Masonic Thought – Week of February 5, 2018

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“We have all the light we need,
we just need to put it in practice.”

 

Albert Pike

 

Brother Albert Pike is best known for his leadership of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, whose rituals he rewrote and redeveloped. His other claim to fame is his authorship of the book Morals and Dogma about those rituals and degrees. 

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Masonic Thought – Week of 1/17/2018

“Freemasonry has tenets peculiar to itself. They serve as testimonials of character and qualifications, which are only conferred after due course of instruction and examination. These are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a passport to the attentions and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost as long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned, let him be stripped of everything he has got in the world, still those credentials remain, and are available for use as circumstances benmasonrequire.

The good effects they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation. On the field of battle, in the solitudes of the uncultivated forest, or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile feelings, the most distant regions, and diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a special joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a Brother Mason.”

Benjamin Franklin

 

Brother Benjamin Franklin was born on this date (January 17)  in 1706. He was a Mason for sixty years and held a number of leadership positions including  Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania. He published the first Masonic book in America in 1734.

 

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Masonic Thought – Week of 1/9/2018

I regard the Masonic institution as one of the means ordained by the Supreme Architect to enable mankind to work out the problem of destiny; to fight against, and overcome, the weaknesses and imperfections of his nature, and at last to attain to that true life of which death is the herald and the grave the portal.

Theodore Roosevelt

 

Brother Theodore Roosevelt never held Masonic office but was proud of his Masonic membership. This picture of him in Master’s regalia was staged. Roosevelt became a member of Matinecock Lodge No. 806, Grand Lodge of New York, while Vice-President and remained an active Freemason during his Presidency. 

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St. John’s Day Reflections 2017

st__john_the_evangelist_icon_by_theophilia-dat6azkToday is the annual observance of the feast of St. John the Evangelist (sometimes called St. John the Apostle as well). One of the lodges to which I belong traditionally installed its officers on this day – as do some Grand Lodges.  As some have noted, neither St. John revered by Freemasons has anything to do with building or architecture. What makes the Evangelist worth our devotion as men and Masons?

John is the only apostle who (according to tradition) lived to old age. While modern biblical scholarship tells a different tale, the early Freemasons grew up in a culture that taught he wrote one of the four gospels that tell of the life and ministry of Jesus. One of the notable features of that story is that John never refers to himself by name but as the one whom Jesus loved.

At 51 I appreciate that John’s great revelation (the book of Revelation) comes in that latter part of life. The one whom Jesus loved had lived almost his entire life before that revelation came to him. Like a medieval cathedral that took generations of planning and execution to complete, John’s life laid the foundation for that moment of profound vision.

Our building is not complete until life nears its end. We make our plans (often unaware about how the Grand Architect of the Universe plans in parallel and sometimes contrast) and place our stones. The work of a lifetime is just that – a work unfinished until we lay the last stone with our last strength.

May we build faithfully in the year to come. May we reflect with satisfaction and gratitude on what God has allowed us to build – even if partially. Even in the moments when we think we are finished… or may be  frustrated at our lack of understanding of what our building will be… may we remain faithful to our calling and profession.

 

 

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Masonic Thought for Week of 12/4/2017

“The importance of improvement, setting an example, and shouldering responsibility for the future are our Masonic goals. And where will it all end? In brotherhood. What we build today will endure. That is our hope and our faith.”

– Stanley F. Maxwell

 

Stanley F. Maxwell was the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ. 1975-1985.  Among his most notable achievements was, during his time as Executive Secretary of the Supreme Council, overseeing the construction of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. 

 

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Masonic Thought – Week of 11/20/2017

The purpose of Freemasonry?

362065_1Its purpose is the same as it has been since the day when the stones for King Solomon’s Temple were hewn, squared and numbered in the quarries where they were raised. It is to take an individual – just one man at a time, mind you, and as good a man as possible – and try to make a better man out of him. That is all. How desperately the world needs just that! And if that technique is outmoded, then the experience of two thousand years is all wrong; the Parable of the Mustard Seed is horse-and-buggy philosophy; the Leaven in the Loaf is a cruel hoax.

The mere fact that men do not comprehend its purpose does not mean that Freemasonry has no purpose, nor that its purpose is outmoded – it only means that the stones are not being well hewn and squared in the quarries where they are raised.

Freemasonry has not been tried in the balance and found wanting: it has been found difficult and not tried.

Dwight L. Smith

Brother Smith was a Past Grand Master and long-time Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. He wrote a number of Masonic books. Among his best known writings is “Whither Are We Traveling?’ from which this excerpt comes. 

 

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The Cost of Dreaming

The Lord had said to Abram,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household
to the land I will show you.

Following your dream – rather, following God’s dream – is one of humanity’s great adventures. Something for which we are made. Our lives have their greatest significance when we follow God’s leading and live out God’s dream.

Abram (who becomes Abraham) followed what God had said to him. It wasn’t easy. Nor quick. He spent years before he saw the fulfillment of God’s promise. And even then he saw only part of what God promised. Along the way, he made mistakes often. Along the way, he experienced doubt and family discord and loss.  

Sometimes we think if we could just get it right… if we could just discern God’s will… if we would hear clearly what God is saying then it will all be all right. But it won’t. We may find ourselves broke, alone, and wounded. Many of the faithful ones of God experienced suffering and even death because they said “yes” to God. Jesus himself reaches the climax of his mission in suffering and death. Should we expect anything different?  

