God is on the Square
Let us pray: Oh Lord our Heavenly Father, I am but an instrument in your hands, a sower of seed. Grant that this message will be given and received with the intentions of further increasing our knowledge and love for You. Amen
Today is reaffirmation Sunday and is a time that we gather to worship and recommit our selves to being masons. But what is masonry and to what are we recommitting ourselves?
To understand masonry, lets go back into time. But to set this up, a little history is necessary.
One of Ancient Greeces contributions to this world was education. The Socratic method of instruction was widely used, and the ancient Greeks were the fathers of our modern sciences, math and medicine and drama. The Romans saw the value in this education system and adopted it for their own after their conquest of Greece. In fact, many Greeks were employed to tutor upper class Roman children. The Romans were the first to have public schools to educate the children of Roman citizens.
Although the Greeks built buildings of beauty, the Romans adapted and improved on many of their ideas and became known as the nation of great builders. The Romans took the simple Greek arch, elongated it and turned it into the vaulted ceiling. They also joined many arches together in a circle and turned it into the dome. Many of their roads and aqueducts are still used today.
When the Roman Empire fell in 850 AD, the Visigoths and Vandels looted and burnt the libraries throughout the Empire. Public education was a thing of the past and the Church now became the only center of knowledge. If you wanted any education, it was pursued at the seminaries. By keeping a tight grip on the education commodity, the Church could always be assured of an adequate supply of Priests.
Now lets fast forward to the Dark Ages or Middle Ages as some call it. Most people could not read or write and the majority were uneducated. Im going to describe the Masons Guild and I want you to listen for any characteristics than sound familiar to you.
The word mason comes from the Norman or French word Masoun, which means stone worker. There were many different types of masons. There were the cutters who cut the stones from the quarry and supervised their transport to the cathedral or palace. There were the Stone Carvers who carved the designs in them. There were the Stone Setters who layed the stone and block. There were the dressers who finished the stone by trimming and polishing. To join a masons guild, you had to be sponsored by another mason who could vouch for your character. You would be enrolled as an "Entered Apprentice" and then after 7 to 12 years of learning, you would then become a Journey Man (so called because they would travel or journey from one site to another to follow the work). After you proved yourself as a Journey man, you then would become a "Master Mason" and be able to supervise work.
To keep them selves employable, they limited their membership to only the best workers and they kept the fundamentals of their craft a secret. Since most men of the Middle Ages couldnt read or write, and printing presses were not invented yet, they would instruct only verbally and by demonstration, requiring all techniques to be committed to memory. Thus any ritual of stone cutting, carving, setting and finishing was committed to memory and passed from one member to another.
To prevent outsiders from impersonating a mason from another area, they quickly devised secret signs and grips that they could immediately recognize a mason. Remember that there were no printed dues cards.
A dormitory was always built adjacent to the building site to house all of the Masons who traveled from other areas to work. This was called the Masons Lodge. Each guild had its own Chapter. When you became a Journey man, you would design your Masons Mark and register it with your local Chapter. No one could copy or infringe upon your mark. As a mason, you would put your mark on each stone that you worked on and at the end of the day, the Master Mason would tally up your marks and pay you by the stone.
The masons wore aprons when they worked: The entered apprentices wore white linen aprons, and the journey men wore leather aprons that had pockets to hold their tools and measuring devises. The Master Mason wore a colored apron as a symbol of his supervisory position.
To prevent intrusion into the work place by non-masons, they would hire retired masons to guard the doors and give the alarm in the event visitors would arrive to view the work's progress. When the alarm was given, all worked ceased until the work area was cleared of visitors. Visitors would be escorted by the Master Mason. This eliminated the possibility that a visitor would observe stone working techniques.
During the Middle Evil Period, hundred of cathedrals, palaces and public buildings were constructed, requiring numerous masons to travel from one country to the next. They were granted free access to the borders and they could not be hindered from their work by local law. If a Mason violated a local ordinance, the local sheriff would report it to the Master of the Lodge or Chapter who in turn would convene a Masonic Court and the offender would be punished by Masonic Law. Masons were held to a stricter code and became more accountable than the local citizens. A masons word was his bond and they took pride in their work.
