The Building With No Windows

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by Blake Bowden, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

    By VWBro Rev Edwin Clarke

    One of the sad things we come across is the way that Freemasons are often put at the weird and lunatic fringe of society; mind you, the church is often put there as well, so we have things in common. Actually, there is much more in common. Like the church, Freemasons believe in God, they pray, and aspire to live uprightly. As the church remembers that the first act of God in creation was the gift of light, and that Jesus is the light of the world, so Freemasons also seek to live in the light of truth. In the small town, not far from Dargaville, where I was born there were four churches: Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Brethren, and there was a Freemason's Lodge. My aunty said, when we went back there for holidays, that the Catholics were as weird as the Masons, but there was one visible difference: the Catholic Church had windows, the Freemasons' Lodge had none. Many mysteries have been investigated in the 20th and 21st centuries and people want to know what happens inside that building with no windows.Freemasons themselves are charged with the spirit of enquiry into the hidden mysteries of nature and science. It's worth speculating as to what a Freemason, who likes to explore mysteries and unravel them, would do when confronted with this building with no windows. These days people are not keen on mysteries – it's against the spirit of the times. That's why I welcome Lodge brethren here this morning in their regalia. It's a very special thing, but it's also good insofar as it gives us a peep into that building with no windows.
    I would like to take you another step into the Lodge rooms and invite you to come with me to the opening of a Lodge. The members take their places, and those who hold particular offices go and sit in specially assigned places in the room. If you ever go down the road and look at the Te Puke Lodge rooms you will see the chairs and desks at which they sit. The Lodge opens with its Master conducting a question and answer session: He asks each of the officers in turn: where are you placed? And they tell him. Then he asks them each a second question: what is your duty, why are you so placed? And they tell him the duties they are expected to carry out. Now, that's a typical Lodge. For the next hour or hour and a half the members, as they say their pieces in a ceremony they have had to learn by heart, continue to philosophize; that's what Lodge is: a place to teach particular perspectives – sometimes it's called a system of morality – and hopefully it will rub off on its members for the good.

    I have often wondered whether it would be a good idea to start church this way. Mrs Organist: where are you placed? At the front corner of the church, and away from interruption. Why are you so placed?

    To lead the congregation in singing and to make music for the glory of God. Mr Steward: where are you placed? In the porch to welcome the congregation. What is your duty? To take up the collection after seeing that everybody puts in a decent amount. Mr. Minister: where are you placed? At the front of the church, facing the congregation. Why are you so placed? To look the congregation in the eye, to speak to them God's truth, and to speak on their behalf to God.

    You see, if we were to open church as we do a Lodge it might do us good. But it's also true that the principle of the Lodge opening is worth looking at more closely. What it suggests is that if we take heed of where we are placed then we will be helped to discover our duties, our responsibilities. It might happen that I am a father of two preschool children. That implies certain responsibilities: I need to have time to read and play with my kids, and I need time to be able to help my partner because she is thoroughly worn out by dinner time. I am so placed that I am the manager of a small company employing six people. My responsibility is to make sure I treat them fairly and pay them well, and that they can rely upon the integrity of me, their employer. So we might go on into all areas of social and community life and apply this principle that our position or our place within it demands from us as an equivalent duty. I'm thinking of challenging Graham Henry for the position of coach of the All Blacks – and I would do it by Masonic principles. No 15, what is your situation? What is your duty? No 8, where are you placed? What is your duty? I reckon I'd be even more successful than Robbie Deans.

    With telling you this, you might understand more of what Lodge is on about, and when you turn it over in your mind, you may even begin to realise that one of the problems of the modern world is that people want to have position or place without responsibility. I think it would be rather nice to be Mayor, to sit in a lovely office overlooking the square in Palmerston North, to go to all the gala occasions for nothing, to be provided with a nice car and all the perks. And some would take the perks and run. Mr Mayor: where are you placed? In a comfortable room overlooking the Square. Why are you so placed? To make the citizens of this town know they are valued. When Lodge asks these questions, it provides a practical approach to living, inviting us to reflect on, and adopt a life that acknowledges and meets its responsibilities by asking us where we are placed, and what we need to do in that position. That's part of the concerns we have over celebrities. Do, for example, All Blacks have responsibilities that go with their position? Or ought they to be free to do what they like? Once we would have said, OK you do what you like. Now we are not quite so sure. And as I turned the questions over in my mind: Where are you placed? What is your duty? I realised I'd heard this dialogue before, not in the Lodge, but in church. It burst in on me that this is the dialogue that God has with us, not only on Sunday, but every day of the week. It's given classical expression in the reading Charlie read from Micah: what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? In essence the dialogue goes like this, God the Master says: where are you placed? And we reply: For a short time upon this good earth. God asks again: what is your duty, or, why are you so placed? And we answer: to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.

    The working out of that dialogue is church, the asking and the answering of that dialogue is church. Church is recognising the questions that God asks of us as to our place and our duty. And these are not impossible demands. They are something we can all do. Do justly, that is to do what is right and not simply convenient or expedient; to love kindness – the older translations have mercy – a word that means God's infinite, creative patience. To love kindness is not to fly off the handle or go after quick fixes that may well do more harm than good. But the best of all is to walk humbly with our God, and that is to give up our attempts at being God or playing God, at controlling life, and rather discover the joy of being creatures who respond to life, and grasp all of what it holds: not only food for our bodies but truth for our minds and joy for our hearts.

    I began by reflecting on the difference between church and Lodge. I hope that I have put some windows into the Lodge, as it seeks to recognize that the position and place we occupy demands certain obligations from us; but I also hope that I have also put some windows into the church, and for all of us – Lodge people or not – to know that God has a dialogue with every one of us: What does the Lord require, but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Well, churches have windows, and lodges do not, but both of them have doors, and sooner or later the people inside have to come out; and when they do the world will discover the worth of what they have said and done. Sooner or later we have to come out. Churches and Lodges are places where we think and pray, and consider the light of God's truth, but outside, under the sun, is where we have to live.

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