Showing items filed under “The Rev. Joe Hermerding”

What's in a Name?

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"Name this child."  

Its a startling question, if you really think about it.  And the priest said it with such authority.

"Name this child." 

"Evelyn Mae Hermerding," my wife and I responded. 

I know we named her when she was born.  We had it written on her birth certificate and everything.  But this seemed much more...official, or solemn, or something.  There we were, standing up in front of the whole church, ready for our baby girl's baptism.  And the priest took the baby from her mother's arms in order for God's grace to wash over her, like water on the forehead.  Evelyn Mae Hermerding.  She's named after one of my favorite writers, Evelyn Underhill.  A name is a powerful thing.  How much of her future will be determined by it? 

Which leads me to reflect: when you name something, you know it.  You understand it.  You fit it within your worldview of describable things, of things that have a place, a part, in your universe.  A name is a powerful thing.  It was the responsibility given to Adam, to name the animals.  The job started out strong with names like hippopotamus and rhinoceros.  But by the end of the day fatigue had set in and he was like, "ox"..."ant". 

For the task of naming this child born in a manger, God Himself gave the name to the angel, who then gave it to Joseph, who then gave it to Jesus.  Jean Danielou says that names given by God in both the Old and New Testaments always "express both the person and the mission that is being given.” [1] The Angel says, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus means savior, and Jesus is savior. And we, who have had the water wash over our foreheads, are called a name: Christian.  Little Christ.  A name, I daresay, which is a high calling indeed. Perhaps we can resolve to live up to that incredible name in this New Year. 

[1] Danielou, The Infancy Narratives, 47.

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Getting Ready for Sunday by The Rev. Joe Hermerding

I can still remember the day quite vividly.  I was in my dorm room as a college freshman.  I had been through an accident and broke my leg a few weeks before.  But my legs were getting stronger.  I remember thinking, “Let’s see if I can do it...”  My roommate was gone and the hall was quiet as I braced myself with one arm on my bunk bed, and the other on my desk.  And I slowly lifted myself from my wheelchair.  Gingerly, I balanced on my own two feet, and was even able to let go of the desk and bunk.  I was standing up!  I remember excitedly thanking and praising God for the ability to stand. 

Thankfulness is a funny thing.  So often we aren't thankful for something until it's taken away.  Often times our thankfulness for something wears off with time.  I must admit I haven't thanked God for the ability to stand in the last week.  Or month.  The lepers, of course, have much more reason to thank Jesus than me and my broken leg.  Their whole lives were taken away by this disease.  Leprosy would have forced them to live apart from their families and friends, for fear of spreading their affliction.  I am willing to bet it was the loneliness that would have been the hardest part of dealing with leprosy, even more than the physical pain.  It is to their families that the nine were probably headed when the one came back.  

My wife and I are in the midst of teaching our young kids to say, “thank you”.  It is a lot of repetition.  When my three year old daughter Maggie asks for something at the dinner table, I will hand it to her, but I will only loose my grip when I hear the “magic words.”  All parents have probably been there.  It is good for us to be reminded that what we want for our children is thankful hearts, not just appropriate responses in various social situations.  

Sometimes we can use our perfect manners to avoid God.  Always saying the right thing, in order to put forward the facade of having it all together.  Of these it has been said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15.8) What can we learn from the one leper who returned to Jesus?  Two things at least.  First, we can learn that thankfulness is not a cliche.  Rather, it is the solid rock from which we must build our relationship with Christ.  It is so because it is true.  What do we have that we did not receive?  Second, we must learn that the gift points back to the Giver.  Everything from physical healing to our ability to stand comes from Him.  This was the impulse of the one leper who returned.  He was more concerned with the Giver than the gift.


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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.