Symbolic Masonry as we know it started in England around 1650 and it came to the United States in 1730. It found the United States a wonderful incubator and hundred of Masonic lodges sprang up across the country. The Boston Tea Party consisted of masons and many of our country's founders were Masons. Our first President George Washington was a Mason.
Today we turn to our Masonic Orders in order to build our spiritual temples. What are spiritual temples? Why do we build them? Consider these two bible passages:
1Cor. 6:19 - Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
2Cor. 6:16 - What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
God clearly wants us to build our temples so that he can dwell within us. If you are Christian, you will use the cornerstone that the world rejected-
Psa. 118:22 - The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This theme is stressed in four of the New Testament books:
Matt. 21:42 - Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lords doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?
Mark 12:10- Have you not read this scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
Luke 20:17 - But he looked at them and said, "What then does this text mean: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?
Acts 4:11- This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.
Thus Christ himself becomes cornerstone of our foundation if your are Christian and Zion becomes the Cornerstone if you are Jewish. The passage that puts all of this together comes from Ephisans 2:19 - 22
Eph. 2:19 - So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. .
Then you add a square foundation strong enough to support all of lifes tempests and storms. Why a square foundation? A square foundation is the easiest to build upon. What type of stone blocks should we use? The scriptures tell us three of the blocks to use are;
1Cor. 13:13 - And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
There are also the blocks of courage, righteous, charity, prayer, patience, virtue, forgiveness, and compassion to name a few.
Now that we have identified the foundation stones, how do we find our how to lay them in and build upon it? We have two important sources for that. The first and foremost is lifes guide book, the Holy Bible. The next source is Masonry. We know that Masonry is founded upon scripture and its degrees and orders are rich in instructions for building our temple.
There are many styles of temples and churches. There are the Greek revival churches with their triangular porticos and beautiful Corinthian columns arrayed in perfect symmetry, the Romanesque style with its domes, rounded corners and long vaulted ceilings, or my favorite, high Gothic with its arched ceilings, spires, quad-rafoils and tri-foils along with arched and rose windows. But what style is our spiritual temple? Only you can tell because it is invisible.
If it is invisible, can it be seen by others? Paul draws a comparison in his letter to the Romans:
Rom. 1:20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse
Paul cites how we know God exists since He is invisible. We see Him in His handiwork. So we also know a mans temple exists by his character. I teach at Elder High School and a student who was studying history asked me to help him with some sayings from Poor Richards Almanac. The one that stumped him was, "An empty sack can not stand up" I tried to explain that the sack was a mans character and it needed substance to stand up.
Our invisible temple is like a baggie. It is invisible and you can see right through it. Empty, it just lays there, but when you put something in it, it stands up. Our temple is like this baggie. We can't see it, but we know its there by a way a man acts, or by his character.
Any building takes time to build right and you must pay attention to detail to make sure the bricks run straight and true, and the walls and floors are plum. Laying brick by brick by brick.
Hey Sam, you ask, this is boring. Yes it is boring but many important things in life are boring. I am trying to be an accomplished flute player. Or even take my organ playing. To be better, I need to practice the scales and arpeggios: talk about boring, but so important to improvement of my playing.
Now weve been building the temple for many years now, how much farther do we continue to build it? I once asked my brother Bill, who is an accomplished artist, "What is the hardest thing about painting or sculpting?" I figured it would be on the planning or layout or determining what color to use, but his answer surprised me. He replied, "The hardest thing about painting or sculpting is knowing when you are finished".
But guess what my brothers, you are never finished with your temple. Oh you may think you are finished building it, but everything needs maintenance. You know this from your own home. The roof needs replaced, the plumbing leaks, and the carpet needs cleaning. Even when nothing needs repair, those of you who are married, still cant relax. If your wife is anything like mine, every so often she redecorates. Likewise our work on our spiritual temples never ceases. We change, we grow, and we experience new situations. But over time as we patch our battered spiritual temples as it is assailed by lifes storms, it becomes even stronger.
But lets say you have the building completed and the maintenance under control. Now what. Relax and watch Monday Night Football? No, I am afraid not. Listen to our instructions from Christ:
Mark 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
Christ told us to share the "Good News" with others and as Masons we are obligated assist others in the building of their spiritual temples. We do this not only through our degrees and orders, but also by our fraternal bond of friendship. Masons are noted for helping others in need. We are also known by our charities.
