Summary: For Masonic Divine Service: Brothering can be an accident of birth or proximity, but it often becomes competitive because of insecurity or exploitive because of sin. Christ chooses us to be brothers and lays His life down for us.
It's almost time to elect a president of the United States. Every four years we go through this little exercise called a national election. And even though every four years we tell one another that the election is about issues; about the economy and about foreign policy and about defense and about the welfare of the people … even though every four years we say this thing is about issues; we still fall into the same trap.
The trap we fall into is getting off on all the peripheral issues. We use our precious time and energy focusing on little things, personal things, that may not amount to a whole lot. But somehow our attention is riveted on them,
Who avoided the draft many years ago, and how did he do it? Did he run off to Oxford and write letters to influential people; or did he join the National Guard and occupy a safe berth secured by influential people? I don't know that it matters now.
Whose wife is more wifely? The one who doesn't care to stay home and bake cookies, because she is a lawyer? Or the one who stays home and writes books and speeches, because she is a lawyer? I don't know that it matters.
But we seem to focus on all these side issues and personalities. If you are a presidential candidate, nothing is safe, nothing is sacred; nothing escapes the public's attention.
Least of all does your brother escape public attention. We've had in recent years a whole long list of presidential brothers who have drawn attention to themselves and created embarrassment for the man in the White House. Jimmy Carter had brother Billy, who tarnished Jimmy's Bible-believing Baptist image' by swilling beer and running off to Libya every chance he got. Embarrassing!
Richard Nixon had brother Donald, who got involved in a long list of real estate deals and influence peddling schemes that embarrassed even the tape maker in the White House.
John Kennedy put one brother in his cabinet, and then had to defend him against the charge that he was as cold as steel and as remorseless as a robot. Another brother was elected to the Senate, but the story has it he spent more time with the ladies than with the laws. At least the brother on Pennsylvania Avenue kept his embarrassments out of the public eye.
And now we have George Bush's brother Prescott, who has been indicted for fraud, and Bill Clinton's brother Roger, who is a recovering drug addict. What a choice we have for First Brother! Hey, if Ross Perot hasn't got any brothers, I'll vote for him in a minute!
Well, brothering is a complicated business. It is not always easy to be a brother. All kinds of things get in the way; all sorts of feelings and motives color this business of brothering. You know that in your own families, and you must know that in your craft, your brotherhood, represented in this room. This afternoon I want to let the Scriptures show us why sometimes our brothers are an embarrassment; and, beyond that, to let the Scriptures teach us about a special kind of fraternity, a wonderful kind of brotherhood, that is available to us.
The Biblical question rings down through the ages, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Let's see how the question can be answered.
First, the Scriptures will show us what happens when brothering is nothing but an accident of birth or an accident of nearness. Men call one another brothers if they share the same parents and the same home; or sometimes just because they are thrown together in the same group.
But when brothering is nothing but an accident of birth or an accident of nearness, brothering quickly degenerates into rivalry. And rivalry leads to destruction.
Go with me to the very beginning of the human race.
Two men, Cain and Abel, who shared a common parentage. They grew up under the same roof. Both toiled under the heat of the sun to earn a living and wrest from the earth their sustenance. That Abel kept sheep' and Cain grew crops is really incidental. They labored under the same sun and found fulfillment in the same household. They were brothers.
But that Abel gave the Lord the firstlings of his flock and that Cain "in the course of time brought an offering" is more important … one brother seems to have been forthcoming and spontaneous with his gift, the other more reluctant, more driven by duty.
And the Lord received Abel's offering with more regard than Cain's offering. A wedge was driven between the two that led ultimately to the destruction of both of them. Abel destroyed by the hand of Cain, Cain destroyed by his own twisted heart. What happened?