By W. Kenneth Lyons, 33°, G.C., Grand Chaplain of the Supreme Council
Right: The 2011 Biennial Session Vesper Service held at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jeri E. Walker, Scottish Rite Journal.)
It comes as no shock to you that we live in a world that is sometimes confusing and unpredictable. This is true in our individual lives; it’s also true in society at large. We simply don’t know what a day may bring. On October 15, 1989, I stood in this very pulpit leading our Scottish Rite Vesper Service with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale as our preacher. As most of you know, Dr. Peale was a well known clergyman and Freemason, and author of one of the most popular contemporary books ever written, The Power of Positive Thinking.
Prior to the service, Mrs. Peale came up to me and said, “Ken, please keep an eye on Norman. When he preaches he tends to move around a lot, and I’m afraid he may fall backwards while in the pulpit.” Well, I went to Dr. Peale and shared his wife’s concerns. Since I would be sitting behind Norman while he was in the pulpit, we decided that whenever he got too close to the pulpit stairs, I would lightly pat him on the back to warn him. During the sermon he did get too close to those stairs, and when I reached out to touch him I found out that the only way to reach him was to touch . . . well a delicate place. Dr. Peale later said that I had the distinction of being the only person that ever patted him on the rear end while he was preaching.
A day may also bring difficult experiences that draw us together as family, friends, as a nation, and even as Scottish Rite Masons. Do you remember the great upsurge of patriotism, over thirty years ago, when the hostages were taken in Iran? How we felt as “one” in our nation. If you are older you remember the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President Kennedy. Of course we’ll never forget 9/11. Many of us here have special memories of that week because just days later we were together in Charleston, South Carolina, commemorating the bicentennial of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Masonry. I remember preaching the sermon at that event that I had, of course, rewritten just a day or two before. Everyone was at that worship service, and we were “together” through our tears and determination to let freedom ring!
Isn’t it interesting that after years have passed the difficult experiences can be our most cherished memories. When these moments were shared, if somebody stood with us, it made all the difference. It seems that at these times our façade drops, and we see each other as we truly are.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult for people to understand you, since you are so uncomplicated and likeable and open and simple? Other people are wondering the same thing. They are having the same trouble understanding you that you have understanding them….
God does know us when we are at our best and our worst. God also created us with different shapes, colors, and experiences. We differ genetically and culturally. We have grown up in different families, and even in different parts of the country and the world. We have studied with different teachers and attended different places of worship. We have our own likes and dislikes. How can we be so different and still understand and appreciate each other?
The beginning of any understanding comes with the realization that God intentionally created us that way. We hold some important things in common, but the ways in which we are different are fantastic….
There is one organization that has historically recognized our differences as being complimentary and inspiring; where brothers can sit together in peace and harmony regardless of their faith, color, or national origin. Speaking of color, we all could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have learned to live in the same box—or dare I say, the same Lodge! That’s our heritage as Freemasons!
The ways in which you are different add to me, and the ways that I am different add to you. It’s like always singing in unison. That’s not as colorful as singing all the parts. This is what God has called us as Scottish Rite Masons to do. He wants us to sing the part that He has given us, and to sing it well with the rest of our brothers. When we do that we have magnificent harmony—in our community, in our places of worship, in our families, and in our world.
When we look at the books of our Bible, or the sections of our own Holy Book, whatever it may be, we will find that the chapters of our own Scriptures are a little different based upon the varied experiences that the author had in their encounters with God. I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, who connects me to God, and those of another religion feel just as passionately about their path to God. But each of us is pointing to God, and God’s hand in making this a better world.
At the beginning of this sermon I spoke about uncertainties. This world is in turmoil, and this planet is the box that we must live in. Are we going to rip the box apart, or are we going to do our best to work peacefully with our God and neighbors?
Psalm 37:5 tells us to “Commit your way to the Lord; trust Him; and He will bring it to pass.” Acknowledge God in your life, and seek God’s will in your Masonic bodies. In the same Psalm, in verse 11, we read, “As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is His love for those who trust Him.”
Speaking of the sky, you know many people are afraid of flying. What they need to learn is that they don’t have to fly the plane. The only thing they have to do is show up and hook up the seat belt. If they don’t know how to do that, the flight attendant will show them. The trouble is that too many of us are running into the cockpits of our lives and impulsively turning on and off switches. Remember, if God is your co-pilot you’d better change seats!
If we could just remember that God is the pilot and we are the passengers, we would not have to fret about what God’s will is. God will make it known in His time and in His way. God does tell us in Proverbs 3:28: “Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.” As a United Methodist I am always encouraged to turn to John Wesley’s words on this subject; “Do all the good you can by all the means you can by all the ways you can in all the places you can and at all the times you can to all the people you can as long as you ever can.”
I’m going to close with a story that appeared in the July 2011 Issue of The Upper Room devotional. As you will see I probably should have entitled this sermon “God and Crayons.” This story is about a little boy whose name is Brindley. Brindley has autism. When his parents take him to church they take a cookie tray that holds Brindley’s notebook and crayons. Coloring keeps Brindley occupied during worship. Brindley presses hard and uses up a box of crayons in a week or less. He cherishes these crayons even when they are worn down to the size of a half an inch.
His mother goes on to say; “One Sunday morning, Brindley dropped his crayons on the floor, of course he immediately started to pick up his precious possessions. He was very careful to make sure he had accounted for all the crayons—every color, every size, no matter how small or worn. To my son, each crayon mattered just as much as any other. Brindley’s attention to every single crayon is like God’s love for each of us. God cares for us as separate individuals and has made us all different for a reason. In God’s eyes we are all equally important and have a place in God’s plan. We are always sought out and valued, one by one.”
We are told in Psalm 103:14, “God knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.” God understands that we are part of this unpredictable and confusing world. God also tells us that we are His children, created by Him in all shapes, sizes and colors, and all capable of marvelous things.