GRAND ORATIONS 2010
Grand York Rite of California April 2010
Orations Copyright © 2010 Golden State Research Chapter Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of California The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors only and are not authorized by any Masonic organization. Unless otherwise identified, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Most Excellent Companion EDGAR W. FENTUM Grand High Priest, 2003-04 Royal Arch Masons of California
For his fervency and zeal as the prime mover in establishing the Golden State Research Chapter having authored and submitted Resolution 2002-8, which was adopted on April 30, 2002
PREFACE Though it is difficult sometimes to understand the official language of the Ritual Book, these three authors put their thoughts into a language that every Mason or non-Mason in the audience could readily comprehend and use in their daily lives. Using biblical quotes, and making them relevant is not an easy task -- I recognize that, and applaud their skills and diligence in giving us messages that are personally meaningful.
Most Excellent Companion Teddy G. Hammack, Grand High Priest Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of California
Table of Contents PREFACE .................................................................................. 4 INTRODUCTION ...................................................................... 6 GRAND ORATIONS, 2010 ................................................... 6 HOLY WISDOM ....................................................................... 8 I. An Ancient Church with an Unusual Name.......................... 8 II. The Fall of Constantinople ................................................. 9 III. An Example of Holy Wisdom from Our Own Times ....... 12 IV. Conclusion ...................................................................... 13 MY CREED ............................................................................. 16 MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT .................................................. 23 I. Sufficient Grace ................................................................ 24 II. Transformation. ................................................................ 26 III. Closing .......................................................................... 28 EPILOGUE .............................................................................. 30
GRAND ORATIONS, 2010 These orations were delivered at the California York Rite Grand Sessions in April, 2010. Rev. Bill Jefferies, serving as the Grand Chapter Orator, delivered “Holy Wisdom” on Monday, the 26th at the 156th Annual Convocation of The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of California; John Cooper, serving as Grand Council Orator, delivered “My Creed” on Tuesday, the 27th at the 150th Annual Assembly of Cryptic Masons of California; and Fr. Charles Maier, serving as Grand Prelate, delivered “My Grace is Sufficient” at the Vesper Services on the 25th. Rev. Jefferies, K.Y.C.H., is a 59 year member of Chico Leland Stanford Lodge, No. 111, F. & A. M., and belongs to the York Rite bodies of Butte County. He received the bachelor’s degree from Chico State College and holds graduate degrees from Washington University (St. Louis), Claremont Graduate School, and the Pacific School of Religion. After serving in the newly formed United States Air Force during the Korean War, he taught in private secondary schools for 15 years and then spent 20 years in the parish ministry of the United Methodist Church. Having joined the Order of DeMolay as a youth 66 years ago, he endeavors to support the local chapter in an advisory role. He served the Grand Lodge of California, F. & A. M., as Grand Chaplain in 1996 and the Grand Chapter, R. A. M., as Grand Orator in 2009-10. When John L. Cooper III left his career in education to become Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California 17 years ago, Freemasonry became his new classroom. Advocating the idea that a Mason should learn throughout his entire life, Cooper became a champion of applied Freemasonry. During his tenure, Cooper made many significant contributions to Masonry in California, 6
from developing the education components of Masonic Formation to launching the Annual Symposium to establishing a robust administrative infrastructure. He served as Grand Orator for the Grand Council in 2009-2010. Father Charles E. Maier, K.T.C.H., K.C.T., has served the Grand Commandery as Grand Prelate for 15 years and has been designated as Grand Prelate Emeritus by a unanimous vote of the Grand Commandery. He was knighted in Santa Ana Commandery No. 36 in 1955 and is a life member. Father Chuck served as a missionary, in a small parish development, and for 25 years as a full time hospital priest. He served the California Grand Lodge, F. & A. M., as Grand Chaplain in 1988.