Too often we think, and I have thought and counseled and even preached a gospel of “everything will be all right.” It will but perhaps not now. It will but perhaps not here. To follow God’s vision for your life is always right – it will not always turn out all right.  

Twice in my life I have made a big career change. In both cases, I experienced a significant financial loss. In both cases, I lost a security net and, even more, a sense of security in leaving “my country and my people.” In both cases, people were confused or uncertain about what I had done. People questioned the rightness of my choice.  It was right in both cases. Even now I am experiencing some of the cost in multiple ways of having left ministry when I did. It was still the right decision. It was still what God led me to do.

It was right in both cases. Even now I am experiencing some of the cost in multiple ways of having left ministry when I did. It was still the right decision. It was still what God led me to do. It may not all “work out” – meaning some things lost are lost for good. Some costs (by which I mean not just financial but also relational, social, emotional, etc.) won’t get repaid. 

I would be wrong to compare my experiences of following God’s will in great and small moments to the suffering of Christ or the deaths of the martyrs. But saying “yes” to God always costs us.  The journey of faith will lead to places where did not want to go and might not have gone had we known. But it is always worth it. So say “yes.”

 

 

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The Bishop’s Ghost

In the last few days I have read several blog posts about the church – church attendance, church culture. This one from the Facebook post of a friend on church attendance. But this one on ghosting by the in the church – Christian Ghosting. – has really stayed on my mind. The blog was originally shared on a Facebook friend’s timeline, too. The long chain of responses expressing hurt and pain were hard to read – harder to ignore.

Ghosting means someone abruptly ends a friendship with little or no explanation and withdraws from a person’s life. I’ve experienced it in many spheres of life. But this ghosting in the church? I’ve seen it.  I am afraid I have done it. I have experienced it.

When I was a United Methodist pastor, we talked often of covenant, collegiality, community. What we don’t talk about it and won’t admit that the ghosting in the church extends to this sacred community of clergy colleagues. It might be where it has its most perfect form.

When I talked with my district superintendent about my decision to leave active ministry, I chose a method of leaving that made the most sense to me and to my family. I submitted the paperwork, And I waited. I heard from the board of pensions because I was due certain benefits on the route I chose. I heard from the benefits officer in my annual conference.

But I never heard from my bishop, the man who is supposed to be my spiritual overseer. I even emailed him to share a bit of my journey to this decision to leave. Nothing. Not a polite “thank you.” Nothing. After 20+ years of living in what I was told was a sacred covenant I didn’t merit a single word. Nor did I hear from the committee on conference relations whose chair was supposed to sign my paperwork. I was supposed to meet with them to talk about my decision and my new status. Nothing here either. No one checked on me or my family to see how we were or if we needed spiritual or other support. Q

I had been – perhaps unintentionally although it’s difficult to think so – ghosted. I became an unperson. It was as if I didn’t exist and never had.

Something funny happened though. As little as I mattered to the institutional structures, it dawned on me that they were as unreal and unimportant to me as I was to them. My bishop, my conference relationship – they quickly became ghost-like, ethereal to me. What I thought was at the core of my identity turned out to be unimportant. I am not talking about my ministry or the real colleagues and friends I made along the way. But the structures and those who preside over them.

Ghosts in stories frighten and trouble us. The bishop’s ghost holds no fear for me. Only sadness. Perhaps that’s how ghosts feel when confronted by other ghosts. But I am learning anew what is real.

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On Not Fretting

I have been amazed over the years the number of times that things happening around me and in me come into sharp focus in a single verse from Scripture. It is God speaking – reaching out into chaos or hurt or confusion or doubt or whatever else. Like handwriting you recognize before you read the return address on an envelope. Or seeing the car of a beloved friend or family member in the driveway and know that one is here.

I began a Bible reading plan Friday morning and the first verse I read was Psalm 37:8:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

“Do not fret.” I had always thought of “fretting” as worrying. The word as used in the Bible is more akin to anger, frustration, and the like.

Last week Dana and I received some good news about a possible health issue. The relief was almost overwhelming. And then the rest of the week fell apart. A series of things about which I was concerned or that I had anticipated in a positive way all came undone on Friday. And I found it hard not to fret. I was so sure about several things and then in a few hours – nothing.

We humans, being made in the image of God, are prone to fret. We become frustrated and even angry because we are not the one whose image we hold inside. We cannot control circumstances. We have no real control over what other people – even well-meaning – do. We can hope, plan, pray, choose, direct and still not get where we thought we were going.

Maybe it IS more like God than we understand? God wills our good in every sense of the word. Yet how often is God’s will frustrated? Often I would guess. And sometimes by the very creatures – you and I – whom God wants to bless.

This morning (Saturday) it is the day after these frustrations and fretting all came to roost. I am seeking God’s gentle voice in learning how not to fret. To fret our way to evil is not what God intends whatever else may be true. Finding our way to God is. Things don’t always work out. They don’t always come to fruition in some other way.

Faith leads us not so much to a better future but to the One is our future. Hope too.

 

 

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Masonic Quote of the Week – 5/31/2017

“To me, Freemasonry is one form of dedication to God and service to humanity. I am proud to walk in fraternal fellowship with my Brethren. Why am I a Freemason? Simply because I am proud to be a man who wants to keep the moral standards of life at high level and leave something behind so others will benefit. Only as I, personally, become better, can I help others to do the same.”

Rev. Norman Vincent Peale
The Scottish Rite Journal – February 1993

Best known for his book The Power of Positive Thinking, Rev. Peale was also an active and respected Freemason. He was born this day in 1898 in Bowersville, Ohio. 

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