The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
Today was beautiful. The weather was a balmy 37 degrees farenheit up from the cold of single digits just a few days ago. The light was superb; a clear day, sunny with not a cloud in the sky. A day like today makes you glad to be out in the sunshine dreaming of summer days but relishing the bite of the wind, crisp and cool on your cheek.
As I walked around town today, the light struck the side of the summer kitchen of the old Rentzheimer house on Durham Street. The house constructed in 1832 by Tobias Rentzheimer now houses the Hellertown Borough Authority (aka the water company for the town). The site of the building always brings a smile to my face. Why? It’s not a unique colonial house by any stretch of the imagination. No, it’s because it is being reused. It always pains me to see houses built years ago (whether 50, 75, 100, 150 years old) in complete ruin and not being used. It brings me joy to see these structures transformed into something useful for today’s world. They connect us with the past and those who have gone before.
If nothing else, my walk made me curious enough to look up what I could on Tobias Rentzheimer, the original owner. I didn’t find much, to be honest. Tad Miller had a Morning Call article on Hellertown street names in 1992 about the Rentzheimer name and notes that the land the Hellertown Borough Authority, Dewey Fire Company and several housing developments occupy was once part of the original holdings of the Rentzheimer family. Rentzheimer Drive was actually named for Dr. William Rentzheimer who was Tobias E. Rentzheimer’s son and Tobias’ grandson. I did discover that Tobias was the son of Johann Karl Rentzheimer and Anna Maria Catharina Haas and was born November 23, 1790 in Lower Saucon Township. He was one of seven children. He married Hannah Ehrhart and in turn had six children of his own. If you are interested in the Rentzheimer family history, Family Treemaker has the lineage listed.
William J. Heller actually has an excellent (although now very outdated) history of Northampton County and the early founding of the Lehigh Valley. You can download or read it from The New York Public Library’s archives online. Volume 2 covers Hellertown and Lower Saucon and was written in 1920. Heller’s section on the Rentzheimer family notes they settled in Hellertown around 1774 and were farmers. He writes elsewhere in the volume that the family gave part of the land to start a school in the center of town in 1845. Longtime Lutherans, the Rentzheimers also gave the land for Christ Lutheran Church on Main Street in Hellertown.
Epiphany, with a capital “E”, is celebrated on January 6th and is the festival commemorating Christ’s coming into the world for all people through the homage paid by the Magi.
It can also mean (when spelled with a small “e”) a sudden insight or perception into the essential meaning of something usually triggered by the ordinary. Its origin is late Middle English and comes from the Greek epipháneia meaning to appear.
Have you had any epiphanies? I know I have. Sometimes they come from watching the light shine just so on a field gleaming with frost. Sometimes they come from seeing snow on a discarded pine bough. Sometimes they come watching a small child master a new skill or seeing something new to them for the very first time. They can be awe inspiring and they can be scary too , but they always lead one deeper. Farther into understanding one’s place in the world, epiphanies provide us roadmaps and guideposts.
On this Epiphany, I wish for you a year filled with insights.
Every year our church participates in the Moravian tradition of pulling watchwords. If you don’t know what a watchword is, it is a motto or slogan (in our case a Bible verse) that is supposed to lead you throughout the year. Sometimes, it seems to make no sense at all what you pull out of the basket until much later when it has prescient significance. Sometimes it is comforting, sometimes it is seemingly reproachful, sometimes it can be downright puzzling and even a bit scary. I’m always amazed at how the watchwords seem to fit the individual who pulls them in some way or at least has meaning to that individual. It’s probably one of my favorite services of the entire church year and one of the unique things our church as a denomination does. By the way, there are daily watchwords also known as the Moravian Daily Texts and you can subscribe to receive them free via email or purchase a variety of print versions from the Moravian web site. My friend Mike Riess produces them for the Moravian Church in North America in his role as head of communications.
Here’s what I drew for this year:
You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.