The Earth is not flat- we knew that.

While the technological and scientific achievements that bring us space flight, satellite communications, 911 emergency responding, and modern medicine are indeed glorious, we should also see how beautifully they remind us that our symbols in the search for intellectual, moral, and divine truth are symbols. Wisdom feels like a shining goal in the distance,  but is often experienced as a moving target.

It is good to have brothers, in space, and right around town, to help us see not only our symbols, but also the context in which we employ them.

Chaplain’s Message  April 2013   by Rick Rayfield

Spring is a moving target

April is poetically reputed to be the “cruelest month”.  Not in my book.  Maybe in other places.  Maybe for other people.  I like spring.
I like to argue that spring is more colorful than autumn in Vermont.  No question that the autumn reds and oranges and yellows are more vivid.  However,  I love the pastels of springtime for three reasons.  First there are more colors,  more subtle shades, more gentle contrasts,  and  more textures spreading up from the riverbanks, and moving up the mountains.   Second, spring lasts longer.   The palette spreads slowly and evenly, not rushing to a day or two of peak.  I can come back to favorite spots for days, even weeks.  Third, the changes are the renewal of life from its wintry slumber.  Flowers on tree branches precede the leaves.  New growth on evergreens brings layers of warm color to the hillsides.  Life stretches its arms, spreads its wings, yawns slowly into summer.
Our work as freemasons often takes a break,  or fellowship amongst each other- our friendships, our trips, card games, and strategic planning reports.  In any season we can renew what was dormant or quiet.  We can blow flames back from the embers of our work and our fellowship.
One of the great landmarks of freemasonry is the term “ancient”.   No matter if we took a break, napped at our duties, put our friends on hold, or were away for the season.  We renew.  For decades and centuries. Year after year we come back to our work.  Always welcomed by brothers.   We spring back into action,  even if subtly and slowly.  Amen.

Chaplain’s Message- May 2013  by  Rick Rayfield

We have nothing to fear except fear itself.

Pope John Paul I opened his book with the words recounted from the angels on the first Easter, “Fear Not”.   I teach a college course titled the Psychology of Fear.  It gets a lot of students when offered, and they like the course.  We have much to avoid, and much to lose in life.  Fear is the emotion that often attends and often motivates our behavior as we seek a good life without disaster.   We could write tomes on fear.
Freemasons look at the world as a creation that is wondrous and full of opportunity, which should be praised and honored more than feared.  We are a brotherhood of optimists, believing that the Grand Architect is an excellent Builder, that Geometry describes a Universe where order can rule chaos.  The all-seeing eye does not make a perfect world, but it rests on one with a solid foundation.

Events in the world or in our own lives may lead us to shake our heads and ask what the world is coming to. You can find disease, and war, and terrorism, and senseless violence through out history in many forms.  You also will find civilization striving for hope, faith, and charity, for justice and truth,  and for limits to the imperfections in human nature and God’s nature.  Vigilance is prudent. Excessive fear is counter-productive to our aims and our satisfaction.  Let’s keep fear in the lower corner of our trestleboards, not the center design.

Chaplain’s Message   June 2013  by Rick Rayfield
How Deep the Foundation

In asking about our foundation, do you think I want to write about the history of freemasonry, or our most cherished values,  or the Lodge porch?  All three are susceptible to looking back in time.  All three suggest there is value in finding some bedrock core on which we rest.  All three have both specifically Masonic,  and also broader community perspectives.  All three have generated lots of discussion.

As Masons we employ the trowel to spread the cement of brotherly love,  but we do not extol the shovel as one of our symbols, the shovel which might dig the deep foundation.  Instead, we have the plumb, the level, and the square.  No matter what the foundation, we may still erect a skyscraper, a bridge, or a temple.  The famous leaning tower at Pisa, and the gargantuan efforts to stop further leaning, remind us that solid foundations are indeed highly desirable.  But corrections can be made on an imperfect foundation if it is solid.  What does it matter if Freemasonry predates 1719 in London? What does it matter if we debate in our quiet moments whether our duty is first to God, Country, or Family?  Why care if the porch is not dead level?
More important is that we use the tools we have to build up from whatever foundations we believe we have. Uprights righted.  Levels leveled. Squares squared.  These are verbs, for studying history, theology, or architecture. Some of us might need some shims and shimmying.  We have deep foundations and excellent tools for our work.

Chaplain’s Message  September 2013  by Rick Rayfield

Lucky Nine, er Seven, er what?

September, the ninth month. Three threes is nine, a super lucky or super sacred number for some people.  Nine branched candelabras adorned King Solomon’s Temple.  So here we are at the start of a new school year. The start of a new Masonic year for lodges like ours that are “dark” in the summer. The start of a New Year in the Jewish tradition with Rosh Hashanah on Sept 4th.  September, the ninth month.

Er, wait, “sept” means seven. What happened 2000 years ago? Was it Jesus? Nope. Two Roman Emperors had months renamed for them, Julius Caesar (July) and Augustus Caesar (August).  Nope. It was the insertion of January and February before that that bumped all the Roman months ahead.   So months seven, eight, nine and ten (Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec) still show the bump.  July and August used to be Quintius and Sextius.  Oh it’s even more complicated. The first of the year used to be April 1st. Even in the early 20thcentury some countries were still on an old “Julian”calendar that screwed up their planting and harvesting seasons because they had the wrong number of days in a year.  Whole books have been written on our sluggish calendars.

And we are “thinking man”, homo sapiens?