HOLY WISDOM by William Jefferies, K.Y.C.H
I. An Ancient Church with an Unusual Name On the left bank of the Bosphorus, the estuary separating the continents of Europe and Asia at their point of closest congruence stands a huge and ancient building. For fourteen centuries, this building had been a house of worship. First, it was a Christian church. Then, after the city in which it is located fell to the Turks in 1453, it became an Islamic mosque. Since 1934, it has been a museum, maintained by the Turkish government. Architecturally, it is remarkable because its sixth-century builders solved for the first time on a large scale the problem of supporting a round dome on a square structure. Its vast rotunda is crowned by what was the largest of such domes resting on what are called pendentive columns from its construction in A.D. 537 until the building of the Cathedral of Saint Mark in Venice between 1047 and 1077. Religiously, this ancient church is remarkable â€“ among other reasons for its unusual name. When the church was constructed by the Emperor Justinian on the site of an earlier church of the same name, he continued the tradition of calling it Hagia Sophia â€” the Church of Holy Wisdom. That was a strange name, even for a Greek Orthodox Church. Most Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican (Episcopal) churches -- as well as some United Methodist and Lutheran churches -- are named after a patron saint. Nineteen of the twenty-one Spanish missions in California are so named, for example. There are two exceptions. The mission at 8
Santa Cruz was named after a venerated object -- the Holy Cross. The Spanish mission at Lompoc is named after the Catholic teaching that the Virgin Mary's parents conceived her without committing the sin of lust. It is called La Purisima Concepcion, (The Immaculate Conception) after this doctrine which is often confused -- even by some Catholics -- with the Virgin Birth. Many churches -- especially Protestant churches â€“ are named after their founder or financial benefactor. But it is fairly rare to name a church after an abstract doctrine â€“ a theological idea -- rather than a person, place, or a sacred object.
II. The Fall of Constantinople Why the Eastern Orthodox Church in the city of Constantinople -- now Istanbul, Turkey -- should be so called has remained somewhat of a mystery. It was a mystery, that is, until the night before the fateful day when Constantinople fell to the army of the Ottoman Turks on May 29, 1453. That day happened to be a Tuesday, and even today many Orthodox Christians will not undertake a new venture on that day of the week, which they have come to regard as unlucky. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the vast empire of Byzantium -- which once encompassed most of the territory bordering on the northeastern and east-central ends of the Mediterranean Sea -- had shrunk to the imperial city of Constantinople and some small holding in southern Greece. After a seven-week's siege, forces of the Ottoman sultan, Mehmet II, had managed -- by a remarkable engineering feat -- to wrench the vessels of his navy on rollers across the ridge 9
of Pera north of the city. The defenders of Constantinople were caught in a pincer between the floating batteries in the harbor and the besieging army on land. On the nights previous to May twenty-eighth, the encircling Turks had engaged in a kind of psychological warfare. By day, they had subjected the walls of the city to constant artillery bombardment. They had sixty-seven primitive cannon in their ordinance, including a mammoth piece with a three-foot bore which hurled a shot weighing three-fifths of a ton. And at night, they kept up a constant racket of trumpet blasts, pounding on kettle drums, and battle cries. On the night of the twenty-eighth of May, however, the army fell silent and the Turkish troops rested. In the unfamiliar silent of that midnight, the emperor entered the Church of Holy Wisdom with his court and took Holy Communion, as was his nightly custom. He had been emperor for only five years. A younger son of the heir apparent, his tastes and training had caused him to be more religiously inclined and devoted to peaceful pursuits than interested in statecraft and political intrigue. He was fifty four when his brother had died in 1448. Yet he assumed the imperial purple as a matter of duty; and as often has happened in history when a mature younger brother accedes to the throne, he may have been one of the noblest of his long line extending back through eightyeight emperors to its founder, Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. Ironically, this last emperor was also named Constantine, the eleventh emperor of Byzantium to bear that name. After what turned out to be the last Christian service in the great church, Constantine XI (surnamed Paleologos) made a speech to his people. He told them that human beings were endowed with a mind and a will which superseded the blind reflexes and instincts of animals. Recalling that the Apostle 10
Paul had said in his Epistle to the Romans that — even apart from God's special revelations, first to Israel and then in Jesus — thinking men everywhere ought to be aware of God's existence and providence through the evidence of His works in nature (Romans 1:19-20), Constantine evoked the heritage of the great Roman republic. He stated that nearly seventeen hundred years before, the men of Rome were able to rise above the terror of Hannibal's secret weapon — his elephant cavalry — and defend their city during the second Punic War. He might have gone further back in Roman history – to recall the heroic manner in which Horatius Cocles with three companions had held the far end of the bridge across the Tiber River against the invading Etruscans in the late sixth century B.C. This was the deed made famous much later by the British poet Thomas Babbington Macauley whose verses were -- until quite recently -- committed to memory by many British and American schoolboys: And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers And the temples of his gods? 1 This is indeed Holy Wisdom. It is the God-directed ability to stand firm against the craven urges of self-preservation and to affirm one's faith in a righteous cause, come what may. Having made his speech, Constantine Paleologos removed the purple cloak of his rank and -- dressed in the armor of a simple knight -- went to meet death on the walls next to his troops.