Our lodges, chapters, councils and commandries are similar to our spiritual temples. We have to either build new ones block by block, or maintain the old ones. The only difference is we have the help and assistance of the other members.
Like our own temples, this can be boring such as meetings, memorizing, taking minutes, auditing finances, to making phone calls to collect back dues. The exciting part is the performance of the degrees and orders, and catching up on the news from our fellow brothers at dinner or refreshments after the meetings.
What motivates us to continue on? A Look at our organizations now is enough to discourage even the greatest optimist. Membership is declining. The new members that come into lodges and chapters dont seem to want to participate. Present members dont attend important meeting or just want to get by the degree or order with minimal effort. During one of Hannselmann Commandery imspections we were criticized by an inspecting officer because our embellishments of the Order of the Temple caused it to "be too long" in his opinion. I couldnt believe that one. Brothers dont want to bother memorizing or even help another brother memorize parts. Members wont support special functions such as family outings, picnics or Christmas parties, expenses go up, due go unpaid and in Commandery, the floor work has been "streamlined" to the point that the beauty has been taken out of the degree. Lodges and chapters are merging and bodies are cooperating to put on special orders and degrees like the Super excellent because of the lack of personnel. Commandery drill teams have diminished in size
Our society's morals have declined and people dont appreciate the masonic orders like they used to. Why is this? There are numerous reasons we can cite such as the break down of the family unit, the increase in societys tolerance for the deviant, the increase of reliance on the Federal Government, and today's liberal media. Im sure that you can come up with many additional reasons why the moral climate is declining. Less young people see the value of becoming a mason. So now we are the dinosaurs of our generation, why do we continue on? Why not just throw in the towel and join the young people watching television, bowling, traveling or pursuing our hobbies?
We do it because God is on the square. There are many references to the builders square, such as a "square deal, and a square meal. Being on the square means that you are trueful and keep your end of any bargain or agreement. The bible informs us that God had made over three hundred covenants with the Jewish Nations throughout their history and He has not broken one of them. God has proven his consistency throughout time.
Heb. 6:17 In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.
Even today, as our technology permits us to probe into the far recesses of deep space, we find that all of the laws of physics within our world are found in other galaxies. God loves consistency. His whole universe is in equilibrium. The bible has demonstrated that God was consistent with his favored nations. So if God is on the square, and Christ was on the square, does it not follow that God wants us to be on the square?
Why take the time to build our spiritual temples and assist others to do the same? Our temples are invisible to others, but not to God. Eventually, when we pass from this life, and we do not know when that time will be, it will be just you alone that will step up to be judged by God. Will Christ plead for you? What will you answer if God inquires about your unfinished temple or the fact that you didnt pass your knowledge and skills in building it along to others? Just you alone, facing God. No lawyer or jury, but only you and God.
My good friend Dave (last name I wont mention) had a mother who was an atheist and disavowed not only God but also Christ. She told Dave and her Husband over and over that she did not want a funeral but that would be hypocritical. She smoked for many years and eventually ended up with lung cancer. She was dying and during her last days, was cared for in her home by hospice. Dave and his wife Kathy were with her at the end. During her waning moments, she closed her eyes and was quiet. Then suddenly she opened them and said "Theres no one there to help me cross over!" She shut her eyes and died. Talk about scary.
Matt.10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
God is on the square and Christ told us that he has gone to make room in heaven for us.
John 14:1 ¶ "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that
I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, There you may be also.
So that is the reason we keep on. I love the following passage when I become discouraged.
Phil. 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
That is the reason we are here on recommitted Sunday. This is the reason we are committed. We are proud to be masons.
We are committed
Because God is on the square.
Let us pray:
Dear God our heavenly Father, we stand before you willing to continue to commit our lives to your work and care. We ask for the strength, courage and conviction to continue on when the odds seem overwhelmingly against us. We ask for the strength not to succumb to discouragement, boredom, or apathy. We pray that our spiritual temples may be pleasing in your sight, square and complete, and tight against the storms of sin. We ask for the knowledge to share our craft with others so they might come to know the beauty, the majesty, and the glory of your presence. And when that time comes that we stand face to face with You, we seek Your approval for life eternal in Your presence, where we can take rest from our labors and be at peace forever.
In Christ's name we pray. Amen