The above series of letters stands for the “Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine”, a brotherhood that you probably know by its more common name, the Shriners. When a person becomes a Shriner and enters the door of the Temple, one of the things that you learn is that by rearranging the letters above, they spell out “a Mason”, the most important aspect of being a Shriner. I should know; I was one, until I got ordained, that is.
What brought this all to mind is the fact that the Shrine Circus is in town this week-end; and Janet and I took our three kids and all 6 of our grandchildren to see the circus. Andrew’s wife, Stacy, also came along, so a dozen of us went to the Fairgrounds together. I actually bought 2 rows of seats and we had a grand time together. For the grandchildren, and Stacy, it was the first time they had ever attended a circus. But for Janet, our three children and me, it brought back memories of years ago when we attended the circus each year it came to town when the kids were small and still fascinated by such things.
Even before that, I recalled my days of being a Shriner after joining the Masonic fraternity. You see, Janet’s grandfather, Stewart, always wanted me to be a Mason and back in 1976, when Janet and I had been married three years, Stew responded to my inquiry about membership and made arrangements for me to get involved in the Downers Grove Lodge 824, called a “blue” lodge; meaning the place where you enter Masonry. Janet and I lived in Downers Grove at the time and Stew made it his mission to make sure that I was escorted through the three main degrees with the help of local men who mentored me and worked with me to memorize those things I needed to learn to be voted into the Lodge.
I remember Mr. Al England, the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, who personally taught me the degree work. Interestingly, the last time Janet and I went to Downers Grove, we passed his home where I spent many seemingly endless evenings doing memory work. Now after you are accepted as a full member of the Lodge, you are what is called a Master Mason. From there, you can go on if you wish, and I decided to go through the Scottish Rite degrees, although there is also a York Rite passage as well. Since Stew had done the Scottish Rite route, I decided to do the same thing and eventually, after completing my Grove Lodge work, I went to downtown Chicago and entered the next class for becoming a Scottish Rite Mason.
It gets more complicated here, but suffice it to say that I became a 32nd degree Mason, completing the Rite work and from there, I was given the chance to enter Medinah Temple in Chicago, the pinnacle of masonry and home of the Shriners in Illinois. Stewart made sure that I was escorted through everything and even was the one who “raised” me; meaning he was the one who actually conferred the Master Mason degree on me when I was 23 years old. He also observed all the other degrees I went through and was even there when I entered the Shrine. When Janet and I moved our family to Carmel, I demitted from Medinah and transferred my membership to Murat Temple in Indy. I also moved to the local Scottish Rite and to a local “blue” lodge, the place where a Mason receives his first three degrees.
Even though both of my uncles and one of my grandfathers were also Shriners, it was very special to me that Stewart was there to watch me on my journey with the Masons. I think he really got a thrill from it as much as I did. I always believed that the real “work” in masonry was done in the local blue lodge and that is where I spent most of my time. Unfortunately, I resigned from the Masons and the Shrine when I was ordained. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time, as there was so much talk that the Masons were a “secret” organization, although I don’t know that I buy that excuse any more.
I admit I had a little twinge of longing when we went to the circus today. Seeing all the Shriners with their maroon Fezzes brought back thoughts of children and the Shrine Hospitals that they support. Most people don’t realize that the dark red in the Fez represents the blood of the sick children, while the black tassel represents the occasional death of a child. The “jewels” or sparkles represent the children who are saved through the efforts of the hospitals – and it is great work that the Shiners do.
Suffice it to say that we all – adults and children alike – had a great family time today at the circus. It brought back great memories of days long past and created new memories with another generation of children – and grandchildren. What a great day and such a blessing.
The verse for tonight reflects Christ’s view on children. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” My encouragement tonight is to invest in our children; and by that I mean all children. They were important to Christ and they should be important to us. After all, they are the ones who will run the world in the next generation and we have an obligation to train them the right way, as we will eventually turn the reins over to them. My prayer is that God will bless our effort to teach and their effort to learn what needs to be learned to advance the kingdom of God on earth for years to come. Have a great day in the Lord…..