'The Lays of Ancient Rome, "Horatius," xxvii, 221-224, (1843).
At dawn the Turks breached the walls and entered the city. At mid-day, the Turkish conqueror, Mehmet II, rode through the ruined city gate and, still mounted, rode into the cathedral where a throng of civilians -- Christian men, women, and children had taken refuge. He placed his bloodstained hand high on a column and shouted the Islamic creed and battlecry, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet!" Museum docents can show you to this day the print of his bloody palm high on a pillar in the church. Never mind that from time to time the Turkish Board of Tourism has to freshen it up with red paint! The sultan's words were a signal for a general carnage and destruction within the old church building. The men, young and old, were slaughtered. Women and children were rounded up, put into chains, and eventually sold as slaves. Crosses were torn down and smashed. The holy pictures -- the icons -- were ripped apart. The tessarae -- the tiny glass pieces making up the beautiful mosaics â€” were pried up, under the illusion that they were precious gems. Even in this despoiled state, the building was a most imposing structure. Sultan Mehmet decreed that it must continue to glorify God. Its pictured walls were plastered over in obedience to the prohibition against graven images in the Qor'an -- the Islamic holy book -- and the former Hagia Sophia Church began its long career as an Islamic mosque, still dedicated to the concept that God can give simple mortals the strength and discipline to rise above selfish interests and conquer, even in defeat.
III. An Example of Holy Wisdom from Our Own Times 12
We have in our lifetime witnessed an example of this holy wisdom which transcends animal cunning or even the puny synapses of our moral brain cells and acknowledges a belief in Intelligence greater than our own at the center of the universe. One of the victims of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 21, 1999, was a devout, church-going young woman named Cassie Bernall. Upon being asked by her shot-gun carrying assassin the question, "Do you believe in God?" she answered in the affirmative, even though she knew that by so doing she was pronouncing her own death sentence. Surely enough, she was shot. One imagines that Miss Bernall heard the report of the gun, felt an instant of unbearable pain as her chest exploded under the onslaught of the pellets from the gun, and then -- when she opened her eyes again -- she was being ushered into the presence of Him whose faith she had not been ashamed to confess,
IV. Conclusion That, my Companions, is Holy Wisdom. It teaches us that a redeemed man -- or woman -- is something superior to the sum of his most elementary parts -- the gluttony of his gut, the lusts of his glands, the terrors of his nameless dread of the beasts lurking beyond the circle of his campfire. Holy Wisdom lifts a person above a mere response to such stimuli â€“ which are the proper study of the psychiatric profession -- and causes him to think of others rather than himself. But do I need to remind you that Holy Wisdom more often bids us live a life for principle than it does to die for it? And in some respects, this is a more difficult challenge. So many influences, regard for the approval of others -- what is now 13
popularly called "peer pressure" â€” the threat of financial loss, the fear of being ridiculed or being considered different or "uncool" -- these things often hinder us from becoming the person God wants us to be. But the examples of Cassie Bernal, Constantine Paleologos, even Jesus Christ, can help us to rise above our baser selves, can help us purify our aspirations and reform our actions. And these noble goals do indeed constitute Holy Wisdom. The seventeenth century writer of Christian allegory, the Puritan minister, John Bunyan, tells of one such earnest man, whom -- after his manner of giving his characters descriptive, metaphorical names -- he calls "Mister Valiant-for-Truth." After a lifetime of endeavoring to do right, as he reckons God gave him to see the right -- Mister Valiant-for-Truth receives what Bunyan terms "a summons." Then Bunyan describes what happens next: [The faithful old warrior] . . . had this for a token that the summons was true -- that his pitcher was broken at the fountain. When he understood it, he called his friends, and told them of it. Then said he, "I am going to my Father's, and though with great difficulty I am got hither, I do not now repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive at where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my rewarder." When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the riverside, into which he went as he said, "Death, where is thy sting?" And. as he went down deeper, he said, "Grave, where is thy victory?"