Did you know that in northern Maine kids get a week or three off of school in  September/October to harvest potatoes? Harvest break- a dying tradition.  Calendars and holidays are as numerous as our needs and our traditions, often without reason.

Whether nine is a lucky or sacred number or not, the ninth month is a fresh start up of our Mad River masonic year.   As we look to the outward work of our lodge, chicken pie, porch renovation, degree work, etc, let us remember the inward joy of improving our selves, temperi

  Tower of Babel   painting by Tobias Verhaecht, 1561-1631Image result for tower of babel tobias verhaecht

Chaplain’s Message  October 2013    by Rick Rayfield

Masonic Babble

  After the legendary Flood, which we survived in Noah’s ark, the Tower of Babel  (a ziggurat in Babylon)  was built by the unified human race to symbolize our unity of language and customs.  According to the Bible story (Genesis 11: 4-8), God decided instead to spread humans across the face of the Earth, diversifying our language (babble), our skin, our customs, but not our honor of the One True God.

God created diversity. God commanded diversity, in the face of a human tendency to conformity.  Hence, the Tower of Babel was first created by people as a symbol of the unity of mankind.  But it became associated with our diversity created by God.

That symbol has enjoyed a rich tradition of varied story-telling and literature and artwork for over four thousand years.  That design on the trestleboard of the Grand Architect has produced a world of hundreds of nations, thousands of dialects, and billions of people who consider themselves special souls.   Each of us is unique.   However, cut our skin, and each of us bleeds the same (Shakespeare).  We live in a constant vibration between our individuality and our similarity.
This is a great theme of education, culture, our Constitution, our Nation, and our Craft.   I see the many Masonic bodies- from Shriners to DeMolay.  I see the differences in aprons, in jewels,  in what hand we hold the staff, and whether our thumbs are up or down (Vermont is one of the few thumbs-up places).  I see Masons shake their heads when they see something done a “different way”.   I wonder if we, in our diversity,  we have lost sight of our unity.

Then I look at the Lodge room, and I see a single letter G,  however its meaning may vary.  I see an altar in the center, however much the sacred book may be different.  I see brothers- a perfect metaphor for people the same but different- meeting in seeming babble at times, and yet striving for unity in improving themselves and the world, and to implement the Divine design on the Trestleboard of the Future.  Whether our labors are babbling, bubbling,  bumbling, butchering, or beautifying, we are indeed caught in a web of striving to balance the commands to love our selves and to love each other.  So mote it be.

Chaplain’s Message  November 2013 by Rick Rayfield

Charity Begins Next Door

The kid next door was wearing out the driveway. Back and forth in his bicycle, round and round.  It was great to see all that enthusiasm and energy in a youngster.  But I noticed the bike was way too small for him. He had outgrown it,  knees high, back hunched.

I like to help people when I can.  So I moved some stuff around in my garage, and pulled out an old bike.  I went down to the bike shop and got some fresh tires for it.  I cleaned and oiled it, and it was a fine running piece of equipment.  I wheeled it next door, and the kid’s eyes bugged out.  I adjusted the seat and the handlebars for him and he was zooming around the yard again.

Every day I smiled as I saw him getting out the cobwebs after school, pedaling my gift. Boy, I felt pretty good and proud of myself.  It was a good week.

Then I was surprised to see him one afternoon back on his old bike.  I drifted over, thinking my repair skills might be welcomed.  I was informed that he had given the bike away. Something about a drive to provide bikes for kids on the other side of the tracks.  You know who lives there.

So I knocked on the door to have a chat with the kid’s mother.  She confirmed the story, and said she and her kid were very proud to have made the donation to someone they did not know at all.  I was somewhere between confused and pissed off. But I bit my tongue and headed home.

I stewed a bit, until finally I imagined how that kid might have felt about My Gift.  What the kid had thought and learned- not about the bike- but about the gift, what I did. Then I felt kinda small.

So I went out in the garage, and fixed up another bike.  I wheeled it over and asked if the kid thought anybody else needed a bicycle. Never saw that bike again.

Sure felt better after that.    So mote it be.

Chaplain’s Message  December 2013  by Rick Rayfield

The Darkest Hour, the Brightest Light

Most painters start a picture on a white background, typically gesso- a strong plaster.  But the shiny gold frames we see in museums are usually made of wood and gesso, and then a layer of red or green clay called bole.   The gold is applied over this darker background rather than a white one.  In fact some painters paint on a dark background. Black velvet is usually considered pop art, but is in fact effective.  I have a lovely oil painting my grandfather acquired which was done on a black tar surface I have yet to identify. A lady’s hand reaches into a waterfall.  If you want to think of dark backgrounds, think of Rembrandt.  Think of Miro and Roualt. Rothko.  And what architect today does not consider how their skyscraper or museum will look illuminated against dark skies.

Though December snow may provide a bright background for our days, those days are short.  We have longer dark nights.  “The darkest evening of the year,” says Robert Frost with miles to go he sleeps.  We can celebrate the winter solstice as the turning point in the return to the longer fruitful days of spring and summer. Renewal! Redemption! Rebirth!   But why not also extol the darkness as a backdrop for the precious light that seems even more bright.  The stars and moonlight.  The candles in the windows.  Deer eyes on the roadside. The flickering fire.   A call or visit with a friend or family member may be more relaxed and more precious when it’s dark outside.   An opportunity to look inward.

When trouble calls at any time of year, in an hour of darkness, remember that your light shines brightest in the night.  Many designs are traced on a blackboard.  Bundle up, and shine bright!  Miles to go. So mote it be.