Good Work: 2009 Vesper Service Message

Rev. Kenneth Lyons

January-February 2010

By W. Kenneth Lyons, 33°, Grand Cross, Grand Chaplain

Photo: W. Kenneth Lyons, Jr., 33°, GC, delivers his message “Good Work” during the Vesper Service on Sunday, October 4, 2009. (Elizabeth A. W. McCarthy, The Scottish Rite Journal)

Praise ye the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live will I praise the LORD:
I will sing praises unto my God while I
have any being.
—Psalm 146:1–2

About thirty years ago my family and I were traveling through the western part of our country. We had just settled into the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, and decided to grab a quick lunch at the local McDonald’s. As we were driving to our destination we heard “rolling of thunder” and noticed a large number of guys on their motorcycles. Our two young sons were wide-eyed at the spectacle of these men in their colorful leather outfits and the rumble of the cycles. The boys also seemed somewhat intimidated by this raucous display. We soon reached our destination and had our Big Macs and fries in front of us. It wasn’t long before we heard the now familiar rumble of motorcycles; and these bikers were stopping at “our” McDonald’s. About fifteen bikers came through the door, ordered their burgers ,and then sat down rather close to our table. We could see our boy’s eyes growing larger and larger, as they tried not to “eyeball” these men.

About five minutes passed, and then without warning, one of the bikers approached our table. Our two sons almost fell to the floor, when he said to me, “Aren’t you Dr. Kenneth Lyons?” I replied that I was. He then told me how much he appreciated my articles in the New Age Magazine (now the Scottish Rite Journal) and went on to tell me that they were a motorcycle club of Scottish Rite Masons on a journey to benefit children’s charities.

Can you believe it; this gentleman recognized me from a tiny picture in a magazine! They, of course were great guys and made a hit with our sons. The caps and jewels evidently are not the only regalia of our brotherhood. Leather jackets and motorcycles work too. What makes us who we are as Masons is not primarily our symbolic regalia, but the work that God has given us to do in and outside of our lodges and temples.

In our contemporary world there is a lack of certainty or permanency in the work place. You know that as well as I do. Our poor economy has rearranged our lives to the point where defining one’s work is no longer an absolute. There seems to be a crisis of confidence in the land. Our advertising provides an open window into our souls as to the direction in which we are moving.

Have you ever noticed how often the advertising department is far ahead of the engineering department? They can produce a better, more attractive product in the columns of the magazines than they can on the machines of the factory. Here is an example of the advertising for a product that we all need. See if you can guess the product being advertised.

Transform your home with our new design. For a floral theme, try Mayfair’s Tulip, Rose or Ivy designs. These white designer sculptured products have an understated flair that can add class and individuality to the room. If you have more modern tastes try our product in a design that displays chrome or brushed nickel hinges for that sleek contemporary look. [“Homeplace,” Ace Hardware Magazine, Sept. 2004]

It’s an advertisement for a toilet seat!!

In advertising they promise such great things, but seldom deliver. There are subtle, and not so subtle, appeals to our ego, completely apart from reality, which means that the gullible person buys a product and then finds himself dissatisfied and worse off than he was before. The frustration level is increased, and he becomes more cynical.

I want to state what I consider to be a very serious warning. All of our social structures are built on confidence. This is true of our political structure, and our economic structure as well. If there is no confidence then the people cannot be governed. As we all know, if there is no confidence in the economic structure, then investment is foolish and stops, and so does everything else. If I am no longer confident that the work I am doing is productive, appreciated or meaningful, then I become cynical and less productive.

The chance to accomplish something worthwhile is what gives zest to life. The Great Architect Of The Universe is constantly at work. Each moment something is happening somewhere. A bolt of lightning strikes a tree and brings it to the ground, to be food for hungry insects; a flood changes the course of a river and leaves a fertile deposit of soil; the mountains wear down; volcanoes constantly give birth to new land masses, and the coastlines rise and sink. I have never been able to think of the world as just being made, for it is in the process of creation all the time. The Great Architect is still creating.

This time of change in our history offers new opportunities for us to be useful, and to be part of the Creator’s ongoing work. God has a job for every one of us, one that is exactly suited to our capabilities. There is a Godly Plan, and we must have a part in it.

We as Scottish Rite Masons have been taught that God is building His moral world just as He is building the physical universe. Nothing is static; nothing is finished. As Freemasons, we are commissioned by the Supreme Architect to take an active part in the building of His moral order. Based on our Eighth Degree, “we are to embody the lessons of benevolence and charity, denoting the importance of passing the lessons of ethics and morals to the next generation.” Based on our Masonic Obligations, we cannot escape God’s challenge.