So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. 2 We believe that as the faithful cross over they will certainly hear the wave notes of this bugle call. Its theme is the hailing of a life well lived -- a life directed not by one's own will but by the wisdom which comes from heaven. May God grant us the determination, the sense, and the courage to live such a life, so that at its end, for us as well, the trumpets will sound "on the other side."
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, chap. 10, Bedford, England, 1684.
MY CREED By John L. Cooper, III
The importance of the idea of God to a Freemason cannot be overstated. At the very beginning of his Masonic journey he is asked in Whom he puts his trust. His response must be unequivocal. Unless he trusts in someone greater than himself, he will find the Masonic journey empty and meaningless. He answers this important question ―on bended knee,‖ because that symbolic posture is an important clue to our expectation of his answer to our question. His trust in God must not be a mere idle affirmation of an intellectual belief in some distant and uncaring God, but rather a commitment to a God who cares about him as a human being. In his Masonic journey a Freemason will encounter many symbols to help him in his understanding of God. Freemasonry teaches through allegory and symbol, and its universal language transcends all parochial explanations of its symbols. One important symbol, found in the First Degree of Masonry, is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple. I invite you to listen again to the words that we have heard many times over: The Ornaments of a Lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star. The Mosaic Pavement is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple, and is emblematic of human life, checkered with good and evil. The Indented Tessel is a representation of the beautiful tessellated border or skirting which surrounded the pavement, and is emblematic of the manifold blessings and comforts which surround us, and which we hope to enjoy by a faithful reliance upon Divine Providence, 16
hieroglyphically represented by the Blazing Star in the center.
The use of the word Ornament in our ritual can be misleading. We use it today to describe something decorative. To ornament something nowadays is to decorate it. We often use it as a synonym for Christmas decorations, as in Christmas tree ornaments. However, the word ornament comes from the Latin verb, onare, which means to equip. It is the latter usage that the word ornament appears in our ritual. Understanding the meaning of these three symbols will equip the Mason for the Masonic journey in which he is engaged. To be equipped is to be prepared for something. The Apostle Paul explained this idea in a famous passage from his Letter to the Ephesians: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:1317, NSRV The image here, of course, is that of a soldier who is putting on the armor of a Roman legionary, and in a similar sense, our Masonic ritual speaks of equipping the new Entered Apprentice with that which he will need as a protection on his journey through life. He is equipped to be a Soldier of Light, 17
to borrow a phrase from the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. His equipment essentially consists of three things:
An understanding that life consists of both good and evil, and that he needs to be prepared for both; An acknowledgement that despite this condition of life, he is surrounded by ―manifold blessings and comforts;‖ and A faithful reliance upon Divine Providence – God – who is the source of both the manifold blessings and comforts which we enjoy, and the ultimate recourse for a life that is checkered with good and evil.
When he becomes a Fellow Craft Mason he will learn additional things about God. His attention is called to the importance of Geometry in Freemasonry, and its use in explaining to us ―the great book of nature and revelation.‖ We are taught that by Geometry ―we discover the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Great Artificer of the Universe.‖ Then, when he becomes a Master Mason, he will once more be confronted with the Checkered Pavement which he first encountered as an Entered Apprentice Mason: ―Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.‖ To the image of a life which will experience both good and evil, the Third Degree of Masonry adds the concept of the uncertainty of human life. The Master Mason is presented with the symbol of the Hour-Glass, with these words: The Hour-Glass is an emblem of human life. Behold how swiftly the sands run, and how rapidly our lives are drawing 18
