Loving One Another
6th Easter A , May 14, 2023
Your word is light, let this light have its free course. Let us not be hindered by the distraction from this world in the name of Jesus Christ.
Seven years ago, I flew to Athens Greece to visit my youngest daughter Liz and her new husband Tim. It was a wonderful trip, although it had a sketchy start. Liz and Tim met me at the airport, where we were to take the train to Kiato, where they were living. Sometime between the time they arrived at the airport, and the time we were to leave to go back, the railroad workers went on strike. Luckily, Tim made some enquiries to find an alternate mode of transportation and learned the location of the bus terminal. We were able to take a bus to our destination, and although it was slower, we got there safely by mid-afternoon. This trip to Greece was one of my favorite European adventures.
Rather than being in a strange city, not understanding the language nor even the alphabet, or relying only on maps or tourist books, I had Liz and Tim who knew all the sites I might be interested in. There were also Tim’s parents, who spent most Summers in Greece living in the town where his dad grew up. One of our day trips was to the Acropolis, built in the 5th Century BC. To stand in - and wander about the Parthenon, which was a temple built in honor of the goddess Athena was an amazing experience, especially since it was built 2 and a half millennia ago. Most of the pillars and statuary has endured for so long! I doubt if any of our contemporary buildings will boast that claim.
I can’t envision Citizens Bank Park still standing in 4523. Just look at what happened to Veterans Stadium.
What got me reminiscing about my trip to Greece was our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. Luke tells us Paul was preaching at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, very close to the Acropolis. In fact, I remember a tour guide pointing it out from the Parthenon. Since I have never visited the Holy Land, this was the closest. I had ever come to actually seeing a place mentioned in the Bible.
Another site we visited in Corinth contained a tree where legend has it Paul gave one of his teachings. It is a very old tree. Although these two sites were the only Pauline sites I visited, there are many more in Corinth. Visiting historic sites always brings the past to life in a very tangible way. Philadelphia is loaded with such historical sites. Independence Hall, Carpenters Hall, Betsy Ross’s house to name a few. A lifelong friend of mine, Michael Merrick gives talks on the history of St David’s Church in Radnor. St David’s churchyard not only contains the graves of Revolutionary War veterans but also British soldiers and native Americans as well.
But back to Greece.
Paul called himself the apostle to the Gentiles. His teaching to the Greeks in Athens is an example. Paul doesn’t threaten them nor call them heathens, rather he shares with them things he has seen there. The shrines to their gods. One such shrine is dedicated to an unknown God, and Paul uses this example to open their minds to existence of the true God, who is not made of silver, gold, or stone. This true God does not need a building to live in and created the World and everyone in it. A living and powerful God, whom Jesus tells us loves us, rather than a statue which can do nothing.
One may think that Paul’s message to the Athenians, especially the part about worshipping idols crafted from gold, silver or stone, does not apply today in our culture. I am not aware of any buildings in our country where people go worship Athena, Zeus, or Aries. However, we have other idols. Idols not crafted from stone. Idols can be anything we turn to instead of our living God. Whether it be wealth, power or control over others, or an addiction. Each of us has something in our lives, that hinders our relationship with God. It is part of being human.
In out Gospel today, Jesus tells us to love him and keep his commandments. Jesus tells us elsewhere that his commandments and in fact the entire law can be broken down to just two. Love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Loving our neighbor can be difficult at times. I know I will be working on that one for the rest of my life.But these 2 commandments about loving God and neighbor are joined to one another,
When we love our neighbors, we are loving God. When we reach out to the needy, it brings us closer to God, and when we are close to God, we are better at loving our neighbor.
Last Sunday, I wasn’t here as I was serving with our bishop at St Thomas Whitemarsh – the parish where I was assigned before coming here. It was a positive experience, and I got to chat with many of old friends. On my way home, I was comparing these two parishes, and I feel blessed to be assigned here for the past 2 years. Rev Phoebe McPherson, who was the rector at Epiphany Church in Odenton MD when I first started my journey into the Episcopal Church 11 years ago, taught me that there was a difference between large parishes and smaller ones. Larger parishes are based more on programs and smaller ones based on relationships. She was right.
I see friendships here, people in relationships with others. Parishioners caring for one another. I remembered all the cards and notes I received when I was sick. I felt loved. And there is a generosity here that amazes me. From providing snacks and juice boxes in the Summer for the sisters’ day camp in Chester. To generosity to the elderly at Fair Acres, and students in the Ridley School District in December. Not to forget the Ditty Bag program for merchant sailors from around the world in November.
So many examples of loving one another, both inside and outside the church walls. Thank you for making my job easy.
The Rev. Dennis Bingham (he/him)
(610) 521-1626 EXT: 24
You can call me Deacon Dennis
Dennis was first ordained into the Order of Deacons in June 2002, at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. In early 2012, Dennis began his journey to the Episcopal Church, serving in a lay capacity. When Dennis retired from his position at US Postal Service Headquarters, he returned to his home in Wayne, PA. Then, in 2017, he began his formation for the Episcopal Church diaconate and in 2019, Dennis was received as Deacon in the Episcopal Church at the Philadelphia Cathedral.
Deacon Dennis's current ministry at CCRP includes helping in outreach, partnering with the Ridley Park Methodist Church food pantry, and seeking ways we can better help the needy from the area. He is thankful for the generosity of our parish, and the outreach already set up here and knows there is always room for growth.
Deacon Dennis has been married to his wife Noel for 43 years. The couple have 3 daughters, 4 grandsons, and 3 granddaughters. A high point in the couple’s lives is visiting with their family in Washington, DC, and San Antonio, TX. Dennis and Noel enjoy good films and TV shows. They are busy taking care of their 5 cats (2 indoor, 3 outdoor).