I am not thinking merely of a job. You have a dream which, perhaps, you have told to no one, but it is there waiting for God to call it out. You may have thought about going to far places in our country or around the world where the poorest of the poor have needs that only you, and those like you, can meet. Every religious community has short term mission outreach trips from Africa, to New Orleans, from Indian Reservations to South America. The RiteCare Childhood Language Programs, hospitals for children, and other local and national Scottish Rite opportunities for service are calling to us. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty; there is a place for you to repair homes, provide a ride, visit the sick, or read to a child.

A few months ago I returned from a Volunteer in Mission trip to South Dakota. When I asked how the poor economy had hit the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation, the reply was “when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.” I would like to also state the reverse, “If you have something to give, then you have everything to gain by giving.”

I have sometimes wondered if we have not badly missed the mark in our insisting on rewards and punishments as a motive for Godly living. Saint Theresa once wrote, “I would like to have a torch in one hand and a pail of water in the other; then would I burn up heaven and put out the fires of hell—that men might do good for the sake of good and shun evil because it is evil.” This thirteenth-century nun had grown weary of the modern teaching that man must be good in order to find heaven and escape hell. She was saying that virtue must be its own reward, and goodness ought to be embraced just because it is good.

It is very simple to say that if we do a good deed we will receive praise and reward, and if we do wrong we will be punished. But is that the philosophy of a Scottish Rite Mason? We must do good because it is right and be good because it’s the only way to live. We’re not here to debate why a good man suffers and an evil man sometimes prospers. A pure morality cannot be based on a system of rewards and punishments. It must stem from a life of love. I can’t prove that if you do a certain thing you will suffer, or if you do something else you will be blessed and attain some great prize or honor. We do our work because it is the job that God has given us to do.

The towering cathedral spires of Europe were built by operative Masons who believed that they were serving God by laying bricks and carving stone. Their workmanship has never been equaled because they found joy just in doing a good job for their Lord.

Now about the book! You know—the Dan Brown book entitled The Lost Symbol. There is great interest in this book, first of all, because it follows Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. Also of interest to us is that it contains much about Scottish Rite Masonry and the House of the Temple. This is for the most part a book of fiction. One of the main characters in the book, Peter Solomon, states to Professor Langdon that a certain mysterious knowledge “could imbue its possessor with the ability to bring order from chaos. The idea of order from chaos was one of the great Masonic axioms.” (p. 104)

Various characters in the book then go on to say; “If this information were published and made known, a fundamental shift would begin in the consciousness of man. They will start to find their way.” (p. 208) “If we as humans can honestly grasp this one simple truth … the world will change overnight.” (p. 504) “There is a great spiritual treasure buried out there somewhere … a treasure that has waited patiently in darkness for generations. I believe it is a catalyst that has the power to transform this world.” (p. 314)

Brethren, I have knowledge of that catalyst. You possess this mystery also. This most powerful “golden” mystery has been shared with us for thousands of years by the wisest of men. Just like in the book, the powers of darkness will do all they can to prevent this great mystery from changing this world into the Garden of Eden. This knowledge I now share with you.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Judaism and Christianity: Bible,
Leviticus 19:18.

“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
Christianity, Bible, Matthew 7:12.

“Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13.

“A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”
Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

“Try your best to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.”
Confucianism. Mencius VII.A.4.

“One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.”
Hinduism. Mahabharata, Anusasana
Parva 113.8.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Christianity, Bible, Matthew 22:36–40.

There’s a reason we call this the “golden rule”, not a golden rule. This greatest of knowledge has been with us for millennia.

FACT: The universal practice of this rule would bring the kingdom of God on this earth. How many more thousands of years shall we wait? There is a bronze bust of Brother Albert Pike on the landing of the grand staircase of the House of the Temple. The wall above is engraved with one of Albert Pike’s most famous quotes:

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

Let’s continue to take the love and Masonic teachings that we have and stretch them mightily until they cover those who are beyond the walls of our Temple, Valleys, and Lodges. Let’s continue to include the work pants and gloves, motorcycle jackets, story books for children, and hospital and nursing home visits as our operative symbols, attire, and primary work.

God gives each one of us a blessed task to do, and He expects us to do it. Individuals can make a difference, and everyone should try. Take one of these jobs that God offers and change the world. Add His job to what we learn through Scottish Rite, and see what happens. The secret has now been revealed! It’s not a mystery anymore.