to a close! We cannot without astonishment behold the little particles which are contained in this machine, how they pass away almost imperceptibly, and yet, to our surprise in the short space of an hour they are all exhausted. These emblems are not a morbid preoccupation with death, as some would believe, but rather an instruction in reality. Freemasons are taught that a proper understanding of the frailty of human life is essential to an understanding of his dependence upon God, and to a right ordering of the important things in life. As an Entered Apprentice he is taught that time is the one finite variable which he will not be able to change. The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge will not be lengthened by what he does with his time. It may be foreshortened, as he will learn in the Third Degree of Masonry, but it will not be expanded. How he uses that time is therefore of utmost importance, and he learns that dividing his time among appropriate commitments is essential to a balanced life. The Masonic Memorial Service reminds us of this fact from a different perspective: Seeing then, my brethren, that life is so uncertain, and that all material pursuits are vain, let us no longer postpone the all-important concern of preparing for eternity; but let us embrace the present moment ……. But embracing the present moment has as much to do with understanding our priorities now as preparing for our future priorities. We need to pay attention to the all-important concern of getting our priorities straight right now. One Mason who truly understood this was the poet, Edgar A. Guest. His poetry has now largely been forgotten, and especially by the younger generation, who have never read him. But the ―People’s Poet‖, as he was known, is worth reading again. He was Initiated an Entered Apprentice 19
Mason on April 9, 1908, in Ashlar Lodge No. 91, at Detroit, Michigan, and his life and his poetry reflected a deep understanding of Freemasonry as well as a deep commitment to its principles. He wrote more than 15,000 poems in his lifetime, and choosing one is therefore difficult. However, one that he called â€•The Creedâ€– will stand as an example for many, many others:
My Creed To live as gently as I can; To be, no matter where, a man; To take what comes of good or ill And cling to faith and honor still; To do my best, and let that stand The record of my brain and hand; And then, should failure come to me Still work and hope for victory. To have no secret place wherein I stoop unseen to shame or sin; To be the same when I'm alone As when my every deed is known; To live undaunted, unafraid Of any step that I have made; To be without pretense or sham, Exactly what men think I am. To leave some simple mark behind, To keep my having lived in mind; If enmity to aught I show, To be an honest, generous foe, 20
To play my little part, nor whine That greater honors are not mine. This, I believe, is all I need For my philosophy and creed.
The poetry of Edgar Guest was particularly popular during the Great Depression, and from 1931 to 1942 he hosted a popular radio show originating in Detroit. Bro. Guest made Masonic philosophy – for that is what it truly was – popular for the first time. We might do well to revive his poetry for these troubled times, for these times are, indeed, troubled. As in the 1930’s, many are out of work, and cannot find work. Many have lost their homes, or will lose them. Our political life is marred with rancor and anger, and the prosperous world that we knew only a short time ago has seemingly disappeared. Some of us have faced great health problems this year, and all of us face a future filled with more anxiety than we have known in a long, long time. Our lives, indeed, seem to be checkered with good and evil – and sometimes we seem mired in hopelessness. Our Masonic journey may be over a ―rough and rugged road‖, and ruffians seem to lurk at the gates through which we must pass. But it is at times like these that the words from our ritual come back to us: ―You will then remember in whom you put your trust!‖ We will remember the ―manifold blessings and comforts‖ which surround us, even in the bleakest of days, and our reliance is on the same God that we trusted at the beginning of our journey. Above all, we have our fellow Freemasons to help us along the path. Bro. Guest spoke of that brotherhood in his poem, ―The Brethren,‖ and with that I will close: The Brethren The world is needing you and me, In places where we ought to be; 21
Somewhere today itâ€™s needing you To stand for what you know is true. And needing me somewhere today. To keep the faith, let come what may. The world needs honest men today To lead its youth along the way, Men who will write in all their deeds The beauty of their spoken creeds, And spurn advantage here and gain, On which deceit must leave its stain. The world needs men who will not brag, Men who will honor Freedomâ€™s Flag, Men, who although the way is hard, Against the lure of shame will guard, The world needs gentle men and true And calls aloud to me and you. The world needs men of lofty aim, Not merely men of skill and fame, Not merely leaders wise and grave, Or learned men or soldiers brave, But men whose lives are fair to see, Such men as you and I can be.
So Mote It Be!
MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT by Fr. Charles E. Maier, KCT, Grand Prelate “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth thee.” Psalm 84:8-12, KJV Jesus said, ―Where two or three are gathered in My Name I am there in the midst of them.‖ Those places where Christian people gather to worship become the Courts of the Lord with the Spirit of the Living Christ. Our Psalmist longs for the Courts, the beauty of the Temple, but not for its own sake, but for the sake of God’s presence which is found there. He is voicing the feeling and spirit of the Celebrant, who serves in the choir, and the Pilgrim, who has made a pilgrimage to share in Temple worship. Our reading, Psalm 84:8-12, now views the Soldier, who is neither framer, choir member, nor Temple Steward, but loves the Temple and her worship. He lifts up his shield as a gesture of devotion, and asks God’s radiance be reflected on him as on the joyful Pilgrims. He notes that he would rather stand guard duty, as a humble doorkeeper, for a day in God’s courts than a thousand elsewhere. The tents of wickedness may refer to fellow Hebrews who do not follow the Faith, or to scoffing Gentiles. He would make his bivouac with the Lord rather than sinful secular society. I believe this faithful Soldier, a man Knights Templar might well emulate, becomes our mentor and guide, leading us from 23
our daily and secular concerns to his beloved Temple, where we may receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the nurture of God’s Holy Word. ―No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in thee!‖ Let us consider our present congregation as Pilgrims, holy people, gathered in that House, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, but spiritually here and now. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. II Corinthians 12:7-10, RSV “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it would leave me; but He said, „My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‟ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I. Sufficient Grace „My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. As a young pastor and missioner I found that the sermons which were most helpful, for me and the congregation, were those which sprung from the life of the fellowship, or my daily challenges. So it is with the Scripture and meditation for our Vespers. Paul was given a thorn by way of the Devil and in 24
Korea, 1950, I was given a serious spinal adjustment complements of the Red Chinese. Paul felt God sent this challenge so he would not be ―too elated,‖ after receiving many revelations. I have said, lo these many years, that my daily pain is a gift of Jesus to keep me close to Him. When I began my studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary, Presbyterian, my lower back pain returned with a vengeance. Early morning classes were often held in the basement lecture halls which were poorly heated. Pain caused me to perspire and one day the Professor noticed moisture dropping onto my notes. I told him of the pain and he asked what would help. ―Walking,‖ I replied, and from then on I was allowed to pace the rear of the hall when I was in distress. I saw, in the kindness of that teacher, the Love of Christ, answering my thorn in the flesh. Pain, and Jesus’ daily Grace followed me through three years of seminary and I was graduated with honor and a scholarship to continue a Ph.D. program at Columbia University, New York. Three months later, two weeks before moving to New York, I was paralyzed from the waist down and had an emergency laminectomy, L-5/S-1, and fusion. I was in a full body cast for six months. Those procedures were tough in those days, but I felt the Love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, assuring me, ―My Grace is Sufficient for thee.‖ Life and ministry changed that week for me. I never made it to Columbia and I entered my first Church posting with a thirty pound full body cast. The Junior High kids called me Chuck the Turtle, but they helped me find strength in weakness as the Lord promises. This Scripture, reflecting Jesus’ message to Paul, and us all, does not deal with the problem of human suffering. It is not God’s design for human life that we should suffer sickness or disease, but it could not come without God’s permission. Sufficient Grace is the blessed assurance that we are not at the 25
mercy of blind fate but are always in the hands of God. Our task is to have faith in these promises, turning our will and lives over to the care and direction of our Savior. Over the years I found myself turning other areas of my life over to Christ, receiving the same response and blessing. Paul shares the secret of this relationship in verse nine, ―I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Years ago, I went to a grand older minister friend of mine for counsel. After listening to my tales of woe he said, ―Well Chuck, you seem on the right track. God has a tough time working with a man who has all the answers.‖ If we, along with Paul, confess our weakness and sin, then God is able to bestow His Grace and Strength. By divesting ourselves of ego, Christ gives us life, even Life Eternal. When to a myriad of our human struggles, troubles, pain, family issues, and sinful acts, Jesus grants Grace, he does not stop there, He transforms our weakness at every level to victory. Transformation is the second message of this Scripture.
II. Transformation. Some of us need a spiritual preparation for this Transformation, so we again turn to Saint Paul. In Romans, Chapter 12, RSV, Paul issues his great ethical challenge to his brother and sister Christians. Verses one and two may become, for us all, a teaching which will prepare us for the path which leads from Sufficient Grace to Transformed Lives. Paul begins: I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and 26
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Simply, by turning our will and lives over to the care of Jesus Christ prepares us for His Grace, and subsequent Transformation. God may be unwilling to remove our weakness because He has use for it. Weakness may deepen the indwelling of Godâ€™s Spirit in us, throwing us more completely on God, providing the condition in which the qualities of the Christ-like spirit may be developed. In verse ten of II Corinthians 12 Paul states his weaknesses which seem to be from his ministry and social relationships. Insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities are the mundane kinds of problems which afflict us. Paul brings them to the Lord in the hope and faith that He will accept and transform them, granting strength from weakness, wholeness from brokenness. Deep theological contemplation is not required. A course in Christian Ethics, though helpful, is not needed. A contrite heart, humble spirit, and open mind open the door for the Lord to pass through. Our prayers for removal of our weakness are answered through a wonderful Gift from God, in which He takes the trash of our petitions and transforms it into the treasure of His Holy Will. Godâ€™s way of answering the prayer for these qualities may be to lead us into the circumstances, or bring us face to face with the difficulty, that calls them out. We pray for courage, and God leads us by roads that expose us to danger. We pray for patience, and we get a disagreeable neighbor. We pray for love and life throws on us the need to care for someone who may be irksome and difficult. We pray for humility, and life 27
brings us into circumstances that break our pride. These things can be accepted in meekness if we have the courage of our Faith, confident that the real strength is in His Grace and our ability to receive that Gift. Brother Francis of Assisi, that marvelous Deacon of poetic prayers and gorgeous gardens, seems to have gone full circle in his ―Lord make me an instrument. . .‖ prayer. As with Saint Paul, he has brought broken qualities of life to God and then stayed for the transformation. He juxtaposes, in his prayer, the sin, or dark quality, and God’s transformation and resulting positive quality. Francis has taken Christ’s promise of Sufficient Grace into his life and with true humility reports God’s transforming virtues.
III. Closing Some have called this transformation, by God, of weakness into strength, a Divine Paradox. Others feel it is Christ taking His freely given Grace seriously by using sinful acts and brokenness, offered by His people, to bring them wisdom, joy, and salvation. Three weeks ago we celebrated Easter on Resurrection Sunday. Some of us have celebrated Holy Week for so many years that we do not think of the dynamic process behind those Holy Days. Especially note that Paradox of Crucifixion and Resurrection. For Paul the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the paradox, par excellence, the greatest turning of the tables, the vastest confounding of human expectation of all time. Out of the suffering, the death, the helplessness and what appeared to be the folly of Jesus had come from God comfort, life, strength, and wisdom. For Paul, and the Early Church, this Divine Paradox informed all aspects of their Christian life. Paul was ―a man in Christ,‖ and his ministry 28
existed in the Divine Paradox. This is most important for our meditation of today’s Scripture. I would urge all of us to be attentive to Jesus Christ when we take our sorrows and problems, sins and dark spirits to Him in prayer. One thing I have found in these last few years, there are times when you may be let down by churches, fraternities, even family groups, but Jesus is always there. It may anger or frustrate you, as it has me, to hear the old answer, ―My Grace is Sufficient for you,‖ but it is as true and faithful for us today, even as it was for Saint Paul those many years ago. We need to wait for the gift, the transformation of our broken selves into the Salvation of men and women in the Living Lord. With this we are to be His witnesses, our lives living sermons, as Brother Mason Edgar A. Guest tells us: I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear, Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear; And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds, For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done; I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run. And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true, But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do; For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give, But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live. ….. 29
It is with great pride that the Golden State Research Chapter (GSRC) publishes these three messages â€“ all of which speak both of matters of concern in our daily lives as well of timeless principles governing our relationship to the Almighty, the Great Artificer of the Universe, the Supreme High Priest of Heaven and Earth. They were all given at the York Rite Grand Sessions in April of 2010, and demonstrate what a rich experience attending those sessions can be. The GSRC is hopeful that this little booklet will extend the scope of brothers and companions who may be benefitted by these wonderful messages. Should you wish to consider affiliating with the GSRC, please see the website located on the back cover. Phil Hardiman, JPGHP High Priest, GSRC September, 2010
Affiliation Petition for the Golden State Research Chapter can be found at: http://www.goldenstatechapter.org/pdf/affiliation_form.pdf
Published on Oct 12, 2011
Published on Oct 12, 2011
Though it is difficult sometimes to understand the official language of the Ritual Book, these three authors put their thoughts into a langu...